Interview with Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson

Ernien Brennan (right) met up with MP Hugh Roberton (left).

National Children’s Football Alliance Founder, Ernie Brennan met up with Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson.

At a recent Grow the Game Football Foundation presentation Ernie Brennan Founder of the National Children’s Football Alliance met up with Hugh Robertson Minister for Sport and the Olympics. Via the Minister’s department the following questions were answered and promptly returned.

What benefit do you think a children’€™s voice in football can bring to the community and the football fraternity as a whole?

There is no single or best way to deliver sport, so it’€™s very important that children and young people are listened to. Many of the most successful sports initiatives do well because young people are asked what sports they want to do, and how and where they want to do them. Making sporting opportunities more attractive and accessible to children will lead to more and more young people beginning a lifetime’s association with sport at an early age, and enjoying the many benefits this can bring.

To what degree will the coalition government consider the volunteer workforce in children’€™s football/sport when deciding policy?

Without the voluntary workforce youth sport would not be able to thrive. We are determined to harness the inspirational power of London 2012 to deliver a real legacy and increase the amount of people volunteering in sport and ensure an effective pathway for volunteers. Through Places, People, Play and the new Olympic and Paralympic-style school sport competition there will be more opportunities for people to get involved in this way.

We are also determined to support volunteers, practitioners and clubs – the lifeblood of grassroots sport – by removing the barriers preventing them from delivering more sporting opportunities. This is why the Government has tasked the Central Council for Physical Recreation with undertaking a review of the red tape that inhibits or prevents so much good activity from happening. This review will complement the Coalition Government’€™s reviews into the Vetting and Barring scheme, the Criminal Records Regime and Health Safety.

In the light of the current economic climate is it still the case that the Conservative party’s mission is to extend the opportunities available through sport to the maximum number of people, if so, how?

Despite the tough economic conditions we are facing we are committed to using the Olympics to create the widest possible sporting legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. That is why the Coalition Government recently announced the mass participation Olympic Legacy programme – Places People Play. The £135 million lottery funded programme will provide money for a new generation of iconic facilities; the protection for our local playing fields; improving and building new community facilities; provide training and opportunities for volunteering in sports and the Gold Challenge will both raise money for charity and get people participating in more Olympic sports.

You once said that, ‘€˜Unless local sports networks are nurtured and expanded, central Government initiatives, however worthy, will always flounder’€™. What progress has been made in this area?

A wide range of partners, including Schools, Local Authorities, County Sports Partnerships and other local organisations and sports development bodies are key to the delivery of better and more sporting opportunities. What is important to me is that local communities have access to local sporting opportunities. We are working with councils to help them plan strategically for sport, ensuring they get the best value from their investment in sport.

Do you think in this age of austerity that a voice for children in football will be best placed to promote the good work currently undertaken by the differing governing bodies and do you think children through a NCFA would help provide a solution to eventually unifying the national game?

It is crucial that sport listens and responds to the voice of young people. I’m always delighted when I speak to young people who have had positive experiences in sport, and would hope that governing bodies use their enthusiasm in the best way possible in promoting their sport.

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