Premier League schemes could benefit from public money
The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said that public money could be handed to Premier League football clubs if they can prove it will be used to boost grassroots sport.
The government this week unveiled a new strategy to address declining participation figures among young people and stalled progress in the plan to use the 2012 Games to inspire the population to get fit.
Hunt said that the £450m earmarked for sports governing bodies over four years to develop links between schools and clubs and drive grassroots sport could be diverted elsewhere if they failed to deliver.
As well as charities and community sport organisations that could include Premier League clubs, he said, despite the potential perception issues around handing public money to clubs with large TV deals that fund huge wage bills.
“We want to spend our money in the way that gets the biggest boost in participation. Our starting point is going to be to work with sports governing bodies but I made it very clear that if they fail to deliver we’ll take this money away,” he said.
Hunt was speaking at a Premier League event to promote a scheme in which it and the government invested £3.8m in using clubs to act as hubs to host sports clubs and encourage participation in badminton, judo, table tennis and volleyball. It claimed the scheme had reached 39,000 people in its first two years.
It said it was to invest another £2m to add four new sports — basketball, handball, hockey and netball — to the Premier League for Sport programme.
Hunt said the scheme could act as a model for the thousands of programmes he hopes governing bodies will promote in schools. He hopes that by employing a tougher approach with the governing bodies that only increased participation numbers by a 10th of the 1m target promised by the last government, an aspiration that has now been ditched, he will have more success.
“We’re not ring-fencing the money for them. We will start off with the whole sport plans but we will put in much tighter performance measures, much more closely modelled on the elite sport funding model where money is withdrawn pretty quickly if people fail to deliver,” he said.
The government would not hesitate to withdraw money from governing bodies and give it to charities and, potentially, Premier League clubs.
“I made it very clear. There are some very good charities, voluntary organisations, Premier League clubs. There are lots of different avenues and ways to get involved. We want to harness anyone who’s got a good idea of how to make this work,” he said.
The Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, said: “If public money makes these schemes go further and wider I don’t see why they shouldn’t qualify. Our clubs have the name, the brand, the cachet but they also have the hugely talented coaches who are on top of their game in engaging with young people.”
Hunt said it was “too early to say” whether the legacy aspirations promised by Lord Coe in Singapore in 2005 that helped secure the Games would be delivered.
“We’ll have a fantastic physical legacy in terms of sporting facilities we didn’t have before. But in terms of sports participation in a school in Manchester or Leicester or Cornwall or Cardiff, that is the real test of whether we are successful or not,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of initiatives that we now need to deliver on. It’s not going to be easy because we’ve got the Olympics going for us but we’ve also got social trends going against us.”
From the Guardian