Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

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 if it was the case that little had been achieved in sport over the previous year].

PRIME MINISTER:

No. A great deal has happened since then both in schools and beyond schools and what we shall be able to do today after a great deal of work in the last year, is to actually launch the prospectus for the British Academy of Sport and that will be backed by around £100 million of lottery funding and the purpose of that is to provide an academy that will provide the best training, best coaching, best sports medicine and best sports science for elite sportsmen and women including I should say elite disabled sportsmen. This is something I believe we have needed in this country for many years and never had before.

What I will be saying this morning is that we would like bids in to build and prepare this academy by October. I want an announcement in January and I want this radical change to British sport put in hand as soon as possible.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if sport in school was more important than funding the elite].

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely I would and I mentioned the British Academy of Sport because that is at the pinnacle, but if we really wish to spread both a love of sport and a participation in sport, we need to develop excellence at school level and I will have a good deal to say about that this morning.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there was a problem in that half of schools didn’t provide two hours of PE and sport a week].

PRIME MINISTER:

That is what we are seeking to change. One of the things we will be doing - I will come specifically to schools in a moment - will be creating a new category of specialist colleges for sport who will be able to select some of their pupils by sporting ability and there will be specific funding both from the private sector and for specialist colleges which will enable schools to become specialist colleges.

As far as sport in school is concerned, we are trying firstly to ensure that there is a minimum - a minimum I emphasise - of two hours sport a week but that of course isn’t sufficient and in addition to that we have started to build up much better links between schools and sporting clubs so that school facilities and club facilities can be mutually used outside school hours.

What I would like to provide is a ladder of sporting opportunity for young people of all abilities, not just the elite, from the moment they get into school, through school into a club life after school and develop for the first time a proper link between school sport and club sport. I think it has been undervalued in our national life. Sport I think is good in its own right, it provides people with a love for life and I am very keen to see it take its proper place in our national life.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how schools could afford PE teachers and also about the 2,600 school playing fields currently under threat].

PRIME MINISTER:

I am glad you raised those points because we have strengthened the safeguards on sports grounds and playing fields so that they stay as sports grounds and playing fields.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the 2,600 playing fields would be sold].

PRIME MINISTER:

No, they won’t be sold I think in most cases. There may be one or two odd cases where there is such an absurd surplus of sports fields that they will, but generally the sports councils will become a statutory consultee and they will need to be persuaded that it should be sold and they won’t easily be persuaded so they should stay in schools.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about cuts to sports council funding].

PRIME MINISTER:

The sports councils are getting a lot more money because what has happened with the lottery of course and one of the purposes for it. I agree with your point about money for sport and indeed for the arts over recent years, but they were never going to get the money they needed when they had to compete against the rest of the education system, pensions, social security, defence and other matters and that was really the reason for the lottery.

The lottery will now provide, when it is in full flood, around £300 million a year for sport, £300 million for the arts, £300 million for heritage, for charities and for the millennium fund.

Contemplate what we could have done if we had had £300 million a year for sport over the last ten years. It would have revolutionised sport. Well that is what we will have over the next ten years and a good deal of that will go to schools.