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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 September 2005, 19:56 GMT 20:56 UK
Is this the future for British sport?
By James Standley

Sport needs to be run better to produce more elite sportsmen like Andrew Flintoff as well as grassroots success, say the report's authors

More money than ever is being put into sport in the UK but behind the scenes it is a mess, with a hugely complicated structure failing to maximise the potential around the country, according to a radical new independent report.

Produced by a panel led by former sports ministers Colin Moynihan and Kate Hoey, 'Raising the Bar' calls for major changes.

Among its suggestions are:

  • A Secretary of State for Sport in the Cabinet
  • Reducing bureaucracy by amalgamating the likes of UK Sport and other organisations into a Sport Foundation
  • A big increase in the amount of school sport
  • Giving children more access to sports clubs
  • Establishing an independent UK anti-doping agency (UKADA)

    But how would these recommendations work in practice and what are the chances of them being implemented?

    SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SPORT

    At the moment, the sports minister, currently Richard Caborn, does not have a post in the government's 24-strong Cabinet, suggesting he has little real power.

    Sport is represented in the Cabinet by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, who has plenty of other things on her plate.

    The report calls for the creation of a Secretary of State for Sport who would fight its corner and wield genuine influence at the highest levels of government.

    Chances: With sport an increasingly big business and more and more money being pumped into it this would seem a sensible suggestion.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair is reported to be right behind sport, but does he want another body around the cabinet table begging for time and money?

    SPORT FOUNDATION

    One of the big ideas in the report, which claims that the plethora of organisations running British sport is damaging both elite and grassroots levels.

    The idea is to bring together the likes of UK Sport and Sport England and their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts into one organisation.

    The proposed new structure for British sport

    Chaired by the Secretary of State for Sport, the report calls it a 'one-stop shop' which would bring together public and private stakeholders and reduce bureaucracy.

    It would also introduce long-term funding for governing bodies, starting with a seven-year budget and moving onto rolling eight-year budgets to enable long-term planning.

    The report says the government's plan to shift responsibility for world-class development to UK Sport, announced on 16 September, does not go far enough.

    Chances: With the ink on the report barely dry Caborn dismissed this idea, saying it was too London-centric and took little account of devolving power to a regional level.

    And Sue Campbell, Chair of UK Sport, insisted the current system was already best-placed to deliver success at the elite level.

    SCHOOL SPORT

    One of the central themes of the report is to increase the amount of sport being played in state schools in this country, both to boost the chances of elite-level success and reduce the costs to society of the increasing levels of obesity.

    At the moment only one third of children in the state sector manage two hours of sport or exercise at school a week - the report is calling for four hours.

    Calculations based on the Australia model indicated that 4% of the NHS' 72bn annual bill could be saved by having healthier children.

    The report's authors assume a saving of 1% and suggest half of that sum - 360m - should be invested to supply four hours a week.

    Chances: Whether the four-hour goal is achieved remains to be seen but the government is already determined to increase the amount of sport being played in state schools, which lag well behind their private counterparts.

    INCREASED CLUB-SCHOOL LINKS

    The report calls for all children to be given a PasSport, which would enable them to two free hours of sport a week at local clubs.

    The idea would give children better access to sport and recreation and would also enable governing bodies to identify talent.

    It would require increased funding and a culture as it would require qualified coaches organised by the schools and clubs.

    The report also calls for an increase in competitive sport at schools.

    Chances: Nice idea, but where is the money going to come from to supply all these qualified coaches?

    INDEPDENDENT ANTI-DRUGS AUTHORITY (UKADA)

    At the moment, the UK's anti-doping fight is being led by UK Sport as one of its main responsibilities.

    The report suggests that the anti-drugs authority should be independent of both the government and the world of sport.

    It also calls for all sport organisations in the United Kingdom to share a common anti-doping policy in line with the World Anti-Doping Code.

    Plus it plans to name all athletes found guilty of a doping offence.

    Chances: While this would seem to be a sensible idea the government is reported to be against it, which makes it unlikely.

    CONCLUSIONS

    'Raising the Bar' has many sensible ideas and many which will probably never see the light of day.

    The Sport Foundation idea flies in the face of current government policy, while the desire to get more sport played in schools would be welcomed by all but may be hard to implement.

    With the 2012 Olympics just seven years away sport in the UK has the chance to put itself in the front rank of government policy.

    But how many of the ideas in this report make it into practice remains to be seen.




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