Monday 23 April 2018

Stars fail our kids

Eamonn Sweeney

Several months ago, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary in the new Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition government across the water, announced that he would be cutting £162 million in funding to School Sports Partnerships.

The reaction was furious. Seventy-five athletes, dozens of them Olympic medallists, wrote a letter to the government denouncing what they saw as an ill-conceived decision which would among other things increase the incidence of childhood obesity. So did 60 head teachers. A 17-year-old girl named Debbie Foote, from Margaret Thatcher's home town of Grantham, organised a petition against the changes which was signed by over half a million schoolkids. And a march against the cuts went to Downing Street. Among the marchers were former Olympic gold medallists Denise Lewis and Darren Campbell.

The result? David Cameron's government backtracked and the Schools Sports Partnerships look like being saved.

Sports funding in this country has been pitiful for years. There have been cuts over the past couple of years which will make the situation even worse. Ministers have used the funding to secure political advantage. But the cuts have been proportionally greater than those suffered in England.

Yet, and correct me if I'm wrong here, I have never heard a single Irish sportsperson protest against government policy in this area. Not one of them. We have no Denise Lewis, no Darren Campbell to stick up for our kids.

The fact that English sports facilities at grassroots level are much better than they are here has something to do with our politicians. But not everything. Our sportspeople let them do it. And, as long as that keeps happening, we'll always be also-rans.

Go Denise, go Darren, go Debbie. Respect.

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