By David Brenchley
Sport England announced that they are to allocate £10 million of National Lottery funding to an initiative aimed at getting more women from disadvantaged communities, and women caring for children, playing sport.
The scheme was announced at a bustling Lilian Baylis Community Hub in Lambeth, South East London, by Minister for Sport Gerry Sutcliffe, Women’s Sport & Fitness Foundation (WSFF) and Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis.
While outlining the plans, Sport England chief executive Jenny Price said: “The reason we are doing that is straight-forward. If you look at the statistics they tell you a simple message: women do a lot less sport than men.”
The announcement was made in an apt location; the centre itself was previoulsy a near-derelict school but has been turned into a vibrant sporting community hub.
With such a variety of sport showcased at the centre, including boxing, football and netball, heptathlete Lewis declared: “If they had only told me that there was going to be a lot of activities I would have put my kit on and joined you.
“It gives me great pleasure seeing young people demonstrating their sport and things that are passionate to them. Over the years I have watched women’s sport take off and, now, there has never been a better time to participate,” the former Birchfield Harrier added.
Following on from Lewis’ point that there has never been a better time to participate in sport, Sutcliffe added: “We are entering a wonderful decade of sport, we started this year with the Twenty20 World Cup [which the England women’s team won] and every year we have a major event in the UK.”
This is, of course, in the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games which will take place in the capital and the MP for Bradford South believes that ‘it is an opportunity for sport to play a part in people’s lives.’
There is a big difference in the amount of females participating in sport, compared to males, and around 16 per cent of girls over the age of 16 do no sport at all. Price, though, believes that “lots of those women and girls would love to do sport but they do not have the right place, opportunities or enough time.”
In order to do this Sue Tibballs, Chief Executive of WSFF, feels that the scheme must ‘understand the women’s market.
“It is about recognising that you cannot deliver sport in a ‘one size fits all way’; you can’t just say that the door is open for anyone to come in. Women grow up with a completely different experience of sport,” Tibballs explained.
The scheme will first be employed in Lambeth but will contribute to the national sporting scene in the long run and Sutcliffe encouraged the youngsters at the event by saying: “We want you to go out there and profess the message that people can be involved in sport at whatever level.”
photos Janos Schmidt†