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Last Updated: Friday, 23 June 2006, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
South: Sport
Ian Paul
Ian Paul
The Politics Show, BBC South

Tim Henman
Where will the next Tim Henman learn his trade?

Have you been desperately racing home to catch the football?

Will you be hanging on every one of Tim Henman's last gasps next week at Wimbledon?

You certainly will not be alone if you answer yes. But do you actually do the sport, or just watch it?

Millions of us do the former - but for the government, not enough millions of us do the latter.

They are particularly keen that five to 16-year-olds should be doing a bit more running about than they are.

A minimum of two hours a week on sport and PE is what they want - and they want to raise the proportion of kids achieving that to 85% by 2008.

Where are the facities?

But how does that square with all the disappearing facilities?

If you just want to go and kick a ball around in a field, or have a bit of an informal knockabout on a tennis court, can you?

According to Sports Minister Richard Caborn, speaking in August 2005, over the previous 13 years nearly 34,000 sports pitches across England have disappeared.

Alison Moore-Gwynn, Director of the National Playing Fields Association, describes the figures as "truly appalling".

She does accept that profits from the sale of school playing fields have often been ploughed back into providing indoor facilities - but those are facilities which families will have to pay to use, rather than outdoor ones which would be free.

Sporting opportunities disappearing?

This is not just an issue about whether we are doing enough to train award-winning athletes and sportspeople of the future - it is about whether government or local authorities are doing anything to provide for those of us who will never get to Wimbledon, or the Olympics or the World Cup but fancy doing a bit of something sporty.

Politics Show South has been doing an informal sampling, using the number of outdoor municipal tennis courts as the benchmark.

The figures are pretty mixed.

Outdoor municipal tennis courts
Berkshire 87
Oxfordshire 35
Rushmoor 10
East Hampshire 6
Weymouth & Portland 3
Brighton & Hove 55
Gosport 10
Southampton 20

So with Wimbledon about to get under way, jockeying for attention and air time with the World Cup, you have to ask whether tennis is a bit the Cinderella of sport.

One organisation that maybe ought to be able to provide the glass plimsoll is the Lawn Tennis Association.

They are anxious to counter its rather elitist, strawberries-and-cream image.

"People could justifiably say there is still an elitist bit.

"The only thing I would say is: over the last few years we have really tried to be aggressive in changing the culture.

"So all our teams and all the coaches across the country that we work with are trying to address things like open access - and we have many centres now where you can actually walk in off the high street and book or hire a court.

"And we must increase those opportunities."

So what do you think? Is the government doing enough to help us do sports? Should it be leaving us alone to be couch potatoes if we want?

Email the programme and we will put your points to our invited guests.

2020 vision logo
20:20 vision: An opportunity for junior film producers

20:20 Vision

Last week we gave a group of teenagers from Quilley School in Eastleigh the chance to tell us how they want Eastleigh to be in 2020.

This week it is the turn of youngsters at Ringwood School to say what their community should be like when they are in charge.

If you would like to see your town featured on the Politics Show over the next few weeks please get in touch. We will help any group of youngsters make a film.

If that is you, or you know teenagers who are enthusiastic about energy saving or passionate about their parks then get in touch.

The Politics Show

Join Peter Henley live on the Politics Show on Sunday 02 July 2006 at 12:00 on BBC One.


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11 Sep 05 |  England



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