UK Sport has “come of age” in its role as the country’s lead agency for high performance sport, according to comments made in a recent House of Commons debate on sport. The agency, now in its tenth year, has the primary role of investing in and supporting the nation’s Olympic and Paralympic ambitions. It received strong support from both sides of the House of Commons for its ‘interventionist’ approach to promoting change and maximizing the impact of public funding, whilst working to help and support sports to compete and succeed on the world stage.
The debate took place last Thursday in Westminster Hall. It was opened by the Minister for Sport Richard Caborn MP who, in describing how the landscape for sport in the UK has now been greatly simplified and improved, praised UK Sport’s “exceptionally good leadership” in creating a high-performance sporting system that “will be the envy of the world in the not-too-distant future.”
Hugh Robertson MP, Shadow Minster for Sport, then made clear his support for UK Sport’s role and activity: “I have genuinely been enormously encouraged by several of the developments that have taken place in elite sport since we won the right to host the 2012 Games…UK Sport has now come of age and found a proper role as the lead agency in distributing money and setting rigorous performance standards. There have been complaints about centralisation, but—perhaps curiously for a Conservative—I entirely support the Government’s approach, because a little rigour and toughness were needed to get the system up and running. The Government took that approach safe in the knowledge that they would be able to take a more hands-off approach once they were satisfied that the correct systems were in place.”
Hugh Robertson then completed his remarks by confirming: “I hope that the Minister will take some confidence, on a cross-party basis, from the fact that I am broadly satisfied with the progress that has been made.”
Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat Spokesman for Sport, also praised the simplification of the sporting system in the UK and acknowledged the vital contribution of elite sporting success.
Commenting on the debate, Sue Campbell, Chair of UK Sport, said: “The fact that politicians from all sides of the House of Commons have acknowledged so positively our role and the work that we are doing supporting the Olympic and Paralympic sports is extremely welcome. Our ambition is to create a world class high performance system in this country, as part of a joined up vision for sport. We are committed to driving change, and we will not shirk from tough action where it is needed, but our goal is unashamedly aspirational: we want to help British sport be the best it can be – we are doing what we do to aid their success and that of their athletes. I think this is becoming increasingly recognized, and positive comments in support of the Minister in last week’s debate are evidence of that fact.”