Sports Politics: Plea for funds and fair play

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The Independent Online
THE COUNTRY'S leading sports governing bodies yesterday called for a separate Ministry of Sport with real powers to improve the nation's sporting fortunes.

"It's important to move sport up the political agenda," Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said. "It matters to so many people and we want to make it an electoral issue. We're not naive enough to think it's suddenly going to improve our Test team. But with a co-ordinated initiative we can improve facilities, improve sport in school, stop the selling of playing fields and stop the haemorrhaging of money from sport."

Cricket is one of seven sports (the others being football, athletics, rugby league and union, tennis and swimming) whose views were represented in the document `A Partnership for Sport' which was published yesterday by the Central Council of Physical Recreation.

The CCPR report outlines 10 key objectives, including a separate Ministry for Sport to be given genuine power in Whitehall and to formulate Government policy. Sport is currently grouped together with the Department of Heritage and Culture. The former Sports Minister, Tony Banks, complained of a lack of influence before handing over to Kate Hoey.

Stopping the sale of playing fields is a key objective of the seven governing bodies, and John Crowther, the chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association, added: "It's my understanding that since the Government came to power 136 applications to sell playing fields have been received.

"Of the 83 that have been determined, 82 have been approved for sale. We have to put a stop to that."

The CCPR was keen to stress the document was not "a begging bowl" to the Government but called for an increase in funding "in line with the nation's passion for sport." It also called for tax breaks for international sports events staged in Britain, similar to those given to the film industry, citing figures stating that the Government receives approximately four times more money from sport in taxes than it spends through central and local government.

The CCPR also wants to see Lottery money evenly distributed between the good causes when the Millennium Commission is wound up in 2001.

"Sport has done well out of the lottery and we are grateful for the support we have received but, in cricket, only 400 of 10,000 clubs have received direct funding," Lamb added. "People who buy lottery tickets expect a sizeable proportion to go to sport and it needs to go in proportion to the size of the sport."