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Athletics

Volume 300: debated on Monday 10 November 1997

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5.

What plans he has to help improve the quality of training for British athletes. [13431]

We are committed to improving the quality of training both through the development of a British academy of sport, which will provide our athletes with the best training facilities possible, and the English Sports Council's world-class performance programme, which provides lottery support to our elite athletes.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. There is a great deal of anticipation about the establishment of a British academy of sport. When can we expect an announcement from him about the location and establishment of that facility?

Bearing in mind recent U-turns on the sporting front, will the Minister confirm the report in yesterday's papers that cricket, rugby and football will be included in the British academy of sport? In the light of recent events, can he tell the House whether the leading lights of those sporting organisations were financial contributors to the Labour party?

Those sports were never going to be excluded. There has been considerable misunderstanding over the question. [Interruption.] I shall tell the House why. The concept was very good; unfortunately, the design brief did not get very many points. Ministers previously said: "Yes, we are going to have an academy of sport. Now tell us what sort of an academy we are going to have." Since the election, we have been ensuring that we know exactly what sort of academy we will have. It will mainly be directed at the Olympic sports and at those for which there are national and world championships.

There has never been any question of the team sports, such as football, rugby and cricket, being excluded, but their needs are so particular that they should have separate academies. We are working actively to achieve that. The academy for sport and its skills in sports medicine and science will be available to all sports, including the team sports. If the right hon. Gentleman can contain himself a little longer—I know the process has been drawn out, but the wait is worth it because the decision is undoubtedly the most important that we face in British sport—the announcement will be made on Friday.

As far as I am aware, there is no question of Labour party funding—more' s the pity.