Britain pricing itself out of gold market

Inside Lines
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Not only is Britain one of the most expensive places in the world in which to live, but also to play, watch and prepare properly for sport. So much so that more and more sports organisations are finding it cheaper to transport their practitioners to places abroad where facilities for training are not only better, but infinitely easier on the budget. Cycling, one of the success sports of the Sydney Olympics, is one example. Peter Keen, performance director of the British Cycling Federation, tells us that recently a number of top UK cyclists went to a training camp in eastern Germany where the facilities were superb and the daily charges came to less than £20 a head, including full accommodation costs. The BCF is based in Manchester, which houses one of Europe's best velodromes, but to use it costs £190 an hour, and there are no accommodation facilities. "We would need to spend at least a further £50 a head on hotels on top of the training charges," says Keen. "Even when you throw in the travelling expenses it is far cheaper to train at home than abroad." John Anderson, performance director for the British Canoe Union, concurs: "When it comes to investing in sport and providing adequate, reasonably-priced training facilities we are playing a masssive game of catch-up with the rest of the world. It is simply not a level playing field." Significantly, both Keen and Anderson were members of the Elite Sport Funding Review Group chaired by the former Labour minister Dr Jack Cunningham which warns of an impending shortfall in the £100m funding for the build-up to the Athens Olympics because of falling Lottery ticket sales. The Government has been to be asked to "act urgently" on the review group's recommendation of an extra £10m a year from the Treasury. Let's hope the Chancellor coughs up, and we also curb the costs pricing British competitors out of possible gold medals.

Fair play as Greenway keeps Shadow post

John Greenway learned yesterday that he has fared somewhat better than his erstwhile opposite number Kate Hoey in surviving a Westminster reshuffle. The former policeman will continue to pound the sporting beat for the Opposition, having been re-appointed by the new Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith as Shadow Sports Minister. Greenway, 55-year-old MP for Ryedale and president of York City FC, while "delighted" could be permitted a sigh of relief, for although a bit of a right winger himself, he actually seconded Ken Clarke's leadership nomination. Which goes to show that Duncan Smith might be more of a sport than Tony Blair, who so unfairly axed Hoey, much admired by Greenway. He has proved a far more effective spokesman than most who have boxed none too cleverly out of the blue corner. He'll certainly give the so far less than dynamic new sports minister Richard Caborn a run for his money, especially on racing, a sport he knows well. Greenway will act as overall deputy to the new Culture, Media and Sport Shadow Cabinet minister Tim Yeo, whose sporting interests are golf and skiing.

Campbell best for Sport England role

Understandably, with more pressing matters to deal with after the events of last week, the futures of Wembley and Picketts Lock have been put on hold by the Government, alongside the appointment of a new £150,000 a year chief executive for Sport England. More than 50 applications have been received, some from overseas, and leading candidates are believed to include the Lawn Tennis Association's John Crowther and Sport England vice-chairman Des Wilson. But the able Sue Campbell, a government sports adviser, should be favourite.

If anything talks louder than Don King, it is money. Although he may have left London recently with the signature of the British heavyweight champion Danny Williams in his pocket, it was not accompanied by a cheque from either the BBC orBSkyB for the Lewis- Rahman re-match.

King, as you might expect, is talking in several millions; the rival TV channels won't budge from a few hundred thousand. The BBC captured the original six months ago when Lennox got clobbered, but according to an insider, they feel he is no longer the attraction he was, especially around five in the morning. Sky are similarly disinclined. However, the BBC have a agreed a deal to screen four of Williams' domestic title defences, though knowing it is unlikely that they could meet King's ransom should Williams get a world title shot.

The 15,000 souls who will comprise Manchester's volunteer force for the Commonwealth Games next year will have pleasure of being dressed by George. George who? they might ask.

George from ASDA, that's who. The supermarket chain are providing the Games uniforms as part of a £2m sponsorship package, and George (that's plain George, not to be confused with Giorgio of Armani fame) is the store's brand label. No idea yet what the outfits will look like though it may be worth the volunteers hanging on to them. The volunteer services headquarters is destined to become ASDA's biggest superstore after the Games, with lots of jobs on offer.

Exit Lines

I have a PhD in Caucasianism. Don King on understanding the reaction of a white system to a successful black man... I did a certain amount for sport when I was in office. I'm conscious of what I did but also what I didn't do. Former Prime Minister John Major on a major regret... I'm learning to drive. A Chinese swimmer asked what subject she was studying to qualify as a competitor for the World Student Games in Bejing... He knows where to plonk it and he can plonk it. Newcastle manager Bobby Robson saying winger Lauren Robert is no plonker.