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Sport: Funding

Volume 756: debated on Tuesday 4 November 2014


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will consider new funding criteria for team sports in the light of UK Sport’s public consultation on their approach to funding elite sport.

My Lords, decisions on elite funding criteria are for UK Sport. Its no-compromise approach has delivered our greatest ever Olympic performances in London and Sochi and exceptional Paralympic successes. We remain in discussion with UK Sport and Sport England on how to maximise the potential of sport to reach more people and succeed at the highest level. We await with interest the outcome of UK Sport’s consultation.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Does he agree that we have moved on since the debacle of the 1996 Olympics and that we should look at funding criteria that would mean that team sports, where they have one gold medal and one championship to achieve, are marked on something that is compatible with sports where there are many gold medals and many championships to win? I ask that because team sports generally have provided very good criteria for mass participation.

My Lords, I would not want to pre-empt the consultation, but its purpose is to listen to all those affected by the work that UK Sport undertakes and to build on the successes that GB has had over the last decade. That is what the department will be looking into. Whether they are teams or individuals, they are all extremely important to the morale of our sporting talent.

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister is aware of the report of your Lordships’ Committee on the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy, which I had the privilege of chairing. A key recommendation in that report was about the approach of UK Sport to funding sport—and, clearly, some consideration of that is now going on. Can the Minister tell us whether the role performed by the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who personally co-ordinated the Government’s activities in delivering the Olympic legacy, is a mantle that has been taken on by the new Secretary of State? If so, what is he doing to deliver a step-change improvement in the sporting activities of the country, as was originally the aspiration of the Olympics?

My Lords, 1.7 million more people are playing sport once a week than when we won the bid in 2005. There has been a 13% increase in funding for elite sport for the four years leading up to Rio 2016. One billion pounds is being invested over four years in youth and community sport, and there has been a huge increase in volunteering and a changing attitude to disability. I think that those are parts of the legacy of which we should all be very proud.

My Lords, Team GB delivered 29 gold medals and Paralympics GB 34 gold medals in London 2012. These were great performances, underpinned by UK Sport funding. Without pre-empting the results of the consultation, does the Minister agree that there should be no compromise to the no-compromise funding approach?

My Lords, it is important that I do not prejudge any consultation, but it is definitely the case that the difference in national morale after the Atlanta Olympics and after the 2012 Olympics—and the inspiration that our Olympics in London have given in terms of future athletes—should be very much borne in mind.

My Lords, does the Minister acknowledge that sport is an incredible way of motivating disadvantaged children, not just in terms of their self-esteem but actually of their attainment? Do the Government want to see a situation where we are not sending 40% of our competitors to an Olympics who have come from the public school sector but are making sure that children who are disadvantaged get their opportunity? Sport England has a huge part to play in how it works with the grass roots, in order to make sure that those children get the opportunity, because I know that they have the capacity.

My Lords, I very much hope for and look to a position where all children of all backgrounds have the same opportunities in sport. That is why, as I said, that the Government are investing £1.1 billion over the next four years in youth and community sport. It is precisely why we need to encourage schools to ensure—as they are required to do by law—that children have as much sporting opportunity as possible. All of that needs to be done.

My Lords, while I must congratulate UK Sport on the work it did in the run-up to the Olympics, there were some problems that have been mentioned already. Team sports have not done as well and there is real concern about the churn caused by the annual review of that programme. Could the Minister confirm that it is the intention of UK Sport to have changes in place after the Rio Olympics? Could he not try to persuade it to ensure that any changes that it recommends are done in time, so that we could have even more success in 2016?

My Lords, the door is always open to all Olympic and Paralympic sports to come through the system. I understand what the noble Lord said about the annual review, but it is important, if we have the no-compromise position and philosophy in place, that they are adhered to. It is very important that we have as much opportunity as possible for successes in Rio. The funding arrangements that we have in place for Rio will remain, and those for the Olympics in Tokyo are also very strong.

My Lords, will my noble friend pay tribute to Sir John Major for having introduced the National Lottery, which has provided the funds that have delivered this enormous success?

My Lords, it is a great privilege to say that Sir John Major played an absolute blinder in ensuring that so many good causes have been supported over many years. The whole country benefits from that.

My Lords, will the Minister welcome, on behalf of the Government, the announcement today that the Emirates Arena in Glasgow is to host the Davis Cup tie next spring between the UK and the USA? Does he agree that this is part of the legacy of the fantastic success of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer?

My Lords, I very much congratulate all in Glasgow; indeed, £27 million of National Lottery money will be invested in the Golden Event Series for the period 2013 to 2019. That means that more than 70 events have already been secured, including world and European championships in Olympic and Paralympic sports.