Plea for funds to save neglected sports

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The Independent Online

Grass-roots sports could be put at risk unless more cash is raised from the private sector to support them, a leading figure in sports funding has warned.

Mike Reynolds, a director of Sportsmatch - a government-funded scheme that helps to provide money for grass-roots activities - said that the need for extra cash was becoming even more pressing as the 2012 London Olympics drew closer.

"We're all certain that the task that is ahead of us, leading up to 2012 in particular, is enormous. Is there enough money to go round to meet all our objectives? The answer is that there will not be enough public money, so it's got to be a combination of funding. It's a big challenge."

Traditionally, popular sports such as football, tennis and golf have tended to attract the most funding - at both the high end, such as multi-million-pound sponsorship deals, and at community levels.

Other, less popular, sports, however, have to struggle for finance. "That's always been the case, and whether we are talking about public or private sector funding, it's always been the case that the rich get richer and the others live off the crumbs from the table," Mr Reynolds said. "Some sporting events have a bigger profile and popularity so therefore they attract more funding. But we all know that future success doesn't just depend on those sports."

State funding is available for all types of sport, primarily through the Lottery, but the Government is pushing for more private finance to get involved. The Government also wants to raise the number of people participating in sports.

"The concern is that government funding is finite," Mr Reynolds said. "And so, as we get closer to 2012, more and more funding will be diverted to the elite level.

"And if we're not careful, the grass roots will suffer and that will create an even great disparity in the funding gap."