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Investment in community sport

7 May 2009

While our Chair spent time at the BIG funded Hackney City Farm this morning, in the presence of the excellent Jeremy Iles, Prince Charles, Camilla and the pigs, I was with a group of MPs discussing BIG’s investment in community sport. This was the first of a series of issue-based debates where we will reflect on funding experience and what we and others might learn from that in terms of future funding priorities or wider policy development.

There is a simple view of the Lottery world which assumes that the Arts Council do arts, Heritage Lottery Fund do heritage, Sport England do sports and BIG does charities and communities. This even translates itself into the presentation of some official figures, completely missing the huge sport-related investments BIG has supported because they are given a community development rather than a sporting label. Yet sport is very often the motivator that communities choose to bring people together, and our projects very often connect people up with the benefits of an active lifestyle for the very first time, playing a crucial part, therefore, in widening participation in sport.

At the lunch, chaired by Lord Pendry, MPs reflected with us on what BIG had learnt from investing £750 million in our New Opportunities for PE and Sports programme (NOPES), £90 million through the Community Sport Initiative, hundreds of millions through our open programmes, £160 million through our Well-being programme and so on. NOPES has funded more than 3000 facilities across the UK and secured significant increases in community usage of school-based facilities.

It was particularly good to hear Head of PE, Martyn Rock describe how his school, Stafford Sports College, had seen its facilities revolutionised by BIG funding. Being a former education official myself, it was particularly heart warming to hear him describe how, at every stage of the application and grant management process, encounters with Big Lottery Fund staff had been unfailingly constructive and supportive. “That’s not always the case in education when you deal with people in authority,” he said!

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