Skip to main content

Sport: Go Play Rugby

Volume 703: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

asked Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the Rugby Football Union’s Go Play Rugby scheme; and what lessons can be drawn for encouraging amateur participation in other sports.

The noble Lord said: I thank noble Lords who have put their names down to speak in this short debate. I must make a small confession about this scheme. I discovered it properly when it was finished and did not pay enough attention to it when it was building up, so I have a bit of the zealousness of a convert about it. I did not realise how revolutionary its approach was: it attracted adults back into participation. We have often spoken about sport, and there are a series of clichés about it. Everybody talks about children, school sport or school-age sport and then says that we must enhance the club link. However, until now, there has not been a scheme that addresses the primary problem of the huge drop-off in participation between the age of 16 to 18 and adult life. There are other drop-off points when people change their lifestyles; for example, between the end of college or university and the first job. It is clear that people’s lives are organised so that there are points where they break the contacts and the habit of sport.

We then tend to fall into the trap of having schemes where we have lots of children running around a politician and a sports star standing in the middle of a field—at a junior level, I have been that politician—and then the politician goes to another event. I got the feeling that the children might even be bussed from event to event—fresh-faced kids who do not know whether they are holding a cricket bat, a rugby ball or squash racket that afternoon. There were a lot of them. It is true that school sport has gone through something of a transformation and more energy has been pumped into it, but we always seem to miss the fact that getting adults taking part in sport is the most important thing.

There are other good schemes that try to maintain the good practice of keeping people involved from the transfer on, but changes in lifestyle mean that those who are casual participants and not natural first-teamers tend to be lost. That is why this scheme is so important, because it went out to recruit those who had stopped playing the game but were basically sport-literate and brought them back in.

Noble Lords may think that this is not rocket science, and that is its beauty. It is a targeted approach to bring people back. It was done round the greatest spike of attention that Rugby Union would get: the world cup, which comes once every four years. England were defending champions and it was expected that they would do fairly well. True, the expectations may not have been quite as high at one time in the tournament as they were by the time it ended, but nevertheless the team had a rollercoaster ride, lots of attention and the situation was transformed and was well used.

A scheme that was designed to get 6,000 players involved and coming back into the game got 9,500 people. It also inspired a considerable number of volunteers to get back involved with the game, in terms of organisation, support work, referees and coaches. The cross-section included people who had been away from the game predominantly for at least one season. Would the Minister not agree that that was something that many of the government targets aim towards? It fulfils virtually every single government goal; it ticks the boxes; it gets people back involved. Why is this so important to the sport? Because these are amateur sports clubs whose greatest asset is their players—their asset in terms not only of playing the game but also their financial stability. There was an investment of about £1 million and they got 9,000 players, so it was just over £100 each player. That is a conservative estimate for a normal rugby club. True, these are institutions with bars—although I am not sure that the relationship between Rugby Union and beer should be acknowledged, at least at the traditional amateur level. But those are clubs where those people come and spend money and use the leisure facilities. They will probably purchase some of the merchandise and take part in the social events; they will be socially integrated and interacting with a group of like-minded people. That is why this scheme is important.

Having got the ideology in full swing, I turn to the scheme, about which there was one particularly attractive thing. At the previous world cup, which England won, people who did not know how many players there were on the pitch in a Rugby Union game suddenly became rugby fans and there was a great spike—or was that just my feeling as an old hack in the sport myself? According to the first page of the document, there was great attention and lots of activity but in the junior ranks; it did not attract the people who will support the clubs and ultimately support those juniors to go on. There was an admission and acknowledgement that something had not been maximised.

Then there was a pilot scheme in Surrey in 2006. It took a little digging, but I got the RFU to admit that there were problems with it and that it did not get it right first time. It always makes me feel better about a scheme when I realise that someone had to adapt it slightly. Indeed, certain things surprised me on reading the document through; for example, the phone lines did not work for giving out information about where people could go and find a club, which is a very important part of this. The text services did—but possibly my age shows. Also, there was the fact that advertising on buses was a total waste of time. Small things like that meant that it was a targeted audience. Then it was backed up by other forms of advertising later, which were targeted. We can go through what worked and what did not; if the club did not invest in getting people to receive people at the right time and help people as they turned up, it would probably lose them.

Messages of that type were taken into the scheme around the time of the world cup. Once again, it was not a universal success but it was a success across the board. There was a targeted advertising campaign and a better services website that allowed people to know where the nearest clubs to them were, and it was combined with preparing the ground properly and making sure that there were packs and people at the clubs. That apparently encountered resistance from certain clubs that wanted to have their name up, as opposed to rugby. Why people play for amateur clubs is usually down to accidents of geography and who their friends are. The scheme tried to ensure that those things meshed together and gave incentives to get friends to come to the rugby club for a social function and to play so getting people involved in the whole activity.

Another very important factor about this is that it brought people together. In certain cases, small rugby clubs that were in danger of folding found themselves with teams. Remember that most rugby clubs will now have other sports attached to them. Cricket and rugby are an old pairing; one summer, one winter. Rugby League and Rugby Union now coexist on many sites. The fact that you are taking part in one sport, a social activity at a set time, means that you are often prepared to do so for another sport.

A more recent example, closer to home, is that four members of the Commons and Lords Rugby Club were in the House of Lords boat that today beat the Commons in a race outside; I did not count the Commons team. There is interaction; these sports feed off each other. What steps has the Minister taken to encourage this model being adopted by other sports? Rugby itself will probably benefit indirectly if it is, but the agenda of getting people involved and supporting the social function of sports clubs will be enhanced and reinforced by this process. To adopt something where somebody from outside has taken on board the Government’s aims in this way, largely for selfish reasons, is effectively a no-brainer. How do the Government propose to enhance this position and the transfer of information?

I have not given universal praise to my own sport in this House, but this is one time when Rugby Union has got it right. It has something to teach the rest of the sporting world.

My Lords, I begin by apologising; I misread my Order Paper. I was sitting in the Chamber wondering where the noble Lord, Lord Addington, was. Anyway, he is here now. I thank and congratulate the noble Lord on initiating this debate on rugby, and for highlighting the wonderful achievements of the Go Play Rugby programme. As a player of the game himself, it is close to his heart. His contribution showed that clearly. The noble Lord can always be relied upon to take part in any debate on sport in this House and his contributions are always based on a knowledge of sport in general.

I must confess that rugby was not a sport in which I excelled at school myself. I found it a bit brutal, so I reverted to the more gentle sport of boxing under the protection of the Marquess of Queensberry rules. Having said that, I congratulate Sport England for its involvement in the Rugby Football Union’s Go Play Rugby scheme—one of the first funders to do so. Sport England has invested £55 million in Rugby Union since 2002. The campaign aimed to attract 6,000 adult players back to the sport but has in fact actually attracted 9,500 players back to the game. I was given these impressive statistics by Alexandra Russell, the regional PR manager of Sport England.

Only this week, I spoke at the opening of a memorial recreation ground in Newham, east London. As part of a £15 million scheme to improve leisure and parks by next spring, they will have a state-of-the-art facility focusing on two of our country’s national sports, football and rugby. The East End of London is not as well known as the West End for Rugby Union teams, so it was most pleasing to learn of the developments taking place in Newham. Newham School’s tag rugby world cup competition for primary schools was held, and 20 primary schools took part and 200 children participated. Also, Newham Schools world cup rugby competition was held at Memorial Park, where 10 secondary schools took part and 100 children participated. Newham is definitely on the move as far as rugby is concerned.

I last raised the important subject of sport and physical activity in this House on 5 June. It was therefore with great pleasure that I learned of the Government’s announcement the following day—this was nothing to do with my debating skills—on free swimming for the over 60s. Swimming is the most popular participatory sport in the UK. Removing the cost barrier to swimming is an important step forward. After reading the Government’s Olympic legacy strategy at length, it is clear that it was not the only measure to be applauded. For example, I was particularly pleased to note the Government’s pledge to inspire 2 million people to take up sport and physical recreation by the 2012 Olympics.

There is considerable evidence to prove that exercise is the most effective way of reducing the risks of more than 20 diseases at least—diseases which, as a nation, we are all aware of, including stroke, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. I have made the financial case before in this House, and make no apology for doing so again. More than two-thirds of the British public do not reach the minimum level of physical activity. That affects the economy to the tune of £13.2 billion per year in sickness absence costs—the equivalent of 175 million working days. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has found that work based on physical activity programmes can significantly reduce absenteeism and staff turnover.

The Foresight report on future trends in obesity predicts a cost, at current trends, of some £50 billion a year. In Essex, there is a gym-based programme operating across five primary care trusts called condition management. It focuses on getting people on incapacity benefit back to work. Services include advice on diet and exercise but also focus on career development and helping people overcome barriers to work, whether they are emotional, educational or health-related. The programme works with people with stress, depression and muscular problems, giving practical advice to encourage positive thinking.

It is clear that without these huge investments in sport and physical activity programmes of this nature, the economy and health of this country would be much poorer. We have heard today of an excellent project, Go Play Rugby, which deserves all the attention it has received. These amateur sporting schemes, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, has said, are very important; they are essential cogs in the vast change we need to endorse across the nation.

We also need increasing national rollout schemes and mass promotion which have cost benefits in terms of economies of scale. It is encouraging to see the Government taking steps in the right direction. I only hope that they will do more to empower those bodies with a presence in our communities to do what they do best in providing opportunities to be physically active.

Go Play Rugby has made a huge impact and we applaud its success. I should like to highlight some other programmes which have been effective in introducing physical activity into people’s lives. Go London is an extension of the national Go programmes which were launched in March 2008 by the Fitness Industry Association to get more teenage girls more active. It is widely known that there is a massive drop-out rate among young girls around the age of 14 who are doing sport, and this can have detrimental effects in the long term, if not for ever.

The Go programme was originally developed in response to the Government’s research which highlighted the fact that teenage girls are a healthcare priority, key to reversing the escalating obesity crisis. The Go London project has given 14 to 16 year-old girls free access to health club facilities, allowed them to participate in non-traditional sporting activities and engage in a range of modern, exhilarating exercise sessions led by professional qualified instructors.

Another programme I commend is Adopt a School. Completely free of charge for the schools involved, Adopt a School pairs up health and fitness clubs with local schools to give kids access and opportunities to engage in fun physical activities.

Last week I received, as no doubt other noble Lords did, an update on the new opportunities for PE and sport programmes: a nationwide £750 million lottery investment in sporting facilities for young people and the wider community. Nearly 3,000 sports facilities have been funded to date, leading to a 70 per cent increase in the number of activities available in the communities in which these facilities have sprung up.

Active at Work is an adult programme that has been running across parts of Britain for over three years and targets inactive employees. The programme lasts for 12 weeks in which a group of up to 30 employees receive complementary gym membership and instructor-led group sessions at least once a fortnight. At the end of the three months, participants are offered avenues to carry on exercising in other ways. The health and fitness industry has a great deal of spare capacity. With more than 30,000 people on the Register of Exercise Professionals, these programmes can be channelled within clubs and leisure centres or out in the community. These are some examples of programmes run by the health and fitness industry. We must support these efforts wholeheartedly if the Government are to achieve their target of getting 2 million people more active more often by 2012.

I conclude by congratulating the noble Lord on bringing another important dimension into the debate surrounding sport. Let us hope that the points that he has made in this debate are heard by the wider public.

I join the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, in congratulating my noble friend on initiating this important debate. Nobody can accuse my noble friend of being an armchair commentator, which is unusual in this House in the sporting area. I particularly appreciate his positive approach to this subject. He has highlighted the RFU’s Go Play Rugby scheme as a great example of how to encourage participation in sport from school through the transition into the community. There is no reason why maximising success, developing talent and encouraging the greatest possible participation should not go hand in hand. They are not mutually incompatible, and they should not be competing priorities. It is clear that ensuring that the transition from school to the community has become the focus of many sports’ governing bodies.

Whatever one thinks about Sport England and its previous priorities and whether it was successful in meeting its targets—I am afraid I do not think it was—it is clear that its new strategy is far more realistic in placing its trust in the major sporting organisations and national governing bodies. I welcome that shift in emphasis in giving the national governing bodies a much greater role and money in return for delivery of key outcomes by means of whole sport plans. In its funding, Sport England has also recognised the importance of a network of modern, accessible clubs for each sport, which we welcome. The new strategy stands a much better chance of delivering its targets and being successful than the previous strategy.

The RFU’s Go Play Rugby scheme will form a template for the future in adult recruitment campaigns. It was remarkably successful. Some 700 clubs took part, which was more than was anticipated. It was centred around the 2007 world cup. At that time, there was a slight dip, and I suspect that at one point the RFU thought “Heavens! This is not going to work out.”. At one stage, it seemed to be a relatively high-risk strategy, but what a triumph at the end of the day.

We now have Play On, which is designed to help players stay in the game as they move between school, club and university. It will take place throughout 2008-09. The RFU has put forward the idea of a pathfinder to help players move through what it calls the rugby journey. Go Play Rugby achieved something like 9,500 recruits against a target of 6,000. The RFU has calculated that from an outlay of £1 million something like £23 million will come back over five seasons. That is quite some achievement.

With the Play On campaign, the RFU has some innovative ways of attracting the attention of the target groups. I recently received an e-mail, which I must admit made me feel as though Tuesday could not come too soon. It said, “Scrum down on the sand. This summer, O2 and the RFU have teamed up to bring you O2 Scrum on the Beach”. That is quite an invitation and I look forward very much to next week, although I may not necessarily be found scrumming down on the beach. It is no wonder that the RFU scheme achieved the accolade of being shortlisted for the Sports Industry Awards in the category of best promotion of a sport by a governing body. I am just sorry that the competition was so fierce that it did not end up as winner of that category, but that demonstrates that it has the accolade of its peers. It was a very professional write-up too.

What is remarkable is not just the nature of the campaign but the quality of the evaluation, which enables us, as opinion-formers, to form a view by very carefully examining some of the outcomes. I believe that it is a great model, as it shows how the Olympics can be used to drive greater participation. I am sure that a lot of very useful models could be derived from that campaign.

Of course, other sports bodies—perhaps not quite as successfully but certainly in a growing way—are also very much engaged in finding new ways of encouraging participation. We have the ECB’s Get Into Cricket campaign, which is resulting in something like £30 million of investment in facilities and in club cricket. There is the Grassroots Athletics roadshow and the Power of 10 scheme. I love the way that different sports use different metaphors in order to encourage participation. That is a very powerful metaphor for athletics. The Get Into Football campaign is funding something like 270 football development officers.

The Lawn Tennis Association’s new work in this area is a particularly good example, and it is interesting that it has come at just about the same time as the RFU’s scheme. It is a condition of funding that tennis clubs have a junior development programme, and there is the Tennis Clubmark condition, in which clubs can apply for loans, grants and programme funding. It is a strategic tool to drive improvement in the sport. There is also the development of community tennis through hot spots, in which, in due course, some 20 specific areas will be funded. There are also beacon sites, which will have dedicated coaches.

The sport governing bodies want to see the Government take various actions. The national alliance of governing bodies, the CCPR, is increasingly clear about the kinds of steps that need to be taken and the benefits of increasing participation in school sports through to community sport. It is committed to extending participation, and there is a remarkable consensus by the CCPR that has, in my view, led to the Sport England change of strategy. It centres around the local club, which, as my noble friend said, is crucial. One of the CCPR’s suggestions is to enhance the community amateur sports clubs scheme by making junior subscriptions eligible for Gift Aid. It has made some fairly careful calculations and reckons that by 2012 this could cost the Government a mere £2 million. The impact of that could be absolutely enormous. In the context of the Olympics, that is very important, but it is not clear what additional funding the Government are making available in order to increase participation in the run-up to the Olympics.

My noble friend Lord Addington and I have a recent, terrific example. It is the inspiring story of a local rugby club where participation by young people has changed people’s lives astronomically. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, whose speech I very much enjoyed, spoke about rugby in Newham. Well, this is a rugby club in Southwark called the Southwark Tigers. As a result of a profile in the Times, my noble friend Lord Addington and I made contact and we are now helping it identify how it can get a club house, and work with the local cricket club and other sports clubs to improve its facilities. It plays in Burgess Park. It was founded by Vernon Neve-Dunn and has done a remarkable job with very few resources. Some 80 children attend Sunday practices and it has quite a number of teams. The benefits of the rugby training and of playing in the teams have been enormous. It is one of very few examples—the noble Lord, Lord Pendry cited another—of home-grown, inner-city rugby. As a rugby fan, I am convinced that it will be of great significance. Now, off the back of a youth team, it is developing a senior side that will in turn give greater support to the junior side.

I must finish at this point. I shall be extremely interested to hear what the Minister has to say. It is not, of course, just a matter of resources but also of enthusiasm. My noble friend has demonstrated enormous enthusiasm for his sport, and other governing bodies do likewise. The RFU’s example is an inspiring story, and if we can replicate it across other sports we are set for a bright future.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, spoke of enthusiasm, and it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for his sport. It was very encouraging. Perhaps if he has some spare time he could come and give me some assistance with the Castle Rising football club, of which I am chairman, which seems to lurch from one request for a cheque to the next.

I declare an interest as chairman of the National Playing Fields Association, so I am sure the Committee will realise how delighted I am with the contribution to sport that the scheme has made. It is very encouraging, and I am delighted that it has worked as well as it has. Everything about it has been said by noble Lords. There was a request to ask the Minister how far he will extend and encourage these sorts of schemes. Will he get as far as tiddlywinks, darts or ping-pong? One never knows where it is going to stop.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this interesting debate and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I appreciate his dash from the successful crew to this Room. I congratulate him on that achievement, which cheered us all. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, is no armchair enthusiast and that was proved this afternoon. We know the noble Lord’s commitment to rugby as well as his general interest in sport.

He is right that the Rugby Football Union’s Go Play Rugby campaign was hugely successful. It attracted more than 9,000 players back into the game and identified an issue that exercises us all, which is the drop-out rate in sports. As my noble friend Lord Pendry indicated in his contribution, we are concerned to strengthen the links between school and clubs that ensure that young people come into sport, but tackling the drop-out rate is of great significance, too. We all know how greatly it affects sports. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that the Go Play Rugby campaign was in many ways a potential template for other sports to tackle the phenomenon of people finishing in a sport too early when they would often benefit by returning to it. I agree also with the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, that the health of the nation is aided significantly if we can promote exercise and commitment to sport throughout much longer periods of people’s lives.

The noble Lord, Lord Howard, asked how far we will go. The answer is that we will deal with authorised national governing bodies of significant sports. I counsel him, however, that I have no means of assessing how aggressively the tiddlywinks people present their case—although, since they have been mentioned in today’s debate, I expect representations from them. I advise him, too, to be a little careful with ping-pong. Table tennis is a mightily important sport in this country. I am president of a hugely successful table tennis club in Enfield with which I have a long association. I assure the noble Lord that nothing is more effectively and efficiently run than that club. Nothing brings youngsters into sport and into really vigorous exercise more than ping-pong or table tennis. With China hosting the Olympic Games this year, we should be careful to pay due respect to a significant sport which challenges the abilities of young people.

Sport is not just about professionals; it is about reaching out into the community and the grass-roots structure. That is why Go Play Rugby’s success was important. Bringing 6,000 players back into the game exceeded its expectations and was a signal success. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, indicated, it had a national media campaign which coincided with the excitement around the world cup. Although England did not quite reach the heights of 2003, the team certainly sustained interest throughout the competition most brilliantly. In many respects, people warmed as much to its valiant efforts on that occasion as they had to its success in Australia four years earlier.

The campaign was supported by Sport England. More than half a million pounds went through the National Sports Foundation, which is why we are pleased to recognise the campaign’s success. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that one of its important aspects was evaluation: what have we learned from the campaign and what lessons can we derive that are of value to other sports? The RFU undertook substantial research into the effectiveness of the campaign and helped to set up a model for how things can be done in future. Sport England benefits from illustrations of successful endeavour of that kind. I hasten to add that it has similar expertise available to help other sports with media campaigns. I am quite sure that sports are looking at the success of Go Play Rugby, related to a particularly significant year for the sport, and will organise themselves in the same way.

The Active People survey carried out by the RFU has produced a wealth of data around participation levels in sport. Sport England has built on that and broadened it right across sports in England. We now have data on the participation in sport by adults over 16 for every local authority in England. That gives us a base for progress. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, paid due tribute to this. These are our essential tools for working out how resources can be directed most effectively. We all know that resources are never limitless—although I assure noble Lords that we will continue, through the sports governing bodies, to direct resources to these targets. We now have a model on which sport is able to build to get a clear analysis of what needs to be done. We can take encouragement from other sports governing bodies which are responding to the challenge of increasing delivery.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, indicated his reservations about past work by Sport England. It has changed its priorities. We now regard it as being well placed to deliver a new era for sport. It is an opportunity, which of course is reinforced by the significance of the Olympic Games, to promote sport in England and across the United Kingdom.

We should not underestimate the significance of this year. Once the Olympic flag is handed from Beijing to London, attention switches significantly with regard to the whole Olympic movement and world interest in sport. It is an enormous opportunity for this country. There are still sceptics—not present, I hasten to add, among noble Lords here today—who wonder whether the world will respond, or whether London and the country can respond to the challenge. We should have every confidence. This country is one of the outstanding participative sporting nations in the world. It is not always the highest achiever in every single sport, but that may be a reflection of the sheer diversity of the participation of Britons in sport. Whenever I am assailed by the question how it is that we promote the most significant tennis tournament in the world and yet it is nearly 75 years since we last had a Wimbledon male champion, I reflect on the fact that of course tennis is only one of the great sports in which people participate. It should be recognised therefore that there are counter-pressures in other sports through their sheer abundance and the opportunities which are provided.

The job of Sport England is, through effective governing bodies, to ensure that we increase opportunities. We want those opportunities to be in terms of encouraging people to play sport for life, which was, after all, the essence of the Rugby Union campaign which is the subject of this debate. It is clear that we have to focus on a shared goal with the governing bodies to maximise English sporting success. We are not going to get high-level success unless we expand the talent pool and improve the quality of what we do at every level. The key—and it is well attested through a range of sports—to success at the highest level is the nurturing of the grass roots and the opportunities provided there.

The strategy that Sport England is presenting is a new partnership, which the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in his contribution recognised, between Sport England and the national governing bodies. It obviously needs more public funding to deliver against the outcomes of grow, sustain and excel. It will recognise that it will be expected to meet targets. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, emphasised this point, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, also reflected on the question of achievement. We intend to ensure that those who have pursued successful strategies are encouraged and rewarded by the resources made available to them. Others who fall off the pace have to buck up their game, frankly. It is important that they are incentivised. To obtain grants, support and financial resources, they must have strategies which meet the overall position. This strategy is central to our objectives of increasing participation in sport from grass roots up and allowing everyone to develop their potential. Of course, we look forward to sport gaining from the Olympic excitement in this country once the transfer of the flag has occurred. I have not the slightest doubt that we shall see a significant leap forward.

However, although the rugby scheme is concerned with retaining people in sport, the Government have been committed to developing sport and physical exercise in schools, ensuring that they have the resources to develop young people’s sporting talents when they are at their most creative. There are tough participation targets across the country, which can only be good for sport.

As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, indicated in his remarks, the relationship with clubs is crucial. In the past, our greatest weakness as a sporting nation has been that we have relied upon clubs to operate in an entirely free-market structure within which they sink or rise according to their own strengths and abilities, without any feeling that they encourage participation in the local community. One of the strengths of sport development that we are pursuing is to ensure that clubs get a chance to present themselves effectively to educational institutions and schools, to forge those links that will benefit the clubs. Young people will move on to them once they have left school, but you cannot make progress in sport solely on the basis of a school career. It is important that clubs provide the framework afterwards.

Where we have seen decline in recent years, as clubs have suffered through limited participation and have not sufficiently developed in certain areas because there has not been a close enough link between the sport and the locality, great strides have been made. There is no doubt that the sport has glamour attached to it; it can appeal to young people and do an enormous amount to encourage participation in sport. That has not only societal benefits, it has sporting and associational benefits, as the noble Lord Pendry indicated on health. It may also have the benefit of a better society, in which young people who are active and participate in and value their locality are unlikely to engage in anti-social practices that we all inevitably deplore.

I emphasise that there are hard resources behind this. The Prime Minister last year announced an additional £100 million investment in PE and sport for young people, to ensure that there should be three hours of sport for 16 to 19 year-olds per week.

These are broad issues. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said that he was not too sure about the funding. We are committed to spending £783 million on sport over the next three years, bringing the total up to £2.2 billion by 2011. These are big sums of money and big commitments. We must withstand the obvious criticism that money spent in one area is unavailable to another. Members of the Committee will recognise the pressures on the DCMS budget, but the Government recognise the value of sport and are prepared to make significant commitments to ensure that we take advantage of the unique opportunity of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games to increase interest in sport.

I assure the noble Lord that today in this debate he has highlighted one strategy that has proved immensely beneficial for Rugby Union. It is an illustration of what can be done through careful thought, planning and imagination. As we have learnt, Sport England is eager to promote these opportunities more widely. I have no doubt that the spin-off from the campaign that the noble Lord has highlighted will go well beyond Rugby Union and help in the pursuit of our overall strategy of encouraging sporting participation among a much greater number of people at a time when the focus on sport will undoubtedly increase in this country.

That completes our business. Before I adjourn the Committee, I, too, congratulate the Lords rowing team and the noble Lord, Lord Addington.

The Committee adjourned at 5.50 pm.