Sporting chance for all

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The Independent Online
You could be forgiven for thinking that the only National Lottery award the sports Council made yesterday was to Eton College. In reality, awards were made to 136 schemes, covering 29 sports in 40 counties. Eton College didn't receive a penny.

Far from receiving lottery cash, Eton did the giving. The college has donated 11 acres of prime land, pounds 200,000 and a six-lane all-weather running track, to be used for a regional athletics centre proposed by the royal Borough of Windsor and supported by Slough Borough Council and the highly successful Windsor, Slough and Eton Athletics club.

Eton College will have used of the facilities, mostly during weekday afternoons, but by far the greatest use will be by the local community (using it as a sports centre), the Windsor Athletics Club and other schools and clubs in the area. The only people to have constant, and at times exclusive, use of the facilities are elite athletes under the British Athletics Federation's regional coaching programme.

Far from extending the playing fields of Eton, this award opens them up, giving local people access to facilities hitherto unavailable to the community. We stand firmly by our claim that we never forget where lottery money comes from: it comes from the community and it will go back into the community.

That claim is reinforced by yesterday's other successful schemes. Inner- city Hackney in east London received pounds 4.8m - the Sport's Council's largest reward to date - towards a new sports complex; New River Athletics Stadium in Haringey, north London, received pounds 216,500, and Plaistow, in London's East End, received pounds 140,319 for a new running track.

Smaller awards to community sports clubs continue to be the mainstay of the Sports Council's awards. Bristol Manor Farm AFT have pounds 2,230 for a five-a-side court; Long Buckby Community Centre in Northampton can get their new bowls floor following their pounds 7,200 award, and Chipstead Sailing Club in Sevenoaks can develop their Help the Handicapped to Sail Club and purchase a new boat and wheelchair hoists with their award of pounds 34,791.

Yesterday, we were accused of paying "scant regard to the priorities of those buying [lottery] tickets". The schemes mentioned above represent only a fraction of the 136 awards we made yesterday, let alone the 468 awards totalling nearly pounds 85m we have made since we began distributing in March.

We believe funds are being ploughed back into projects that will benefit the very people who buy lottery tickets, as well as putting funds into projects they would strongly support, such as bids for Olympic gold. The Thames Valley Athletics Centre - the so-called cash for Eton College - is, on inspection, just such a project. As your leading article commented yesterday, "first impressions may be misleading".

The writer is chairman of the Sports Council.