Skip to main content

Community Sports Facilities

Volume 539: debated on Wednesday 1 February 2012

[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone.

So often, sport is limited to the last letter of the DCMS—the Department for Culture, Media and Sport—but sport is much more than that. If we are talking Government Departments, sport reaches into issues that concern Ministers of Health, Education, Business, Innovation and Skills, Work and Pensions and the Home Office.

Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.

On resuming—

It is a pleasure to resume the debate under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I was talking about the importance of sport, and how it reaches into all sorts of areas that are covered by Ministers in the Department of Health, the Department for Education and the Home Office, and I want to argue that sport, and the way it is managed, is crucial to the Treasury and matters financially to our country. The way that community sport and its facilities have been funded and organised in the past has overlooked the great business and community potential of our nation, and a real opportunity exists.

Seldom has the significance of sport for our country’s well-being been in sharper focus than following the August riots that were carried out by disaffected youth, with the London Olympic games glinting over the horizon. Seldom has the need for a nationwide Olympic sporting legacy of aspiration, effort, achievement, action, consequence and reward, which reaches out to all our communities, been more keenly felt.

The UK is the most obese nation in Europe, and obesity costs the NHS £4 billion a year. Within four years, however, that figure is projected to rise to £6.3 billion. Diabetes is also on the rise. The NHS currently spends £715 million on drugs for diabetes, and by 2025 it has been forecast that 25% of the NHS budget will be spent on diabetes alone. Quite simply, if our NHS is to survive the demands put on it by an ageing population, changing demographics, more expensive treatment and ever-rocketing expectations, our population must change its body mass index and its lifestyle.

Something else is often overlooked. Sport is vital not only because of the calories it burns, but because of the mindset it involves. Crucially, it entails a sense of delayed gratification: if we do not take the easy option now, but do something that initially takes a bit of effort, such as going for a jog instead of having that nice second cup of tea and that slice of cake, that will have benefits later, because we will lose weight and look good in that outfit we want to wear. At the sharp end, it is about what my brilliant former swimming coach Eric Henderson called “no pain, no gain”.

That is important not only for the physical benefits, but for the sense of achievement that comes from making that effort, resisting that cake and reaping the rewards of seeing oneself get fitter and make progress. That starts a virtuous circle of achievement, as we believe and see that we can do something, and that, crucially, is what builds self-esteem. That is where sport is so important for young people, particularly the kind who were involved in the riots over the summer.

I have seen first hand the extraordinary effects that sport can have on young people who are most likely to fall into a lifestyle involving gangs and riots. As the chair of the all-party group on boxing, I have seen how powerful boxing is in turning a kid with all the energy, inclination and anger to riot into a responsible and exemplary role model for other young people. I think of inner-city clubs such as the Riverside youth project in Bristol, which is managed by the amazing Dennis Stinchcombe, and which is sending one of its boxers to the GB team this year. Other sports also have a huge impact, and I will mention them later.

Why does sport work? There is the release of pent-up aggression and energy, the structure and discipline that are often so lacking in young people’s home lives and the respect for role models—often male—which frequently do not exist at home for young people. Crucially, there is also the building of self-discipline, self-respect and self-esteem through a cycle of putting effort in and seeing positive results come out.

My hon. Friend may come to this, but does she agree that where sporting achievement can be measured, so, too, can its positive effect on academic achievement? The one leads to the other, and there is increasing evidence of that. That is another example of how the Government should see these things as an investment, rather than as a cost.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I am making it in a rather long-winded way, but he has made it in far fewer words. The cycle of achievement translates into learning how to get good grades at school by putting effort in and getting achievement out. It also helps people with resisting the easier lifestyle choices that are less good for them in exchange for achieving a better physique and physiology later. That concept of delayed gratification is essential to the concept of achievement, and it is essential if our young people are to fulfil their potential. They have to put that effort in to get the rewards and achieve their life potential.

I turn again to what we saw during the riots. What was striking was that so many of the young people and kids who were rioting talked about having nothing to lose. The reason they did that is that they could not really see they had anything to gain; they did not know how to achieve, and they had no traction on the cycle of achievement. They may have had dreams, and we often talk about dreams in relation to things such as aspiration, but dreams are not the same as goals. Those young people may have had dreams about being a famous footballer, being rich or having a glorious, glamorous wife, but dreams are very different from goals, because dreams are dislocated from reality. Those children could see no way—they had no ladder—to access those dreams.

Goals, however, are embedded in reality, together with some way of getting a rung closer to where we want to be, whether we want to be a famous footballer, to be super-rich or to have or be a glamorous wife, or whether we want to be a nurse, to start a business or to pass our maths GCSE. Not one of our Olympians will have become an Olympian by just dreaming about it; they will have worked—oh my goodness, how they will have worked—and they will have gone training when they did not want to. That sense of delayed gratification—putting effort in now for reward later—is what will lead our Olympians to the gold medals that I hope and expect so many of them will win.

Nationally, I hope there will be a facility to allow our Olympians to tell the inspiring story of the effort and hard work it took them to achieve those goals, which are many people’s dreams. It is important for not just young people, but the whole country to see that greatness comes not by accident, but through great determination and hard work. That message speaks to the country as a whole in the difficult times we face.

We have a huge opportunity. One thing sport is so good at is showing young people how to, and that they can, reach their goals. They can put effort in and get a tangible achievement out. That works especially well for young people who do not find the classroom an easy place to be. They might find the authority in the classroom difficult to take, but they might excel in other areas.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) said, that is where sport touches Departments such as the Department for Education. Young people’s results absolutely rocket when they are engaged through sport. Building self-esteem through sport helps in employment. Sport teaches discipline, resilience and other employability skills. We talk about trying to embed all those skills in the curriculum, and there they all are, embedded in sport. In terms of Home Office concerns, sport provides fantastic behaviour management and can prevent young people from becoming future inmates. The social and financial benefit to society cannot really be measured.

The benefits of the self-esteem, individual resilience, teamwork, delayed gratification and discipline instilled by sport go on and on, although Members may be glad to know that I will not. Instead, I want to turn to another great benefit of sport that is often overlooked: the financial and business potential it holds for the community.

In securing community sport for future generations, we face an opportunity and a tremendous challenge, and those centre on our sports facilities. Here is the challenge. The model of community sport is substantially dependent on local authority initial funding and maintenance funding. That has meant too many run-down, off-putting facilities, and it has claimed sporting casualties among facilities. Some years ago in my constituency, despite a massive community campaign, the council misguidedly sold off the much-needed Robin Cousins sports centre and the Shirehampton swimming pool. Now, the community has no proper local sports facilities and a growing population of increasingly bored youth.

More widely, to take football as an example, the latest Football Association survey found that the overwhelming majority of respondents identified poor local community facilities as their biggest problem. A Football Foundation survey found that of the 45,000 local football pitches that exist, 38% did not have changing rooms, 94% had no floodlights, 80% were badly drained and out of use in the winter months, and only 1% had the third-generation artificial pitches that can be used for 90 hours a week, as opposed to just four.

Let me illustrate the point more graphically. In another area of my constituency, Henbury Old Boys football club is struggling to raise funds for much-needed renovations to the clubhouse, facilities and changing rooms. Shirehampton football club is thinking of moving away from its much-loved home ground, which is at the heart of the community, and its clubhouse, which was built by the members themselves, because it cannot progress in the league without floodlights for its pitch, and it cannot get them.

One does not need to be a mathematician to work out what the dilapidation of existing facilities is doing to participation rates.

I do not know whether my hon. Friend has tripped across this yet, but I will mention it before we move on. Part of the Places People Play scheme is a sub-£50,000 grant scheme, to which more than 600 clubs have applied. It exists precisely to try to tackle the problems she has itemised. It has been phenomenally popular; in fact, it is the most successful facilities scheme Sport England says it has ever run. My advice to the football club in her area that is struggling with its changing rooms is to make sure it puts in a grant application. The scheme is called Inspired Facilities and it is part of the Places People Play programme run by Sport England. My hon. Friend should encourage the club to put in an application.

I thank the Minister for that, and will certainly do so. I will come on to what the Government have been doing to recognise the issue in question, and the tremendous investment that they have focused towards it.

The Football Foundation’s research from last season shows that where new investment, such as that suggested by the Minister, took place at a community sports facility, participation increased on average by more than 10%. The sad truth is that often, as cuts hit, local authorities sometimes choose to make cuts to their front-line services and sports facilities, or to hike up charges dramatically, shutting out those on low incomes. To go back to what the Minister said, it is welcome and brilliant that the Government have acted so swiftly and strongly to meet the important challenge of investing in community sports facilities. They have pledged enormous, much needed Government investment in those facilities.

Our national lottery reforms have, I believe, brought an additional £135 million for upgrading community sports clubs and facilities. We are linking schools and sports clubs more effectively, helping schools to offer more of their facilities for community use, which is extremely welcome. Schools’ facilities have for so long been shut to the communities that want to use them. The Government are linking up local sports clubs with schools so that the schools can benefit in their turn from the tremendous expertise and dynamism that community sports clubs offer. That has been quite a long time in coming, and it is welcome that the Government have grasped the nettle and linked those two valuable resources.

Additionally, there is a £400 million local sport fund for local authorities, to help with local sports provision, and a further fund of, I believe, about £100 million, for upgrading such facilities as swimming pools. As a former swimmer I have a particular interest in such projects. The achievement is superb, and is a gratifying indication that the Government see sport’s importance and consider it a priority. I am pleased with the investment that they are putting in.

It is vital that that investment does not just build facilities—buildings. If we run facilities as we have always run them we shall get what we have always got: a welcome initial investment and, in the long term, an expensive continuing drain on state funds, which may not always be made available to meet the need. Not only do we need to build and upgrade facilities; we need to build social enterprises. We need to ensure that we build not only facilities but an entire social enterprise model, involving the community, business expertise and smart corporate financial and human capital investment, so that the facilities do not become sponges on precious local authority funding and maintenance grants, but will instead be vibrant centres of the community, using profitable elements of the enterprise to subsidise the loss-making elements that the community needs so much.

The good news is, as colleagues have already told me, that that is already happening. However, it needs to happen more, and it can. Community sports trusts already exist, and the charity the Football Foundation is doing interesting work on providing some kind of model for change. Football is the most popular sport in the country, but 33% of the foundation’s effort in sport goes beyond football; so, for those who are not so into football, it is not just about that. The foundation’s idea works on making an initial investment but also helping to build and support a sustainable hub around a facility, such as a crèche in the club house or better use of bar facilities, including sport on TV, to make a profit that can be pumped into maintaining and improving the facility.

Corporate social responsibility is also an enormous opportunity. Funds cannot be better used than to invest in community sport, but often we also need to think smarter about how we use the expertise of those who work in our large corporates. We should encourage corporates to demonstrate corporate social responsibility by making links so that their staff can mentor and give time to local sports clubs and enterprises. When better than the Olympic year to start something of that kind?

One of the football clubs that I have visited in the Bristol area has been extraordinarily successful in community fundraising, and in building a social enterprise model around the club. One of its secrets is that there was someone on the board whose day job was project management and fundraising. In the face of the decimation by Bristol city council of much-loved sports facilities in Shirehampton, Avonmouth’s National Smelting Co amateur boxing club, run by Garry Cave in his spare time after work, has raised funds to build a new gym to accommodate the ever-increasing number of boxers who want to take part. It did it by pooling the expertise and resources of parents, helpers and supporters. In fewer than two years a brand new and far bigger club was up and running, and well oversubscribed. That is a success story, but it was and is still very tough going, and corporate support would be a massive help.

Such corporate support is already happening. As far as I have been able to see, Barclays has demonstrated good and innovative use of corporate support in its Spaces for Sports investment. What struck me when I visited its facilities was that what I saw was not just about capital investment unleashing participation in sport; it was also about creating and supporting an enterprise for the long term, driven and managed by the community. One of the things said again and again in communities affected by the riots was that facilities owned by the community, with community involvement, escaped the vandalism and damage. That sense of community ownership is massively important.

Money and skills are certainly something we need more of. [Interruption.] I need a drink of water. [Interruption.]

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her remarks, to which I have been listening intently. We find in Northern Ireland that a benefit from sport is its capacity to unite a community that is divided—in our case by sectarianism, but often in Great Britain by ethnic differences and so on. Would the hon. Lady consider the positive effects that sport can have in bringing communities together, particularly where there is a history of conflict, but also in areas where there are gangs or criminality?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman not only for his chivalrous intervention but for the excellent point he made. It is true in Bristol that there are areas with opposing gangs, and it is difficult to bring those groups together, but local sports and the boxing club have managed that against all the odds, and things are being done that many people would say could not happen. I agree that the community cohesion that sport can bring is spectacular.

I hope that the House will forgive me if I tend to cough during the rest of my speech.

Sport not only provides an opportunity for large corporates such as Barclays to hone the effectiveness of their corporate social responsibility; it also, crucially, provides a great opportunity for small business and economic growth. At a time when small building companies are struggling, and we need to get young people into apprenticeships and provide opportunities in the construction industry, what I have outlined is a great way to do it. Small and medium-sized enterprises make up 99.7% of the UK’s construction industry, and up to 11 construction firms go bust every day. The Government have already identified construction programmes as a key way of stimulating the economy, and have focused on house building. That is very well and good, but developing new and upgraded sports facilities also provides many SMEs with a crucial lifeline, so that a range of subcontractors, such as architects, electricians, carpenters and plumbers can survive. For example, a relatively small project in Essex, funded by the Football Foundation with a grant of just over £250,000, which for the foundation is relatively modest, enabled the Lawford juniors football club to get a new changing pavilion. In addition, that project alone employed 35 different subcontractors, three quarters of them local, and two apprentices.

Although times are tough, we face a tremendous opportunity. Sport is already one of the nation’s greatest examples of the big society, with thousands of individuals giving up time to volunteer at local clubs. It is superb that the Government—I pay tribute to the Minister—are investing so robustly to protect and support the Olympic legacy. That is a much needed springboard for sport. However, we still need to rethink sport’s dependency on the state, to safeguard its future. The readiness, skills and need certainly exist to build excellent sporting facilities for future generations that are sustainable, vibrant social enterprises bringing growth to communities, and are assets to, not drains on, strained local authorities.

We need to combine the backing of Government, the expertise and action of charities, such as the Football Foundation, and smart CSR—that is, money and skills—from Britain’s businesses, such as that which I saw from Barclays, with our existing community sport network to safeguard and promote sport into the future. What better year in which to pull all those together than the Olympic year of 2012?

Thank you, Mr Bone, for giving me the opportunity to speak in the debate. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) for making a fantastic speech, especially given that she had the hindrance of a croaky throat. During my time as a lead member for leisure on Swindon borough council, we had great pleasure in visiting the Riverside boxing facility. As someone who is not quite as passionate about boxing as my hon. Friend, I was extremely passionate about the huge difference that it made to very challenging communities. I am thinking particularly of the links that it had with the Navy and the Army. Those links enabled people with real drive and enthusiasm to be identified and given an alternative opportunity in life. That facility should certainly be praised.

I want to cover a couple of subjects. I have spoken in similar debates in Westminster Hall in recent weeks, but I am delighted to see that I have a slightly different audience today, so I can recycle some of the points.

The Centre for Social Justice highlighted in its recently published report the vicious cycle whereby prices rise to raise revenue and that threatens participation levels. That is not an idle threat. Local authorities that are under pressure to balance revenues and expenditure often turn to the services that we are debating and consider hiking up prices. In my local authority, when Labour was last running the council, it decided to increase leisure centre prices year on year. That was a false economy not only because usage went down, but because the revenue that it collected went down. I urge local authorities throughout the country to think carefully before taking a short cut to try to raise revenue.

There are alternatives. We found that as we invested capital in the council leisure facilities, we prioritised invest-to-save schemes. For example, as the Football Foundation has identified, there is a chronic shortage of 3G football pitches. By local authority standards, they are relatively cheap to build, and they generate huge amounts of revenue, which can be used to offset other, loss-making leisure activities. We built three 3G pitches at the back of the Link leisure centre on a four-year payback scheme. That paid itself off after 13 months. As in that example, when councils want to invest in leisure facilities, they should partner them with those few sports activities that are so popular that they can generate sufficient income to help to offset the losses made by others.

Local authorities should do far more on marketing where facilities are not being fully utilised. I will use the example of 3G football pitches again. Until I was elected to Parliament, I used to play football with a group of people every Tuesday night. Every so often, at those peak times, there would be a cancellation. Once the hour arrived and the pitch was not being used, that time was lost for ever. I felt that there were so many groups making regular bookings that the authority should have built up a database. It could then have sent out an e-mail to say, “The Thursday 7 pm club is not coming this week. The first club to reply can take up the space available.” That club could pay half the price, so participation would be increased and the local authority would not be wasting money. It would basically be a case of copying what the airline companies do when they are trying to sell off their last few seats.

We should be much more confident about empowering the respective managers to allow people who turn up to play. I am thinking particularly of younger people. Use of the 3G football pitches normally costs £42 an hour. If one is empty, but a group of teenagers turn up and between them they can cobble together £2.50, we should take that £2.50. An additional benefit is that they would be encouraged to use facilities in a controlled and safe environment.

Councils can play other roles, one of which is facilitating sports clubs to find a home. I set up the very successful Sports Forum, which has got more than 60 different sports clubs in Swindon working together. One challenge that many sports clubs have is finding a home where they can participate in their sport. The best example of that was the Esprit gymnastics club, which was based in an industrial retail park and became so successful that 450 children a week were using the facility. However, all the other tenants of the park complained that there were no car parking spaces left, so the club was told that it needed to find a new home.

The club gallantly searched high and low in Swindon, but no buildings with a sufficiently large roof were available, so the council stepped in and identified a building—Headlands school sports hall. Headlands school was being bulldozed to build an academy a few miles down the road, so the relatively new £4 million sports hall was also set to be bulldozed. To cut a long story short, it was agreed that Esprit gymnastics club would take on that building and pay a commercial rent. It was a not-for-profit business, but it obviously charged the children to take part. The sports hall was a considerably bigger facility, for which it was then able to obtain external funding. Now, on a weekly basis, more than 2,000 children use that facility, which is still standing.

The people to whom I have been referring have sub-let part of the building to the Kirsty Farrow dance academy, which is very successful, and the Leadership martial arts academy, so it is a thriving community facility. They also manage the neighbouring football pitches. The local authority does not run the facility. It is run by volunteers so successfully that I am determined repeatedly to invite my hon. Friend the Minister to visit it to see what a fantastic jewel in the crown it is for Swindon.

Last week, I met people from Swindon Supermarine rugby football club, which is based on the Swindon Supermarine collective site. That includes the football club, the archery club, the bowls club, the diving club and, of course, the rugby club. They want to build additional facilities, including an indoor 3G facility not just for rugby, but for football and other sports. The Rugby Football Union will be supporting that. I am delighted that, following that meeting, Swindon borough council has agreed to offer as much advice as it can ahead of the process of looking to build, putting in bids and going through the planning process. All those different sports clubs will come together and work together, so that that site continues to be something very valuable for my constituency.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) for securing this important debate. At the outset, I declare that I am a parliamentary fellow of Sport England. My intervention is linked to the point about local authorities. Does my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) agree that it is crucial that excellent local authorities, such as his, work in partnership with organisations such as Sport England? That organisation has launched the £32 million Sportivate programme to get 14 to 25-year-olds playing sport. It is attracting more than 300,000 extra people into playing sport. Local authorities need to work in partnership with excellent organisations such as Sport England to ensure that everyone can play sports.

I thank my hon. Friend. His intervention is very helpful because it ties in perfectly with my next point. To return to the Sports Forum principle, one reason why that is so successful, with the 60 different sports clubs coming together, is that there is a pool of expertise that can draw on national organisations that can come and give presentations. The Sports Forum meets every three months. We are talking about three 30-minute segments. They are advertised in advance. One segment could be, for example, about how Sport England can help, and Sport England will come along and give a presentation.

There is the sharing of best practice. For example, some sports clubs were looking for facilities and some sports clubs had facilities that were under-utilised. They merged to become stronger as a unit. Also, the expertise can be provided to apply for funding, because if ever we need nuclear physicists, it is for filling in funding application forms. We were fortunate in Swindon because we had many people who were very good at that, and they helped other sports groups to apply for funding.

I would extend what I am talking about to local authority leisure centres and sports centres. The Oasis leisure centre—the rather famous band copied the name— wants to have a major redevelopment. It will be, in all senses, a leisure centre, rather than a place for serious sport, which will leave our other major centre, the Link centre, pretty much providing the sports side. I should like the Sports Forum to have a much greater role in running that, because it has expertise in how to deliver sport and because that could help to attract external funding. An example is the new netball facility that was built. The national netball association and local netball clubs are helping to set the programme and ensuring that that is a big success. We must use the skills that sports clubs have.

I want to deal briefly with private finance initiative schools and community facilities. While I was a councillor, there were many shiny, brand-new schools in the new housing estate that I represented. We did not have a huge amount of open space other than inside the large fences of the PFI schools. They charged an absolute fortune and priced many different community groups out of there. It was an absolute, crying shame; we had young people who wanted to turn up and kick a football around, but they could not get access to the open fields. We must be careful of that, especially in built-up areas.

I have been trying to push for more sport in the community on Friday and Saturday nights, using community facilities such as school buildings, local authority sports facilities, parish councils and community centres. We as a nation spend a huge amount of money on youth services and facilities, and although some are good, many are not. It would be far better for the local authority to use the money to commission football or street dance coaches, for example, to work in those facilities. The respective local authority, parish council or school would not charge for the use of those facilities. All that they would have to do is raise a bit of money to go towards the cost of the coaches, and that could come from the youth service budget. Children could be charged 50p a time, so that they have a sense of ownership. In that way, we could get them doing something active and constructive on Friday and Saturday nights. When I go around schools and colleges, the idea is very much supported by young people. Last week, a sports coach UK organisation told me that it was interested in the idea and that it could provide a long list of potential coaches for the different areas. I am sure that many other organisations would get behind such a scheme.

On planning issues, we are right to focus on sports facilities—physical buildings—but often all that we need to do is ensure that there is sufficient open space. I previously represented a new build estate where there was not sufficient accessible, usable open space. Under the technical national definitions, we had lots, but they just happened to be lots of hedges and places where we certainly could not kick a football. We need to be mindful of that.

When I was growing up, we were influenced by whatever was on TV. If it was the Tour de France, out came the bikes. If it was cricket, out came the cricket bats. We played football for the majority of the year and tennis for the three days that we used to last at Wimbledon in those days.

We need to take advantage of the new homes bonus and section 106. Too often, leisure is not at the forefront of getting money to invest in facilities. For the smaller developments in existing residential areas, we should consider using some of the money to provide more accessible, usable open space or traditional sports community facilities. Again, we should consider the opportunity to devolve the ownership and the running of those sports clubs.

We have previously talked about school sport partnerships. I was delighted that the Government extended the time for them to secure a future. The vast majority, or at least the ones that were doing a good job, have been successful in doing that. My only plea concerns the facilities that they then provide activities in. The people involved are often fantastic coaches. They are fantastic at getting support for volunteers, but they are not necessarily business-minded. As not-for-profit businesses, they need some help and training to ensure that they are good at running the books, so that they can continue to do a fantastic job.

I am encouraged by a much of what the Government are doing. This is something that the Government take very seriously. The Minister is well thought of by all the sporting groups that I meet. We must ensure that this matter remains very high on the political radar, both locally and nationally.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Bone. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) for securing this debate. I will not speak for long, but I will highlight a couple of community facilities in my constituency.

Next week, we will open a new sports centre, with a £6.5 million swimming pool. It is the first leisure centre in the country that is partly heated by innovative technology. It will take energy from the town’s crematorium, thereby reducing the overall CO2 emissions in our borough. Of course, we would be delighted if the Minister wished to pay us a visit.

The centre will lead the way in improving health equalities and increasing participation in Redditch, with targeted projects to help our diverse population. To celebrate the opening of the venue, community games will take place in May and will involve sports clubs and the voluntary sector. There will be activities for eight weeks, culminating in a competition day focusing on Olympic sports and the promotion of volunteering and healthy lifestyle choices.

The special Olympics group is another great community facility. I should perhaps declare an interest here as I have just been appointed its patron. It comprises a group of Olympians with learning disabilities. They take part in all sorts of sports, including athletics, swimming, soccer and badminton. They are a pleasure to watch, and I have seen them compete in many events. They are inspirational young people, and 169 of them have competed in events this year. They are a credit to my town and an example of how community sport and its facilities really work. Without such community sports facilities, our young people would suffer. They make our town a healthier and happier environment. Long may they continue.

I thank you, Mr Bone, for asking me to speak, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) on securing this excellent debate. The timing is appropriate because this is the year of the Olympics in London. It is right that we should be focusing on sport. It is right, too, because we need to encourage people to live more healthily. Exercise definitely leads to a healthier lifestyle. My hon. Friend was right to emphasise the importance of exercise.

Let me talk about my own district council of Stroud, which has just reopened its leisure centre to great success. I pay tribute to Councillor Keith Pearson and his team for having the imagination to get on with the job of delivering an outstanding centre with so many improvements on the previous regime. Gone are the days of Mr Brittas and the “Brittas Empire”. Instead, we have an efficiently run organisation with clean facilities. The changing rooms are absolutely excellent and I invite Members to come and see them at any time—preferably to change for some sport. The centre demonstrates that councils can do things properly if they put their minds to it, and Stroud district council has done exactly that.

The centre expects some 25,000 users from the community around Stroud, which is a fairly impressive number. There is also Dursley swimming pool, which has a solar panel system to assist with the heating, so the pool is not just really good for the community but environmentally friendly. Things can be done by Conservative councils, and I applaud that. It is important that we recognise that councils can and should play a role. It is also critical that communities outside the council help in these matters, too.

My son is a footballer; he is a pretty impressive defender. I often go and watch him play at various football clubs across my constituency. It is really great to see so many clubs flourishing and providing decent pitches for people to play on and it is a great tribute to local communities that they allow these facilities to be developed and then support them. The support that local communities give to such clubs is critical.

My hon. Friend is making an important point about local communities and local authorities. Medway has just spent £11 million on the Medway Olympic park in one of its most deprived areas—there is a seven-year life expectancy difference between one part of the constituency and another. Does he agree that it is crucial to get such facilities in deprived areas as well as in affluent ones, so that children with social deprivation issues can use the facilities and improve their health as well?

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and I am grateful to him for making it, because that is an important point. We must ensure that we reach out to all communities, especially the ones that he has described. We must have healthy people who enjoy their lives, are properly engaged and play a full part in the society that we want to create. That was what my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Karen Lumley) was referring to when she spoke about people with disabilities, and it is great that she emphasised that point.

There are communities in my constituency that support people with disabilities in their interest in sport. Most impressively, a huge amount of money was raised for a swimming pool as St Rose’s school, Beeches Green, for people with severe disabilities. That is wonderful; it shows that people care, that they can deliver the right kind of support and that people recognise that absolutely everybody should have opportunities to play sport wherever possible, which is completely right.

There are also threats to sport in my constituency. Stroud rugby club needs a new facility and to upgrade its rooms—in fact, it needs to move. We must help clubs such as that to seize the initiative effectively and ensure that they can deliver the right kind of facilities for the huge number of young people who want to play rugby. The place is full on a Sunday morning. My son is no longer interested in going to the rugby club at weekends—it’s football for him, although he plays rugby at school—but those who go to Stroud rugby club are really enthusiastic, and that is an important stepping stone to more involvement in sport. I am very keen for Stroud rugby club to thrive and I support it in its endeavours.

I went to Gloucester rugby club a few weekends ago to watch a very exciting game between Gloucester and Toulouse—my wife is French, so there were some issues about who was supporting whom. While there, I noticed the sheer involvement of the people watching the match. We must not forget that element when we talk about facilities. It is important to encourage people to go to and support sporting events. They will be watching people they know—members of their families and so forth—which is part of the collective activity of sport and should be promoted.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West mentioned corporate support; it is important and we should encourage it. The Government need to find ways to help to lever in the corporate support that is so necessary for many fledgling clubs and for developed clubs that want to move forward or expand their assets or facilities. We should not forget the sports such as skateboarding that we would not necessarily think of as sport, because they also give opportunities to young people to be involved.

The community facilities that we want are essential, and should be encouraged to develop into other services as well, such as social clubs, because that gives them an added dimension and another way to be successful. I have noticed that the clubs in my constituency that have moved on and developed in that way have prospered, and they continue to provide excellent opportunities for young people.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) on securing this timely debate. I congratulate the Minister on his strong performance as a Minister since 2010—he has been outstanding. This is obviously an important year for sport. I also congratulate my hon. Friends on their contributions so far, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Karen Lumley), who has given me an idea. One of the sporting facilities in my constituency is a top-100 listed golf course, which happens to be next door to the crematorium, so I will encourage my local council to investigate the possibility of recycling heat into the clubhouse.

I would like to talk about how I see sport and how sport benefits the individual, the wider community and the nation as a whole. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West and I share a passionate belief that sport can and does do good and should be encouraged and supported in every possible way. Forgive me, but I would appreciate some indulgence as I take a tour of my constituency. I am proud to do so, specifically on this topic, because it has possibly some of the best community sports facilities in the country. In my experience, the people of Bracknell and the surrounding area are generally quite happy, and I think that those two things are linked.

Bracknell has three sports centres, including an Olympic swimming pool, which my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West competed in once upon a time. The Coral Reef water sports park is a separate facility that is visited annually by hundreds of thousands of people from the south of England. The Look Out discovery centre on Crown Estate land in Swinley forest, which is used for mountain biking, walking and running, has 250,000 visitors a year. We also have one of only three trampoline centres in the south of England. Lily Hill park houses Bracknell rugby club, and I remember playing there aged 19—not so long ago. I lost the game unfortunately, but was very impressed with the facilities. We also have numerous football clubs. In fact, my first visit to my constituency was to play football for Wycombe district football club at the age of 11, and I lost that game as well. We also have a baseball club, which is a five-time national champion. Those are just the community facilities—state-owned, dare I say. We also have a ski slope, an ice rink and an outward-bound youth challenge network, which are all privately funded and are now profitable going concerns. That is just Bracknell.

In Sandhurst, we have 80 acres of land owned and managed by the local town council. We have football pitches, a very successful cricket club, a skate park, a tennis facility and we have the annual Sandhurst fitness funday, which I attend every year because it tries to improve the health of the community. In Crowthorne, we have the Pinewood centre, which is an old TB hospital with a series of wards—TB hospitals had big wards and were in the middle of nowhere. When it was closed, the local council took it over and each ward now houses a society, including a remarkable gymnastics club. When I visited, the doors had to be opened to allow people to run in to do the vault—the standard of the gymnastics is awe-inspiring. There is a judo club on the same site, which included an Olympian. There are also football teams, and boxing clubs in Crowthorne and Bracknell.

Finchampstead includes Finchampstead memorial park, which has a very successful cricket club. We have a football club that is tied with Reading football club, and there is a netball club. I could go on and on. It is a remarkable series of communities all within my constituency. All the councils and councillors—Iain McCracken is one of the people responsible for the portfolio at Bracknell forest—should be congratulated on their success in maintaining all the facilities over the past few decades.

On the sustainability of sports facilities, I do not think that it is the state’s responsibility to fund all facilities; that is not sustainable and makes no sense. The state has a role as a partner, but charity and private money should also play a part. We cannot go back to an age when it was the council’s responsibility to provide all facilities, because that is nonsense. I am proud of the fact that a large number of facilities in my constituency are a partnership between the community and the council.

The wider point that I would like to make about sport is that it is good for us, and as a doctor, perhaps I can say that more strongly than others can. It makes us healthy, and I still see too many patients who are obese, who drink too much, smoke too much and have lost the drive and desire to get on and to compete in life.

Sport from an early age is important, and I mean competitive sport, not the nonsense about everyone being a winner. Life is tough, and trying to protect children from the realities of how competitive life is, is abusive. I would not describe it as child abuse, but it is abusive, because those children enter the workplace and wonder why they cannot deal with competition. Sport has an important role to play in physical health, but also mental health. We need to get back to believing and understanding that we want winners. To have winners we must have losers, by definition. We need to connect effort with reward. Sport is a way to do that and educate people.

Sport can also benefit communities. As I said earlier, I think I have such remarkable communities in my constituency because sport plays a large part in their life. That is why sport is so important, so integral to a happy environment and to the well-being of each of my constituents.

The Football Foundation is an example of an agency that has money from the Government, premier league and the FA. I am doing a fellowship with the Football Foundation, learning about the industry of football, warts and all. The best part has been coming to understand and see the impact that the Football Foundation is having up and down the country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West and I had the pleasure of a tour of facilities around London a few months ago. When one visits the facilities, such as the ones near Wormwood Scrubs—they were in a shocking state and are the responsibility of the council—one realises that the council is under no statutory obligation to provide leisure facilities. I am not going to make a party political point, but at the moment it tends to be Labour councils cutting back and blaming it on Government cuts. The reality is that the way in which those sports facilities are being managed is not sustainable.

The Football Foundation model puts in a proportion of the grant to help and support schemes that have an aspect of sustainability, be it a bar, a crèche or whatever. Thereby the facility is maintained, is successful and popular in the community.

My point might relate only to isolated rural areas such as mine. Does my hon. Friend agree that in many places it is the work of local charities—not the big corporates—and local businesses, volunteers and lottery funds that keep the sporting facilities and infrastructure together?

That is an important intervention. Many times, the local builder or plumbing firm sponsors the football shirts. My hon. Friend is right.

Organisations such as the Football Foundation need to work in partnership with communities and councils, in order to establish much needed sports facilities. I do not know whether anyone here has tried to book a five-a-side football pitch anywhere in the country. It is a woeful situation; it is not possible to get space on those pitches. Why have we not got more of them? The reason at the moment, I think, is that the foundation is struggling to get match funding from councils. Perhaps the Minister might look at making it a statutory requirement for councils to concentrate on leisure facilities. He might say to councils that cutting sports facilities will increase Government expense in the provision of health care services.

On that point, as I mentioned in my speech, local authorities can look at this as an opportunity. My local authority invested through Invest to Save, paid the money off in 13 months and has been making a profit ever since. Because there is such a chronic shortage, 3G football pitches are potentially very profitable.

My hon. Friend is right. To quote the phrase of “instant gratification” used by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West, the difficulty is that it is all about the instant—it is about how to cut and balance the books. No long-term perspective is taken. The reality is that if I play football for a year, that is not likely to make an impact on my health when I am 70. This has to happen over a number of decades in order to get the return. A longer perspective on the part of councils and Government needs to be taken.

There has been the woeful selling of school fields. I drove past a school near where I live: we have more flats and more houses and fewer school pitches. It is lamentable, particularly in the year of the Olympics and the European football championships and in a country that is passionate about sport. I have stood on football terraces up and down the country. People are passionate about sport, about their club winning—not competing or taking part but winning. I think we can harness that. The best way to do that is to ensure that there are sustainable facilities.

In conclusion, my constituency is a model of how communities can engage in and support sport, financially and through participation. The well-being of the community is much enhanced in the process. Sport and the provision of community sports facilities can lead to better health, behaviour and community spirit.

It is a pleasure to join the debate under your chairmanship, Mr Bone, for the first time, I believe. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie). She has been a doughty fighter on behalf of sport in general. She has made many contributions both in the Chamber and Westminster Hall on behalf of sport and young people, pointing out the role that sport can play in encouraging participation among young people, challenging some behaviour and turning lives around. I have certainly seen many examples of that in my constituency. I commend her for the work she has done to bring the matter to the attention of the House.

Sport is a very important part of not just our society and culture, but our economy. It contributes in the region of £3.8 billion, according to the British Institute of Sport and Leisure. The health and sport industry makes a major contribution to employment, as well as to the well-being of many of our constituents. It also offers many opportunities for communities to come together. We have heard an enormous number of examples from hon. Members today of not-for-profit organisations where public-spirited people come together to run them and make a major contribution to our local communities.

I am grateful to the Sport and Recreation Alliance for providing figures. One of its reports, under its former guise of the Central Council of Physical Recreation, stated that 26% of volunteering takes place through sport and recreation; and that the economic return of volunteers outnumbers investment in the sector by a ratio of 30:1. There is an argument for sport not just for enjoyment but as a significant contributor to local economies. It also contributes to health, as the hon. Lady said. There are enormous costs to our NHS from obesity and diabetes. As she said, the cost of dealing with illnesses related to the body mass index is currently about £15.8 billion. That is due to rise by 2050 to a staggering £49.9 billion, if current trends are not addressed. It is important to recognise the potential cost to our country and economy of not tackling such issues. It is also important to recognise the value of sport and how it can contribute.

In these economically straitened times, when people’s disposable incomes are stretched, it is also important that we do not exclude people from accessing sport because of cost, particularly those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. Many people have referred to problems with increasing costs, especially at private finance initiative schools. A PFI school in my constituency is just being completed. Its policy is certainly to open its doors to the local community and groups, but it must also cover the costs of doing so, which creates a problem for local organisations that want to access those facilities.

We must do all we can to ensure that people are not excluded from using the excellent facilities that have been developed in many schools, as that is key to improving accessibility to sport in future. It is important that the Minister has regular discussions with his opposite numbers in the Departments for Education and for Communities and Local Government to ensure that access to sport is maintained. Costs are likely to rise in the current economic situation, but we must not exclude the most disadvantaged people in our communities.

As the Minister knows, many people are disappointed by the cuts to school sport partnerships. He has made it clear that that is not his specific area of responsibility, but I refer him to an answer that the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt) gave at Culture, Media and Sport questions. He said:

“Some school sports partnerships did an excellent job but, overall, participation among young people fell under the last Government—it has fallen from 58% to 54% over the last four years”.—[Official Report, 15 December 2011; Vol. 537, c. 915.]

I have searched, but I cannot find that figure. If the Minister has the answer now, I shall take it, otherwise he can write to me.

The hon. Gentleman will find the answer in the Active People survey. It refers to people between the ages of 16 and 24, and, I think, relates to a period from 2005 to 2011. I think that the point that my right hon. Friend was making, correctly, was that whatever the successes of the school sport partnerships in schools may have been, they were not tackling the post-school drop-out, which got worse, not better.

I am grateful for that. I suspected that that was the answer. School sport partnerships are for school-age children, not for 14 to 24-year-olds, so the survey did not compare like with like. My concern is that the figure has been used as an example.

I think someone said that “prizes for all” was the previous Government’s policy on encouraging people to participate in sport. Encouraging everyone to experience many different types of sport is in no way contrary to encouraging them to participate in competitive sport. Most people who play sport understand that the first competition they must win is the one against themselves. Whether we are playing in a team, on our own or just training in a leisure centre, we are competing first and foremost against ourselves—everything else is secondary. Encouraging young people to experience that enjoyment and opening them up to as many types of sport as possible through excellent schools facilities is essential if they are to have a lifetime’s association with sport.

On the national planning policy framework and the changes to planning policy guidance 17, what discussions is the Minister involved in to secure a replacement of facilities where there is an application to build on playing fields? PPG17 and the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 required developed playing fields to be replaced. Sport England and other consultees must still be consulted under the new requirements in the NPPF, but there is no guarantee of replacement in the wording. Is the Minister lobbying hard on behalf of sports-lovers everywhere, who want our playing fields to be protected in future, to ensure that the replacement guarantee is retained? It was successful in reducing the number of school playing fields that were lost. It might surprise some Government Members to know that between 1979 and 1997, 10,000 school playing fields were sold.

I shall give the Minister a chance to come back; I am a fair individual. After the 1998 Act—this is available through freedom of information and is on the Department’s website and the website of the Department for Education—was introduced, only 226 school playing fields were lost. A myth has built up that school playing fields have been disappearing at an alarming rate over the past 13 or 14 years. That idea is incorrect and must be put right.

I am afraid that the 10,000 figure is incorrect. When we were in opposition and I was doing the hon. Gentleman’s job, we were always slaughtered with it, so I spent a considerable amount of time looking into it. No figures were collated for the loss of playing fields until 1999, so 10,000 is a guesstimate. I met the Labour special adviser who dreamed up the figure. In the days when Tom Pendry was doing his job, a set of figures was aggregated. They ran that out over years and produced the figure, and it became accepted wisdom. There is no statistical backing for it at all.

I do not have much time left. The 226 figure is an answer to a question to one of the Minister’s colleagues. The 10,000 figure dates from an FOI request in 2009, so I do not know where the former Minister, Tom Pendry, comes into it. Needless to say, even if the figure is out—even, to be generous, by 50%—the difference is staggering. It is essential, therefore, that the Minister lobbies hard to ensure that the replacement requirement is included in the planning framework when it is finally agreed.

I shall move on, because I want to give the Minister a decent run at answering his colleagues’ questions. I have a concern about opening up schools and school clubs under the 14 to 25 strategy announced by the Department and Sport England. Under the policy, by 2017, the Department will have created 6,000 partnerships with local sports clubs. Is the Minister aware that, on average, 4,000 secondary schools across the country already have partnerships with 14 sports organisations? By my reckoning, that totals significantly more than 6,000. Can he explain where the existing partnerships will fit alongside the 6,000 that he intends to create? Will they be new partnerships or will they be in addition to existing ones? What is the future for existing partnerships?

It is ironic that the strategy will be based around schools. I fully support the intention to open up schools. A lot of work has been done on that, as existing partnerships indicate. However, many of the best facilities in which clubs will be set up are in Building Schools for the Future schools. In my constituency, the facilities built as part of that £6.5 billion programme are state of the art. Sadly, some sports clubs will be set up in sub-standard facilities, because not all schools enjoyed BSF, which would have improved, rebuilt or refurbished every secondary school in the country. Alongside that, enormous benefit would have been gained from improved sports facilities. It is worth nothing that, since 2000, in addition to what was going to be spent on BSF, Sport England has invested £1.5 billion in capital investment throughout the country and local authorities have spent up to £650 million on improving sports facilities. Therefore, although the money announced by the Government is welcome, it appears to be woefully inadequate.

My final point is about planning and floodlights. What discussions is the Minister having with his colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that problems with floodlights do not continue? Modern technology means that they are not as intrusive as they have been in the past, that they do not damage quality of life, and that many of the fears in local communities about them are misconceived. As has been mentioned by some of the Minister’s colleagues, of the about 2,400 3G—third generation—or artificial surfaces in this country, fewer than 2,000 have floodlights. Few grass pitches are floodlit—grass pitches can only be used for up to six hours a week if they are to be maintained to any standard—so it is important that we increase the provision not only of artificial surfaces, but of floodlights. What work is the Department doing in that regard? With that, I had better sit down to give the Minister an opportunity to respond.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. Members may not be aware that our Chairman is one of the finest slow left-arm bowlers ever to have represented the Lords and Commons cricket club. It is nice to have a Chair with expertise in the area under discussion, although he is probably the only slow left-arm bowler to have ever represented the club.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) for securing this debate. I also thank her for her work with the all-party boxing group on boxing and as the president of a number of amateur boxing clubs, including some in her own constituency.

This is an important debate at an important time. I am always keen to stress that London 2012 is not the story about sport in this country, but the start of the story. It would be only right to congratulate the England and Wales Cricket Board, which recently secured the 2013 champions trophy for this country. After 2012, we will have the rugby league world cup and the champions trophy in 2013; the Commonwealth games in 2014; the rugby union world cup, the world canoeing championships and the world gymnastics championships in 2015; the world athletics championships in 2017; and the cricket world cup in 2019. There are also bids outstanding. We are, for example, contemplating a bid for a youth Olympics and a series of other smaller competitions. London 2012 is, therefore, very much the start of the story, not the end of it. It is crucial that we use this period to do what so many hon. Members have spoken about, namely to drive an increase in participation in sport.

That will be testing against the current economic backdrop, but the lottery reforms that we implemented in May 2010 have already, according to Camelot’s figures, resulted in an upturn of money, so the amount of money going into sport as a result of the end of the Olympic levy, as well as the lottery reforms and the fact that those changes are driving greater ticket sales, will go up from the £1.3 billion in 2010 to an estimated £1.8 billion. That is an extra £0.5 billion over a six-year period, so the reforms could have a considerable impact.

I suspect that most hon. Members would prefer to hear me respond to the points that they have raised—although that might be a novel theory—than listen to my prepared speech. My hon. Friend spoke movingly and correctly about the beneficial effect of sport on young people’s lives. I agree with her and suspect that everyone else present does, too. Like her, I pay tribute to the Riverside youth club in Bristol, whose work I have heard about, not least from my hon. Friend, as well as other, independent sources.

My hon. Friend made a good point about floodlights, which the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) also touched upon. Floodlights have historically been a difficult issue, because everyone who wants to play sport wants to have sports facilities with floodlights, but everybody who lives near a sports facility with floodlights want them turned off at 10 o’clock at night. The shadow Minister is right that the latest generation of floodlights cause significantly fewer light problems than earlier generations. Bizarrely, the taller the tower on which the lights are put, the less pollution, because everything goes down, whereas with a shorter tower, it spreads out. As part of the Inspired Facilities fund—I had a feeling that this was true, but have just checked it to make sure—sports clubs can apply for floodlights, so provided that they can get planning permission, which is often the sticky bit, they can, in theory, apply to the fund and get floodlights built.

My hon. Friend is also right about the need to reduce the dependency on the state. That is one of the reasons why I have been so keen—against opposition from those involved—to progress with the restructuring of UK Sport and Sport England. Sir Keith Mills, who has looked into this, is clear about the combined commercial opportunity if the success of elite athletes is married to the mass participation strategy—the mass market—for any commercial sponsor. British sport’s ability to drive commercial sponsorship has been poor. Some individual sports have done well, but non-departmental public bodies have not done well in driving sponsorship. The Team 2012 initiative was not a great success. It needs a new start around a different commercial property to make it work.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) talked about local authorities investing in sports hubs. He is right that, if we started with a fresh map, we would undoubtedly build sports hubs, because the whole family could go to them and everyone could participate. The problem is that sport in this country has not grown up in that way. Most towns and cities have their rugby, football, tennis and cricket clubs, and swimming pool, in different places, but he is right that hubs are the way forward. I encourage him to get Sport England involved in discussions. He should probably make an application for his new sports hub to its Iconic Facilities funding stream—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti), as Sport England’s parliamentary fellow, will put in a good word for him with the chief executive. I wish him well with that.

Access to school facilities is a nut that we have not cracked over many years in this country. The new sports strategy has a particular funding stream. Members throughout the House will have shared my frustration of driving past schools with unused football pitches on a Saturday morning, while people are queuing around the block to use the local authority facilities. That is sometimes down to insurance and caretakers, but often it is due to lack of will-power. Where schools want to make it work, they can, and where people do not, they do not. The new strategy has £10 million to help people get over the hurdles and I hope that that will start to iron things out.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon is also right about coaches and the impact that they can have. The schemes work very well in some places. Charlton Athletic is a shining example of how a football club can have an influence on a local area. I am sure that my hon. Friend’s own football club in Swindon does something similar. Charlton Athletic draws funding from Kent county council to run precisely the sorts of schemes that he has mentioned. I encourage him to look at that model and then see if he can interest his own county council in funding Swindon or similar sides.

My hon. Friend was on the money once again on the question of business training for not-for-profit organisations. The organisation that he should speak to in that regard is one that has been set up by Keith Mills—that is his second name-check of the afternoon, but he is a marvellous man who does a lot for sport. He has set up a small charity called sported, which exists precisely to give business training to not-for-profit sports organisations—people who are keen to do something about their local sports facility, but who lack the technical expertise to bring it about.

My hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Karen Lumley) spoke well about her sports facilities in Redditch. I have actually been to some of them in a previous incarnation, before her time in Parliament. Some interesting models are emerging from the Localism Act 2011 in relation to community asset transfer and how it can be used to pass the ownership of sports facilities to the groups that use them. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the Special Olympics, which represents a remarkable movement full of remarkable people. The difficulty for the Special Olympics is that it has a constant battle with the British Paralympic Association about whether those involved are Paralympians or Special Olympians and all the politics that goes alongside that. I am delighted that as a result of the new disability strategy at Sport England, the Special Olympics has got funding for the first time. Some £250,000 of funding will go to Special Olympics Great Britain. I hope that that will encourage those involved in the belief that people are taking them seriously and that they are a valued part of the sporting landscape.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) spoke very well about Stroud rugby club and, indeed, its move. One of the things we did when we were trying to settle the listing debate in 2010 was to recognise that it is up to sports to market their own broadcast rights as they see fit. In passing, we should congratulate the ECB on the renewal of its new contract. By allowing sports to have that freedom, we encourage them to invest a proportion of their proceeds in community sports facilities.

The Rugby Football Union was one of the national governing bodies that signed up—indeed, all of them did—to a commitment to invest 30% of their UK broadcast income in grass-roots facilities. If my hon. Friend is keen to help Stroud rugby club move, it would be well worth his while spending some time with the RFU and Sport England to see if he can get them together to discuss what can be done to help. Again, he made exactly the same point about the need to lever in more corporate money. That is very much at the centre of what we are hoping to do as part of the restructuring of the non-departmental public bodies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee), who is doing a sports fellowship with the Football Foundation, made me laugh—unintentionally, probably. I spent three quarters of a year at the Royal Military Academy, and the concept of a Sandhurst fitness fun day was absolutely not a part of that particular period of my life. Sheer agony for hours on end seemed to be the key. He spoke very well about the various different sports facilities in his constituency. He is absolutely on the money about the issue with the Football Foundation. It has been a central tenet of the Football Foundation’s existence ever since it was set up to look for match funding from local authorities. I saw the chief executive, Paul Thorogood, two weeks ago. He made the point that finding match funding is becoming, for reasons we would all understand, much more difficult. We will have to work with the Football Foundation to find ways around that.

The Football Foundation is a first-class organisation; it absolutely does what it says on the tin. Every time it builds a new 3G sports facility, the thing is booked out within a month and people cannot get a space. That shows the demand for such facilities. Encouragingly, the latest generation of those pitches is much more multi-sport-use-friendly. As soon as I empty my piggy bank out and can find some more money in it, I will do my utmost to ensure that the Football Foundation gets some more money because it is a good organisation that does a good job.

I agree with the Minister’s comments about the Football Foundation, which is an excellent organisation. It has been able to get more bang for its buck by attracting match funding. Is he suggesting that he will make money available to replace that match funding and that it will not require match funding in the future, because to go down that route means that we will get less for the money?

That is absolutely right. Of course it is important that any part of an area applying for funding should show enthusiasm and commitment by raising a bit of money itself. I am not saying that we will remove that but, without going into the Football Foundation’s finances in any great detail this afternoon, there are two connected problems.

First, the Football Foundation is increasingly finding it difficult, through no fault of its own, to get exactly matched funding from local authorities. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell. Secondly, because it takes longer to gain that funding and the Football Foundation is partially Exchequer funded, it finds it difficult to shift the capital inside the financial year—1 April to 31 March. It does not want to get into a position whereby because it cannot shift the stuff out the door and get the match funding, it has to hand the money back. We are talking about quite a complicated accountancy issue. Suffice it to say, the Football Foundation is a first-class organisation and I am delighted that my hon. Friend is involved with it. We will do what we can to help it as soon as things ease.

On the contribution of the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Eltham, he is absolutely right to draw attention to the health benefits of sport, which many other hon. Members also mentioned. It is enormously encouraging that the Department of Health—I thank it for this—now deals with that directly in primary schools through the Change 4 Life sports clubs. It has committed to funding that for the foreseeable future.

I congratulate the Minister on being one of the finest Ministers in the Government. I do not say that because he is a fellow Kent MP or because he is a fellow cricketer; I say it simply on merit. He will be aware that some excellent research carried out by Sport England has shown that if sport participation were to increase by 1 million people weekly, the taxpayer would save £22.5 billion in health associated costs. What are we doing to encourage and get that extra 1 million people playing sport a week?

An extra 1 million people a week would cover the entire population inside a year, would it not? It is a lovely idea, and I thank my hon. Friend both for his kind comments and his obvious enthusiasm, which is undoubted. One of the extraordinary features of community sport in recent years has been that, despite the huge impact of lottery funding, the number of people participating in sport in the community has remained rigidly static or has marginally fallen over a 10-year period.

There are a number of reasons for that and this afternoon is not the time to go into them, but I will mention a couple of factors. The measurement system is very tough and people have to play three separate instances of sport. People who play top league cricket or hockey generally train in the week and play at the weekend, so they fail the measure. The measure uses fixed telephone lines, so we are not convinced that enough young people are being picked up. It is also fair to say that the sport governing bodies who now have responsibility for the matter have not worked out the consumer behaviour changes that are required to make it work. A number of issues are tied up with the participation measure, but getting it shifted is absolutely at the centre of what we are trying to do.

The shadow Minister mentioned the national planning policy framework. He is right. The Government’s objective was clearly to reduce a vast number of planning regulations to a much smaller and more easily manageable document. As a result of that, a number of things have gone out of the window. I have spent a lot of time with sports going through exactly what they need. I have also spent time with both Sport England and the big five. He will be familiar with that term, which relates to football, both codes of rugby, cricket and tennis. We have been to see the Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark). Formal submissions have been made and informal meetings have been held. We will wait to see the effect of that when the consultation is completed.

The hon. Gentleman talked about partnerships with local sports clubs. The 6,000 figure that is used is the number of new clubs that sport governing bodies themselves think they can set up. That is a figure given to us as a result of statistics collected mainly from the FA, the Rugby Football League, the RFU, the ECB and the Lawn Tennis Association.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman mentioned floodlights. That issue is tied up with the consultations on the NPPF. Someone can apply for floodlights under the Inspired Facilities part of Places People Play. As I say, if I had put my hand up this afternoon and said, “We have absolutely cracked angry residents who don’t like floodlights on their sports facilities,” it would not have been entirely fair. However, he is absolutely right to raise the matter.