Category: Sport

Sport: Funding

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Glentoran for securing this debate and congratulate him on his excellent presentation. The enjoyment of sport is a near universal activity that transcends differences between human beings. It is hard to come across anybody who has not been touched by sport at some point in his or her life. Sport brings people together and occupies a key part in the lives of many people across all countries and sectors. A love of sport is shared globally, and pride in the successful performance of particular teams can be a strong unifying factor in any community.At a time when the economic outlook appears grim, people will instinctively turn towards sport as a means to exercise some of their frustrations and to raise their spirits. Governments have rightly been encouraging more people to engage in sporting activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. We cannot, however, avoid the fundamental truth that there is a considerable reduction in participation in sport between the ages of 16 and 18 and when moving into adulthood. That is why promoting and facilitating grassroots sport is so important. Although a number of initiatives have been developed, I want to pay particular tribute to the work of the Rugby Football Union in taking action to promote its sport through the Go Play Rugby initiative. The success of that effort has been rehearsed in other forums, but I want to repeat that it is a good example of how best to re-engage people who may have lost touch with regular sporting activity. We need to learn from its experience and apply the lessons more widely.

Another key example can be found in the England and Wales Cricket Board, whose investment has significantly increased the number of children and adults playing cricket at grassroots level, and that has had an impact on performance at elite levels. County cricket clubs are better able to choose high quality players when the pool of people playing the game is increased.

It is very difficult to debate a subject such as the Olympics without also reflecting on funding. The unfolding chaos in the Government’s approach to the 2012 Olympic Games is a clear demonstration of that point. I share the concerns stated by the shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport that the Government’s use of lottery funds to pay for the 2012 Olympics, largely as a result of their dithering on how best to leverage private sector investment, will have regrettable consequences for sport at the grassroots.

I would be grateful if in his reply to this debate the Minister would assure the House that sports such as rugby union, cricket and netball will not lose out as a consequence of the Olympic Games. There is very real concern on this point, and it would be most helpful if the Minister could clarify the Government’s position.

I wish to focus my contribution this afternoon on the funding of grassroots sport and specifically on what could be done to the taxation regime to facilitate investment in grassroots sport. Whatever delight and success may be achieved as a consequence of the Olympic Games in London in under four years’ time, if the price to be paid is reductions in resources available to local and community sports clubs we should ask whether that is really a course that we should want to progress.

The interests of specific sports are, by and large, protected and promoted by national governing bodies, such as the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Rugby Football Union and so on. The taxation regime that they face is identical to that of companies, with this exception: national governing bodies do not obtain tax relief for expenditure on grassroots sport development, which is comparable to a company’s research and development expenditure. As a consequence, sport governing bodies are taxed on their investment in grassroots sport activity and have to bear the burden of the administrative costs incurred in achieving tax compliance, which is a rather complicated regime.

On that basis, I wonder whether the Minister would consider granting statutory tax relief for grassroots sport expenditure by national governing bodies. If, as seems reasonable, economic circumstances are going to make investment complicated, we should be examining options to facilitate the actions of national governing bodies in delivering grassroots sport activities in local communities. Another potential solution would be a corporation tax exemption for national governing bodies. A recent study has calculated that the cost of a tax exemption would be between £5 million and £10 million a year and would significantly reduce the amount of time spent by governing bodies on tax planning, compliance and payment. A recent study conducted by Deloitte found that, of the 26 European Union states that responded, all except the United Kingdom provided either a tax exemption or special relief to national governing bodies. Effectively, sport bodies in other countries across Europe do not pay corporation tax.

One argument advanced is that sport governing bodies should establish charities in order to benefit from the tax advantages afforded to them. The economic benefits of this route are, however, dubious. The time and costs associated with running a charity are considerable, possibly as much as £5 million a year for national governing bodies. Not all grassroots expenditure would meet the strict definition of charitable expenditure, and charities are unable to reclaim value-added tax, which may result in a substantial VAT bill. I understand that a number of national governing bodies have been in regular communication with the Government to press this point, with limited response.

Given that we are entering difficult times, sports bodies have genuine concern about their revenue streams. We have to acknowledge that the Olympic Games could prove more expensive than originally anticipated, particularly given the failure of the Government effectively to engage with the private sector. The stories that abound of sports professionals awash with money are not reflected in the experience of those involved at grassroots level. The National Lottery is increasingly being used to pay for projects that the Government deem worthy, and the original intentions are being undermined. In those circumstances, I urge the Minister to revisit what could be done with the tax system to assist sport governing bodies, and I very much look forward to his response to this debate.



Promoting Sports in the Community

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak at your at your event tonight.

Sports have an important role to play in our society. They keep people fit, teach people to work as a team, and are an important factor in promoting community cohesion.

Sports are an investment in our communities. The emotion and feeling of belonging which they bring are worth far more than the economic cost of putting them on. We only need to think back to the day when the Olympics were announced to be coming to London in 2012 – the jubilation in the streets, the triumphant crowds in Leicester Square, in Manchester, in Birmingham, and across the rest of the UK. Sport bring us together.

I am very glad to have been asked to speak on promoting sports in the community tonight. I believe that inclusion in sport at a young age is one of the key building blocks to forming a sense of identity about yourself.

I must applaud the work the that Government has done in improving sports in schools. Investment has increased by almost £1.5 billion since 1997, a mixture of state and Lottery money, and rightly so.

Our lifestyles have changed in the late 20th century. Our economy has moved from manufacturing and the physical demands of heavy industry to the service culture which we have today. Our work is now generally desk-bound and less physically demanding.

At home, technology has changed our lives immeasurably. Labour saving devices litter our homes, adding convenience to the most arduous of tasks. At work and away from it the number of calories we burn doing tasks has decreased, whilst the time we have for ourselves has only got larger.

I’m not advocating throwing away the dishwasher, but the point is that our lives have changed. Most of these changes are welcome, but modern life brings with it many unintended consequences.

Prosperity has taken cars from being luxury items to common ones, needed for the daily commute. No one considered it at the time, but it meant that the tradition of walking to school ended quite suddenly.

That walk – on average a twenty minute stroll – doesn’t seem that far, but if you consider your own life you’ll realise that it is. If you picture parking your car twenty minutes walk away from your office and hiking the remainder of the journey twice a day, every day, you’d be fitter. Convenience has removed simple efforts such as this from our lives.

On top of this, the erosion of teacher’s salaries in real terms meant that the vast amount of goodwill which allowed them to run after hours sport in our schools began to erode. We can’t forget that in many communities it is our schools which provide the land and facilities for the wider population.

For too long the Government has allowed our school playing fields to be sold off. Schools should not be placed in the position where the best way for them to raise badly needed funds is to sell of their land. To do so is to sell off the well-being of the children they are meant to guide.

Thankfully this trend has now changed, and we are finally seeing more playing fields created than lost. This, tied with the regeneration of our public spaces, is essential.

Sport is by its nature competitive. Many have argued that the more competitive sports are actually damaging for children, though I believe that they teach people to co-operate and to work in teams.

We have seen recently the sad case of the murder of 11 year old Rhys Jones. The media likes to talk about the gun and gang culture which is growing in modern Britain. I deplore these gangs and the pervasive criminal activity which many indulge in. However, we must understand better what it is that drives them – the sense of belonging which they get from being a part of such a group.

I believe that this need to belong could be channelled into sport. Being part of a team, be it winning or losing, is hugely important in forming an identity. Working together and being as strong or as weak as each person in a group teaches you about life.

The Government needs to work harder at understanding this, and listen to the ideas of the voluntary sector who have actually put them into practice. Young people want to belong and to have fun and excitement – sport is the ideal channel for this.

We should consider sports as a catalyst, whose benefits are huge.

Obesity is a problem which this country needs to face up to. There have been many and active debates about our lifestyles, the food that we eat, and the problems of our culture in tackling this. Purely on an economic basis, obesity related health problems cost the NHS an estimated £3billion each year.

I believe we have been too focussed on diet when we consider tackling obesity. The conspicuous change in the country has not been the amount of calories which we take in, but rather the lower amounts of physical exertion in our day to day lives.  We are a sport-loving nation. With the right initiatives, people will turn to community sports.

The Government needs to listen to the ideas of local communities and voluntary organisations. If we don’t tax gym memberships, those expensive private gyms would be accessible to more, and the cost benefits for the health service far greater than the money spent on the scheme.

In addition, it is usually the community and gym notice-boards that advertise local, team sports. Funding must be provided to keep these essential local facilities open. There is an obvious link between physical health and mental well-being. Cultures around the world appreciate this, but the UK does not.

The special place that sport occupies in our national life makes it a great catalyst for other benefits. Manchester United, reportedly the most popular football team in the world, runs an educational foundation for example. Children from the local area are coached in numeracy and literacy, learn about citizenship and racial equality, and work with the police. Other large clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Fulham for example, run similar schemes.

This extra-curricular work is of enormous benefit to children who do not succeed at school. The Playing for Success scheme, praised by Tony Blair whilst he was still Prime Minister, establishes study support centres at sports grounds. 15 sports are involved and 19 Premiership clubs are signatories. An amazing 180,000 students have been helped so far.

It is the work that you do, that organisations such as Playing for Success, do that should be praised and appreciated.

Sport is the lifeblood of the voluntary sector. There are over 106,000 sports affiliated clubs in England, serving over 8 million members. With the Olympics coming, there is far more to be done. We need to use the example of the Olympics to create a culture of sport, promoting the local community’s work in the field.

One of the reasons that Britain won the Olympic bid was the emphasis on legacy. The bid team were right to emphasize the importance of leaving improved transport links and community in Stratford, but it is essential that we also leave a sporting legacy.

We must ensure that the interest in sport created by the Olympics is converted to increased participation in community sports. Holding the Games will not change people’s behaviour by itself. A sea change is needed to ensure that we change from a nation of spectators to one that is actively involved in sports.

We need to re-divert money from the National Lottery back to sports. The original four pillars of Lottery funding stated that money raised should go to sport, the arts, heritage and charities. Too much is being syphoned off to pay for Government schemes.

Last year the sports received £264million in Lottery funding – a shortfall of £133million. This is simply not good enough. In the run up to the Olympics this link needs restoring so that local communities can better take up the mantle of sports champions and guide people towards participation.

We also need to consider the benefits of publicising community heroes in getting people interested in community sports. The Olympic bid used that fact that David Beckham came from Stratford to great effect in their presentations. Similarly we need to look at figures who are heroes to our communities and publicise the great work which they have done.

Again, this calls for Government and voluntary sector to work together. We must consider that for our local communities figures such as boxer Amir Khan and the cricketers Monty Penesar and Sajid Mahmood are potent symbols for the power of sport.

We need to use these icons to get more people interested in community sports. The Indian community in particular has a wealth of figures who have represented England prior to the granting of Independence. We should consider linking education and sport, and tell our young people about figures such as Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji and Kumar Ranjitsnhji.

In the British Indian community too there is an opportunity to use sport to bring people together and foster a greater British identity. Many young Muslims face an identity crisis. Most regard themselves as British, but struggle balance the difference between the older generation and the wider British public. I believe that team sports can be a key factor to bridging that gap.

Sports bring people together, and help them work as teams across the boundaries which normally blind them. I have long argued that a holistic approach is needed when dealing with the problems caused by isolation in our communities. Encouragement to sport should be one such approach.

Using the example of the many sports trusts, football clubs, and other sporting organisations which run after-school clubs teaching maths, English and science to our children, we need to look at how we can use sports to bring people together and unify them.

Team work and a sense of belonging are only two of the benefits of increasing participation in community sports. Involving people in their communities is key to breaking down the barriers of isolation.

Government needs to talk more about the benefits of community sports, and about our past success stories.

With the Olympics on the horizon, we all need to look at how we can best seize the growing interest in sports, and get people of all ages involved. We need to speak to people of different backgrounds using different languages, and we must ensure that the funding is there to help community sports grow.

This means restoring the link between the national lottery and community sports – something which I hope the Government will do. This also means looking at community sports as not just a means to themselves, but also within the wider context of fitness and success.

Greater involvement in community sports will mean less money spent by the NHS on obesity. It will mean that the Government and local authorities have to spend less on other schemes for community cohesion. It makes sense.

Modern Government is a partnership. It needs to work with organisations such as yours to ensure that the good work which has already been done continues. People from all walks of life need encouragement to take up sports and engage with their local communities.

To do this will require time and money – something which organisations such as this give generously. I applaud your work – too often it is overlooked, but it plays an important role in bringing people together, and benefiting Britain.

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak to you tonight.