A sense of sporting deja vu

Another election, another sport-related photo opportunity involving party leaders and balls, and another splashy big announcement.

If it seems familiar, that’s because it is. 

This week, the SNP promised to create a Young Scots Fund which would create a National Indoor Football Centre with a National Football Academy.  Its manifesto also promised that all primary school pupils would get two hours of P.E every week.  Not to be outdone, Labour launched its manifesto for sport promising free swimming lessons for all children and to consider Commonwealth Legacy schools.

But we’ve heard all this before.  As well as being treated to the unedifying sight of middle aged men trying to keepie-uppy with bairns.  It’s a bit of an election staple in fact.

In fact, some of you might even recall that I’ve blogged on this before:  Scottish football – where has all the money gone?

You see, we’ve been promised football academies since 2000.  And big sums of money were attached then:  the burd could find at least £26 million of announcements along the same lines.  But we don’t yet have a national football academy and the previous approach of investing in SPL clubs to deliver regional academies has pretty much failed to materialise or deliver.  There have been so many multiple announcements in previous campaigns and by previous Holyrood administrations about investment in sport and in football, in particular, it is virtually impossible to work out what has actually been spent.  But let’s just agree that it has been a lot.  With very little to show for it in our so-called showcase, national sports.

Has Scottish football improved?  Do we have a huge pool of developed talent playing in leagues home and abroad?  Are we any nearer to qualifying for Euro 2012?  Have we got beyond scrapping it out with Italy every Six Nations to avoid the wooden spoon?  Are our professional rugby teams top of their leagues?  Have we got a Rory McIlroy to get excited about?

As usual, the politicians have gone for the big, triumphal, aspirational type of announcement rather than the kind of bread and butter investment so eloquently advocated by Judy Murray.  Her plea is for us to ensure that every child in Scotland under the age of twelve spends four hours a week enjoying physical exercise.  It would result in fitter, healthier children and give us a huge pool of potential sporting talent to draw upon.  Seems simple and sensible enough to me.

Because the system we have at the moment isn’t working.  Active schools co-ordinators?  The burdz chicklets have had but fleeting contact with these mythical creatures over the last ten years;  otherwise, their not inconsiderable sporting achievements have been nurtured and fostered by volunteers who do it all in their “spare time”.

Moreover, we continue to have a national hang-up with traditional – traditionally male, but that’s another story- sports like football, rugby and golf.  Despite being the park facility no self-respecting Edinburgh neighbourhood wanted, the outdoor skate park (fundraised for by a few diehard individuals and families) at Saughton has as many weans crawling all over it at any given time, as the officially sanctioned (and paid for) pitches facility further along the park. 

The point is we don’t need any more big announcements, we don’t need any more photie opps, we don’t need any more grandiose schemes.  What we need is to work out exactly how much we’ve spent in the last twelve years and what we have to show for it.  We need to establish what has worked and then junk what hasn’t (I’d take a wild guess that throwing money at the SFA might fall into this category).  And then we need to invest time, as much as other resources, in ensuring our children get the best sporting chances to give them the best possible start in life.


2 thoughts on “A sense of sporting deja vu

  1. The problem with politicians is they see football through the prism of the media. To them it is therefore about success not participation.

    The only things politicians should concern themselves about on the subject is decent playing facilities at reasonable cost:

    The recreation ground by us
    Don’t seem to have
    Many facilities
    For the kids and the dogs
    I submitted a poem
    To the council chambers
    But they just looked surprised
    Like the front of an Anglia
    There are no dark corners of cool relief
    It’s a tragedy with few interludes

    From: Half Man Half Biscuit: Doreen – lyrics http://www.chrisrand.com/hmhb/this-leaden-pall-1993/doreen/#ixzz1JpLzbrc6

    “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football” Albert Camus.

  2. The SNP also promised all kids would get 2 hours PE in school each week and free access to swimming before, so I won´t hold my breath on this one….. but even having said that, this baffles me given the funding given to sport already through Cashback Funding. Which will be on top of the figure you quoted as it doesn´t count the odd 600k thrown to football and other sports via the Lottery and distributed through Sports Scotland, a body that is really quite selective about where the money goes `[so karate and tae kwan do groups can´t access it for instance, even though they are very popular sports}.


    We need to get our kids active, create opportunities to do that, and school is surely one of the best options to use, to give them an opportunity to access and try a wide variety of sports

    What also concerns me is so many community groups could effectively use this money much more wisely than the Government bodies created to do this. ^[It remains an issue that we have three National Youth Agencies where there should be one… yes a few people might lose jobs created for them but think of the difference in the community this could make as long as what was implemented was long term.]

    Plus – too many projects have short term funding to deal with a long term issue anyway. Take the Go Play Fund which was a 2yr Fund managed on behalf of the Government by Inspiring Scotland has provided some great opportunities for early year’s engagement and some really good work has been produced through this. Unfortunately this fund ends in December 2011 and nothing has been announced to say it may continue, this would have been an ideal opportunity for Cashback money to be spend on something with tangible outcomes. Play and exercise go together…

    Sport is a great way to teach young people very good general life skills but there is a process of engagement before this happens, especially in deprived areas, and there needs to be variety and options available to enable this. You are so right about all the “world class changes and champions and teams” we have we have produced and in your comments about gender issus as well…….

    I know God loves a trier, but perhaps it´s time to accept that what´s been done over the past number of years hasn´t worked and we have failed to engage kids from all areas in exercise. This must change – not only to protect their health in the longer term, possibly find a genius or two in the process – but also because hopefully if we engage them early enough AND sustain that through teenage years [which is a challenge], this will also be part of the solution in keeping kids from getting involved in crime, drugs and alcohol as well…

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