Competition at the Commonwealth Games got under way on 24 July and it looks like it is going to be a great event. The opening ceremony was great fun and for a while it has actually stopped raining in Glasgow!

In a speech that coincided with the opening of the Games – a speech largely ignored by most of the media – Harriet Harman MP, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, spoke movingly and forcefully about Labour’s backing for more sport and physical activity for people of all ages in all areas.

More Sport for All

Speaking at the Sport for All conference on 24 July at the Aquatic Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Harriet Harman reminded her audience why sport matters for individuals and for public policy. She pointed out that many people participate in sport and help others to do so, but for some participation in sport is out of reach.

“There are people who don’t do any sport or physical activity and need to. If you are one of the army of women of African origin living in my constituency, working all hours in care homes or doing cleaning work as well as bringing up your children, you are not likely to be found in the gym. In two of our wards we have alarmingly high level of obesity and people will suffer as a result with diabetes and heart problems, they will need more health care and they will die younger. And there’s a huge gap between them and the active, exercising people in the wealthy wards down the road in Dulwich.”

Sport is a public policy priority for Labour because:

  • we’re a great sporting nation,
  • it is important for health and well-being,
  • it helps young people do well at school,
  • it brings communities together with shared goals, strengthening local networks which reinforce a sense of place: and it diverts young people from crime;
  • it generates jobs in the burgeoning sport and leisure sector. The operation of sports facilities and sports clubs alone provide 300,000 jobs in the UK. Further jobs are created in the health and fitness sector, and yet more in tourism based on sport.

LibDem/Tory failure

The LibDem/Tory coalition government has failed to live up to its Olympic 2012 legacy promises. For example, when Labour was in Government we introduced two hours of sport and PE each week for every school child, so by the time we left office in 2010, 9 out of 10 children were doing this – a huge increase from the situation left by the Tories in 1997. But the coalition government abandoned this two hour target, abolished School Sports Partnerships and scrapped the School PE and Sport Survey. We have received no reports that Eton has shut down any of their facilities!!!

With this in mind, Labour’s consultation document, More Sport for All poses key questions for us all and invites us to contribute ideas to a long-term strategy to boost to school, community and grass roots sport and increase physical activity. Submissions to the consultation will help shape the Labour Manifesto for 2015.

The 26 page document is very readable and sets out 23 questions on which you are invited to make submissions or comments. The first seven questions are:

1. Drawing on best practice, how do we ensure that children are encouraged to participate in sport and physical activity and instil ‘a sporting habit for life’?

2. Should national Government set guideline goals for children’s participation in sport inside and outside of school? Should all children receive a minimum two hours sport and PE?

3. How can we ensure that the benefits of School Sports Partnerships reach all children?

4. How might after-school clubs boost sporting activity?

5. How do we break down the barriers between sport in schools and sport in the community?

6. How do we help schools deliver specialist coaching of sports?

7. What should be done to ensure sport in our schools is fully inclusive?


You can contribute a submission or comment on More Sport for All here.


Harman told her audience that in government Labour will create a sporting environment:

  • where all children have a chance;
  • where competition will be at the heart of sport and physical activity;
  • that is diverse. Girls as well as boys, children with disabilities, children from the full range of Britain’s diverse population;
  • that supports the mass of participants and the elite achievers.

Harman is particularly concerned with gender equality. She points out that in the 21st Century – where women are not prepared to be second class citizens and we have amazing sporting figures like Jessica Ennis and Tanni Grey-Thompson – we are still very far from real gender equality in sport:

“Labour wants girls and women to have the same chance to compete as boys, the same chance to enjoy sport and physical exercise, the same support for and recognition of their sporting achievements. This is right for the sake of the principle of equality. But it’s also important for women’s health, jobs, sense of community – and all the issues I set out about the public policy imperative for sport.”

Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 08.55.45

Participation in sport drops off in teenage years, especially for girls – the right sports policy can tackle this trend

 

Funding More Sport for All

All of this needs resources so funding is a priority. Here, Harman steps onto difficult terrain and is prepared to ask some difficult questions:

  • Can our National Governing Bodies do more with their funding, including meeting targets for getting women and girls playing sport?

  • Is the football Premier League complying with the spirit as well as the letter of the 5% levy on TV rights? The latest deal for TV rights was £1billion a year for three years. 5% of that is £50m which would make a huge difference to community sport.

  • Sports generate income for the betting industry – this is recognised in the Horse Race Betting Levy which contributes £82m to horse racing. But people bet on all sorts of sports now, not just racing. Should there be a similar levy so that businesses which make money from people betting on sport contribute to those sports?

The last question highlights a particularly vexed issue. As we have pointed out in a previous post, the decision made by gambling companies such as William Hill to move offshore and online means that tax revenues have not kept pace with the increase in the volume of gambling or in the growing range of activities covered by the gambling businesses.

Let us know what you think

Labour believes that encouraging and enabling all children to participate in sport is vital not only for each individual’s wellbeing but for the social health of the nation. Please read More Sport for All and let us know what you think.


 

Contribute a submission or comment on More Sport for All here.Your submission will help shape Labour policy.


Send us your views and comments on More Sport for All in North West Leeds using the ‘Leave a reply’ box below.


 

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