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.