Sports Politics: Hoey takes a tough line on Lottery cash

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The Independent Online
BUREAUCRACY AND delay in administering National Lottery funding came under fire yesterday from the Sports Minister, Kate Hoey.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, Hoey delivered a thinly veiled warning to bodies such as Sport England - which co-ordinates the work of the Lottery Sports Fund - to address widespread concern and frustration at the pace of their operation.

"It is essential that government and lottery funding are used to best effect," she told an assembly containing administrators from a wide range of sports. "Government bodies have to continue to modernise their workings. If money is delayed by bureaucracy or inefficiency then I want to know." Among those eager to keep the minister up to speed on such matters was David Sparkes, chief executive of the Amateur Swimming Association, who said the speech had been received enthusiastically by the numerous heads of sports governing bodies present.

"It promises a culture change in lottery provision," he said. "But it is not going to be easy do deliver." Sparkes fully endorsed the implied criticism of Hoey's comments.

"We are the experts, not Sport England," he said. "We are the people who will deliver the performances, and we are the people who will be accountable if those performances are not good enough. So we want to be left to spend the money in the way we want to.

"Lottery funding is far too prescriptive at the moment. The money is given with details of what percentage should be spent on sports science, and what on altitude training... they are working the percentage game.

"At the moment, if Australia do something new in their preparation tomorrow, I can't change how I spend our money because we are locked into a tight budget plan. If we want to shift money in our budget from area A to area B, we have to wait five months to hear whether it is possible. And we may be told `no'."

Sparkes points to the delays over the provision of a 50-metres pool at Loughborough University, something that was agreed in principle when the idea of the UK Sports Institute was introduced by the previous Government.

"We shouldn't still have to be talking about it more than two years later," he said. "It should be built now. People trying to see these projects through have to go through monumental hoops. Even now, there's another six to nine months of talking due before there can be anything on site at Loughborough."

Hoey's comments followed a report commissioned by the CCPR which claims that Sport England spent 40 per cent of the money granted by the Government on administrative costs.

Sport England's chief executive, Derek Casey, yesterday disputed many of the figures in the report and their interpretation. A Sport England statement claimed that "pure administrative costs" accounted for only 11 per cent of its budget. "The vast majority of other costs are spent on front-line sports development work."

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