FUNDING: Is sport really the priority?

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The Winter Olympics has ended and GB won more medals than ever before in the modern era.

It won five, that’s good. There were almost 300 up for grabs, that’s bad. Were they worth all the money they cost? I don’t know.

I didn’t watch too much, mainly because of the presenter, who seemed to like the sound of her own voice too much. Also, because every athlete seemed more concerned about securing future funding than how well they had done.

Some of the sums involved, 80 per cent of which comes from the Government and the Lottery, are staggering – £4.7million for speed skating, £5million for bobsleigh, £6.5million for the skeleton, and £5.6million for curling, to mention a few.

The Government is happy because as it has pumped more money into funding sports and elite athletes over the last eight years, GB has won more medals on the world stage. I like the way it says ‘elite’, as opposed to privileged. It wants the nation to have the ‘feel good factor’ that comes with success.

Other things have increased too during those same eight years, like child poverty.

Last week, I read that the Government acknowledges that there are now 3,700,000 children who live in poverty in the UK. That is three out of every 10 children. Also, 1,700,000 are in ‘extreme’ poverty. Why not say abject poverty, that is much more descriptive?

One charity described child poverty as having to choose between heating the home, or eating. Just what you want when the forecasters say we will have the coldest February for years.

Still, the Government can put up posters announcing the success at the Winter Olympics in food banks. Then folk can ‘feel good’ as they queue for their food parcels.

If the Government wants to fund sports people, why not treat them like students and make it a loan that they have to repay out of their prize money and future earnings? That way the sports could become self-funding.

Heaven knows sport is awash with money at the moment, yet the Government still gives around £30million each year to the FA to promote football at grass roots level. Madness.

We can rely on the Government can’t we? While all this was going on, the Prime Minister and her cabinet were enjoying a day at Chequers.

Mel Shaw,

Wooler