We can anticipate that the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee Report will be published in the next two weeks. This Report will be the second Report by the Committee on sport in three years. Sadly the first Report was largely a damp squib for those interested in developing sport. So, I feel the need to speculate on the findings of the new Report – largely because the Committee undertook the Inquiry hide-bound by a number of real limitations. So we cannot really expect that the Report will contain much that will inspire the real development of community sport in Scotland. The limitation to the Inquiry was that it only looked into three aspects of community sport, and did not appear to define community sport. The three dimensions are:
- Contributions of People.
- The benefits of sports clubs to the preventative health agenda and to local communities.
- Importance of Places – through availability, accessibility, affordability and facility quality.
Because Scotland measures participation in sport only through the Household Survey, it confuses and conflates physical activity with sport. The Survey is very subjective as seen over a four-week period and gives no indication of where any physical activity is undertaken.So realistically we do not have real sports participation figures in Scotland. It will be interesting to note whether the Report makes comment about this.
The Committee was asked to consider the current support and establishment of community hubs. This is a welcome recent SportScotland iniative. I am certain that the Report will at least welcome these developments. The target of 150 hubs being established by 2014 seems very small, bearing in mind that several of the new hubs have been formed from existing strong infrastructures.
Will the Report widen its thinking to suggest that if schools facilities are kept closed to community use (because the PPP contract is the limitation ) then resources should be found to open up these facilities?
Will the Report consider the use of schools by schools as a point of principle? Clubs should not feel that they can only progress on the basis of hubs being established in the local area.
Will the Report differentiate between community clubs, commercial clubs and facility operators and trusts? Many of the organisations that were invited to give oral evidence to the Committee were not so much voluntary clubs as social enterprises set up to deliver aspects of health to deprived areas of Scotland. The vast majority of sports clubs do not receive any public finance. Can the Report recognise the differences?
With unprecendented cuts to local government finance and with local government being the biggest enabler of community sport, will support from local government be cut or reduced? Will the Report even mention this crucial subject? Will local authorities be asked to consider its priorities for spending on Sport and Leisure (perhaps taking account of the Christie Commission) and also taking account of “pay and play” opportunities that could conceivably be managed by the private sector. Leaving the local authorities to enable and enpower the volunteer organisations – to develop the sporting infrastructures. I suspect that the Report will suggest sharing of good practice – leaving many (perhaps the majority of local authorities) ignoring sports development altogether.
Will the Report recommend the need for all local authorities to develop and maintain an all encompassing sports facility strategy – which outlines the opportunities for a wide spectrum of sports and activities in the geographic areas? Such a strategy could open up new ideas over community self management of facilities.
These are just some of my main worries, and thoughts as we await the publication of the Report. I would welcome any comments ahead of the Report publication?!