Sports bodies offered funds to attract youth as numbers decline ahead of Olympics


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The Independent Online

The government are to adopt a carrot-and-stick approach to encourage sporting bodies to raise participation numbers and ensure the Olympic Games can help inspire and deliver more young people into sport.

Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, has launched a new strategy today designed to bring closer links between schools and sports clubs in a bid to solve the “missing link” that has seen participation by 16-25 year-olds decline since London won the right to host the Games.

It marks a radical shift in policy towards a similar approach to the one successfully used in France, where local clubs forge relationships with schools. Governing bodies of all Olympic and Paralympic sports, as well as cricket and both codes of rugby, will have Lottery funding available but the amount they receive will be dependent on a rise in numbers.

Mr Hunt said: “We will be very ruthless with governing bodies. Like with elite funding, it will be cut if they fail to deliver. This will be the big missing link in youth sport policy.”

The aim of the strategy, which will have no new government funding, is also to make school sporting facilities available for use by the wider community. Football has promised that 2,000 clubs will link to secondary schools by 2017, rugby union 1,300 and cricket 1,250.

Mr Hunt said: “The big drop-off in playing sport comes when people leave school so we are refocusing policy on making sure that people have sport as a habit for life."

Tessa Jowell, the shadow minister for the Olympics, has criticised previous cuts to school sports funding as leaving a "gaping hole in the legacy ambitions for young people’s participation in sport ."