Inside Lines: Hugh Robertson the ideal candidate to lead BOA if Lord Coe moves on


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The Independent Online

The former Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson, who quit his new role as Minister of State at the Foreign Office in the Government reshuffle, seems certain to land a top job in sport should he decide to quit politics.

The 51-year-old MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, who is set to be knighted, has told The Independent on Sunday he is undecided whether to stand again at next year’s general election. He was surprisingly moved to the FO last October after an outstanding stint as sports minister during which he successfully oversaw the political aspects of London 2012.

Married with a young son, Robertson insists his decision is because he genuinely wants to spend more time with his family. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” he says. “However, my wife pointed out how little time I have spent at home in the last seven years, hardly ever a full week. So now is right time to have a think and take stock.”

While the dapper ex-Army major says he had “an exciting and busy” time at the Foreign Office, he confesses: “I really didn’t cater for the extent to which I would miss the world of sport and the people in it. That was where I was happiest.”

His successor as sports minister, Helen Grant, has had a shaky time but survived a reshuffle which saw women promoted rather than removed. However, there is speculation that the popular, soon-to-be Sir Hugh could be offered his old job back should he remain an MP and the Tories stay in office. If not, there is little doubt he would be interested in role in sports administration.

He would be an ideal replacement for his friend Lord Coe as chair of the British Olympic Association, a position Coe would almost certainly have to vacate should he become either the next chair of the BBC Trust or president of the International Association of Athletic Federations, two roles for which he is in the running.

Silly baskets

Sorry to keep harping on about it, but how big a ricket UK Sport made in fiscally emasculating basketball is further emphasised not just by the recent outstanding results from both men’s and women’s teams but the fact that prominent parliamentarians have called for a “radical rethink” of how the sport is funded.

Britain’s NBA star Luol Deng was among those who provided evidence of how of basketball can transform the lives of young people in deprived areas, but Sharon Hodgson, chair of the all-party Parliamentary Group for Basketball, says: “Unfortunately, the potential that basketball has to change many more lives is not being tapped into by Government. We need a radical rethink about how we fund sport in the UK.”

Quite. Just a sliver of the £7.5 million being handed out to those setting up GB’s America’s Cup team would make a huge difference to a grass-roots sport where all is definitely not plain sailing.

Round table for three

Ping pong history will be made when table tennis introduces an open-air version of the game, in which sides of three players compete over a round table. T3 Ping Pong will be demonstrated at London’s Parliament Hill Fields by six of the UK’s top players with the public free to have a go. Don’t be surprised if there’s a gatecrasher once London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, gets a whiff-whaff of the event.