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1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on Sport

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on sport, made during an interview held on Wednesday 24th July 1996.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why he was planning a sports academy].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the British nation is a sports loving nation. It likes to see its athletes win, delighted at the silver medal overnight, it would like to see a lot more medals from the Olympic Games. Absolute delight across the country when Tim Henman did so well, when the Test Team win, when the Rugby Team win, with that marvellous soccer win we had against the Dutch just a few weeks ago. It lifts the whole nation, we love sport. I would like our sport to be as good, if not better than any other nation in the world. And the purpose of the British Academy of Sport is to provide elite training, coaching, research into sporting injuries at a level better than you can find anywhere else. And I hope that by developing that excellence at the top it will filter down with the other changes we are making to improve both the quality and the quantity of sport at all levels in this country.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why it had taken so long to get to this point].

PRIME MINISTER:

We didn’t have the lottery. Sports and the arts have always lost out in government over the last 30 years, whomsoever has been in government, to social security, pensions, defence and matters of that sort. So I invented the lottery to provide a guaranteed amount of money for sport, to improve sport, and the arts for that matter, and other issues. So as a result of that we now can look forward to having something like 300 million pounds a year for as far ahead as we can see devoted to sport. That is going to revolutionise sport and it has only happened because I invented, and this government passed, the British lottery. So we now have an opportunity to develop sport in the way we are seeking to do. And one of the developments will be the British Academy, but only one, it is much wider than that of course.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how he could get youngsters into sport given that school playing fields had been sold, and how that talent could be developed].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think that is a very important part of the sporting strategy, and that is what we are dealing with at the moment. Firstly, as far as selling off playing fields is concerned, that is going to stop because we have made the Sports Council a statutory consultee, they will not permit sports fields to be sold unless there is such a surplus of sporting facilities at a school that it is just unnecessary. So you can expect to see the end of sports fields being sold off, and I am very pleased about that. We have also done a deal with British Coal that will preserve a lot of sporting opportunities, mainly in the north, that otherwise might have gone. That also will be announced this morning.

Of course a good deal of the lottery money will go into sport in schools. Many schools have already applied for lottery money - for cricket nets, for sports halls, for football pitches - and they have been awarded grants and we will be helping them to do that. We are also seeking to increase the amount of sport that is played in schools, develop better links between schools and clubs so that facilities can be used outside school hours and there is better training, that is good for the clubs and I think it is good for the schools, and develop a ladder of opportunity in sport from the very youngest people right up, if they are good enough, to the British Academy of Sport. I think we are going to see sport revolutionised as a result of these changes and I am delighted about it.