Tonight, Chelsea play Liverpool in the FA Cup Final at Wembley; the Olympics are just weeks away... but where are future sports stars going to come from.
Tonight, Chelsea and Liverpool square up at Wembley in the FA Cup Final; the Euros are only a month away; the Olympics come to town in just 12 weeks’ time… but where are the next generation of sportsmen and women going to come from?
The shadow hanging over school sport may have dimmed from political discourse of late, but it remains, as dark as ever, the future for millions of state school pupils ever bleaker. Ahead of our amazing summer of sport, a new documentary, funded by the Youth Sports Foundation, seeks to bring the issue back to the fore.
As the docu makers say:
“Too many young people in the UK live in fear because of gangs and weapons; too many young people lack mentors and constructive activities to fire their passion and ambition; and too many young people lead lifestyles that will cause serious health problems.
“The cost in human and economic terms is enormous.”
It features three young Londoners, Oli, Marlan and Iffath, who’ve turned around their lives and those of others through sport:
“‘Game’s Over’ is a documentary that offers an intimate portrait of the lives of three young people in the poorest borough of London, Tower Hamlets, whose lives have been transformed through participation in a scheme which offers access to sports, and the ability to train for a career in sports, for all children in the country.
“Against a backdrop of poverty, crime, and racial tensions, these young people have refused to conform to stereotypes, instead devoting their lives to teaching and inspiring a new generation of children in sports ranging from football to fencing.
“Oli turned his back on the gang that formed his social circle to run one of the scheme’s biggest clubs; Marlan has been able to support his young family with income earned as a sports teacher; and Iffath has helped to change views around racial and sexual prejudices, helping others to look beyond the hijab and see the football player inside.
“This film tells the inside story of school sports, how it affects lives and what the country stands to lose by abolishing it.”
As Left Foot Forward has long reported, the cuts to school sport are illogical, counter-productive and, as ever under this government, hit the poorest hardest:
• Cameron set for school sports climbdown 3 Dec 2010
• School sport cuts: “This isn’t ideology, it’s idiocy” 26 Nov 2010
The cuts to school sport, and the Cabinet’s complete, utter, total lack of understanding of their impact are amongst the starkest examples of just how out of touch senior ministers are, and their absolute inability to comprehend the effects of their decisions on ordinary, normal people.
Consider David Conn’s contrasting of the Cabinet’s school sports experience with that of the many:
“On the day of the spending review last month, Michael Gove, the education secretary, announced he was scrapping the plan to improve sport in schools.
“The schools, of course, are not private, like those attended by Gove (Robert Gordon’s), culture secretary Jeremy Hunt (Charterhouse), sports minister Hugh Robertson (King’s, Canterbury) – or the prime minister, David Cameron, whose alma mater, Eton, offers 12 squash courts, 20 tennis courts, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, four cricket fields, a nine-hole golf course, and rowing on the lake that will host the 2012 Olympics.”
Points reiterated by former England Test batsman Ed Smith:
“Top independent schools have spent massively on sports facilities. Even as a former professional cricketer, I’m dazzled – perhaps shocked – by their luxurious swimming pools and perfectly mown outfields. Some schools resemble five-star golf resorts.
“Many private schools have pitches fit for Olympians.”
Looking to the future, to London 2012, most shockingly of all, notes Smith:
“The proportion of British Olympic medallists who are privately educated has grown steadily over the past three Olympics to about 45 per cent. The trend is the same in rugby and cricket: more private-school England players, fewer State-school ones.
“If we could map social mobility within professional sport, it would show a clear downward trajectory. You would expect sport to be a model of meritocracy. It isn’t.”
As we build towards those Games, as we build towards that glorious fortnight, with the world watching, just what kind of legacy are we leaving for the young men and women of our country?