Sports Politics: Lottery boost for grassroots

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THE GRASSROOTS of English sport can expect a liberal sprinkling of cash over the next 10 years following yesterday's announcement that pounds 2bn of National Lottery funding will be made available to it.

Unveiling its new funding strategy, Sport England - formerly the Sports Council - said it will devote two-thirds of its resources to community projects, with 50 per cent of that money being targeted at deprived areas. The strategy comes in the wake of last year's National Lottery Act, which gave distributors such as Sport England the power to decide where money should go, rather than simply responding to applications.

Other initiatives include a simplified application process and the creation of up to 600 school co-ordinators to bolster links with sports clubs and prevent talented youngsters from drifting away.

"This is not just politically correct, it's the right thing to do," said Des Wilson, the former director of Shelter who is now in charge of Sport England's Community Projects Fund. He added that by the time the scheme was fully in place "few if any countries will be able to match it".

The English figure of pounds 2bn forms the largest part of National Lottery funding for sport in the next decade. Taking in the contributions of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and the money being processed by the UK Sports Council for elite competitors in the World Class Performance Programme, the total will be around pounds 2.6bn.

"In the past the Sports Council could only respond to bids from groups and communities in order to award money," te Sports Minister, Tony Banks, said. "We have changed all that. Sport for all is a step closer as a result of the plan being unveiled today. I can think of two billion reasons why this is great news for sport."