ALBA - SPORTS SUBMISSION

-- Sport --

Rapport de Celtic League
Porte-parole: Cathal Ó Luain

Publié le 3/11/08 1:23 -- mis à jour le 00/00/00 00:00

The Celtic League, in close association with the Alba Branch, has contributed to the current sports consultation being undertaken by the Scottish Parliament.

The consultation, 'Pathways into Sport', is looking for written evidence from «all interested parties, organisations and individuals on a variety of different topics related to children and sport, community facilities and coaching». The consultation, which ends on 21st November 2008, represents the second phase of an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee.

Over the last 12 months, the Celtic League has campaigned on a number of different areas related to sport in Alba/Scotland, including campaigning for the word 'Alba' to be written on the Scottish rugby kit, promoting the Scottish sport of Shinty, campaigning against the singing of racist and sectarian chants and songs at football matches and supporting separate Scottish teams in all areas.

Further details about the consultation and how to apply can be found by following the links below:

Sa Ghaidhlig :

(voir le site)

In English:

(voir le site)

In the recent past, Scotland has come out towards bottom on UK and European health scales for such conditions as coronary heart disease, obesity and cancer. Factors that have been used to explain this include poor diet, smoking, a lack of sunshine and a lack of exercise. Of course high levels of poor health afflict peoples in the other Celtic countries too, especially in Cymru/Wales and Kernow/Cornwall.

The Scottish Parliament, through a series of initiatives, like free school meals and improving sports facilities and access, are attempting to remedy the potentially catastrophic poor health trend.

The Celtic League's consultation can be found in full below:

«Our response includes some general comments, and other observations, followed by specific answers to the questions provided. Please note that despite our name, we are not connected to either Celtic F.C. or to the Celtic League rugby tournament (alias »Magners League«) – our remit is far wider than sport.

It is no exaggeration to state that Scotland and the Scots have been at the forefront of international sports since the beginning. The Scottish contribution to world sport includes golf, curling, rugby sevens and, indirectly, ice hockey. Scots were also responsible for the first international matches in sports as diverse as association football, rugby union and field hockey. This is a sporting heritage that most countries would »die for«, and yet it is barely acknowledged. There is a long list of such achievements – for example, how many Scots are aware that a Glaswegian, Alexander Watson Hutton, introduced soccer to Argentina? Scots have even played a role in sports barely played here – for example, they helped found some of the oldest Aussie rules clubs, including the Essendon Bombers, in Melbourne . Perhaps if more people in Scotland were aware of such things, it would not only be excellent for their self-confidence, but it would also induce them to take a greater interest in sports.

The Celtic League supports the existence of separate governing bodies for all sports in Scotland. Scotland should continue to have its own leagues and national teams and we oppose all attempts to abolish them. When Scottish sports come under an all-British banner, it is almost always detrimental to them – in this regard, we can note the example of Chris Hoy, a world class cyclist from Scotland, who was forced to move to Manchester to continue his training. On the other hand, if he played a sport governed at Scottish level, such as football or rugby, he would not have been required to move hundreds of miles away.“ something which is inevitably disruptive to a person's education and/or development. We feel that the 2012 Olympics, hosted in London, has already diverted all too many resources away from Scotland, which would be better spent here. The lack of a Scottish Olympic team only exacerbates this situation.

We see shinty as an integral part of Scottish culture, and worthy of preferential treatment, as it is one of our national sports. Yet shinty is disgracefully under funded, and is being allowed to die on its feet. Few schools, even in the Highlands teach shinty, and it receives little or no coverage in the national media. If helmets and guards were made compulsory, as in ice hockey, this would also resolve some of the safety concerns. We consider shinty a national sport, not a regional one, because its former range took in almost all the country“ a fact that very few people are aware. Not only do records come from Skye, Strathspey, Argyll etc, where we might expect them, but Caithness, Galloway, Glasgow, East Lothian, the Borders, Edinburgh and Fife amongst others. (We do not have space to list all of the references here, but they can be supplied on request.) Why then is shinty so neglected at a national level?

A few decades ago, Monty Python could joke »Scots folk dinna know how to play the tennis to save their lives«. How times change! The rise of Andy Murray, and his brother Jamie, is no accident, but the result of years of intensive training. Unusually, they were able to remain in their home town of Dunblane, but it is largely due to their mother's investment that they are so successful. They should be held up as a example of what commitment to our young prospects can achieve. A large number of Scots have a new found interest in tennis thanks to Andy Murray. On the other hand, another racquet sport provides us with a more sobering story. In the case of squash, Peter Nicol defected to England in 2001, because of the lack of facilities here. As with Chris Hoy's journey to Manchester, this is testament to the British Government's neglect of Scotland, in sport and other matters, both before and after devolution.

What level of sport and physical activity should be provided by primary and, separately, secondary schools?

A regular dose of physical activity should be provided on a daily basis for children at both primary and secondary schools. Each physical activity does not have to be particularly long (even though it should be more sustained at secondary level), but children should begin to associate physical activity as part of their everyday life.

Children should be exposed to a wide range of sports as well. Some schools focus far too much on football, at the expense of other games. This is a problem reflected in the sports coverage of the Scottish media. It stands to reason that different personalities and physical types will suit different sports. A child who is poor at one sport, may do extremely well in another – but only if they are given the opportunity to choose. If they are given a limited variety, on the other hand, they may give up sport altogether, and lose self-confidence.

A possible link between the rise in anti-social behaviour, and the decline in physical exercise should be studied. Young people are naturally energetic, and if they do not put a lot of that energy into sport, it may well end up being used in ways that the rest of us would not appreciate.

Is a lack of the right type of facilities in schools compromising sports education?

This is not necessarily so, but there should be appropriate equipment available for children to play a wide range of sports, especially traditional Scottish sports e.g. shinty.

Who has the responsibility for ensuring that there is adequate sports education in the school system?

The Department for Schools and Skills and the Department for Communities and Sport should work together on the provision of adequate sports education. Children should begin to see that physical activity is not just something that happens at school, but is something that can and should be built into their everyday life. This can only be done with work in the community.

Are there enough of the right facilities in schools to deliver appropriate levels of sports education?

As stated above, there should be appropriate equipment available for the children to play a wide range of sports, especially traditional Scottish sports, but there should also be more time made available for children to participate in sports education.

For many years, some local authorities have been selling off playing fields to raise money, and these have been rarely replaced. The problems associated with PFI have not helped either. The alternative facilities outside the school system are frequently either poor, or too highly priced.

Sadly, many urban spaces have signs forbidding ball games, even where these are not called for. This makes it difficult for people to have a »kick around« etc, and means that they either are forced to pay for facilities, or are discouraged from physical activity, or worse, end up engaging in anti-social behaviour.

How can the links between schools and sports clubs be improved?

The links between schools and sports clubs should be strengthened, by encouraging them to work more closely together. There is much experience within sports clubs that should be better utilised by schools. The sports club facilities could also be utilised by schools and this could be one of their funding criteria. At the same time, sports clubs should take more of an active part in schools, so that children are encouraged to join a local sports club outside of school hours.

Football clubs should be making more of an effort against sectarianism, and should not only be stamping it out in their stadiums, but also in schools. We do not believe that children should learn to hate one another for coming from a different religious background, nor that the thuggish elements in certain fan bases are a good example for them.

The larger clubs, especially those in the Premier League, are now all too remote from their community roots, because they have become hyper-commercialised. This has caused many fans to turn from active players into passive spectators, including children.

What are the barriers to universal access for children to sport, for example travel costs and the cost of equipment and kit?

Increasing enthusiasm among children to take up a sport or physical activity on a regular basis could be a way to engage children more effectively. This could be done by providing 'sports mentors' for schools and/or children. More visits to schools by professional athletes, where the athlete gives talks about their own experiences and/or takes part in the sports education of pupils. More free/discounted tickets to events/matches should be offered to schools, as well as school visits to various grounds etc.

Community facilities

How effective has the National and Regional Sports Facilities Strategy been in delivering facilities for community use?

Do local authorities have their own community sports facilities strategies? Where such strategies exist what role do community planning partnerships and community health partnerships play in developing those strategies?

We note the success of sports academies in various countries, and summer sports camps for children. While some provision has already occurred for football, there should be a national shinty academy in Strathspey and a national rugby academy in the Borders. Both of these areas are heartlands of the respective games, and the academies would help head off the economic decline they have suffered in recent years

What are the barriers to making better use of school and other facilities by, for example, the wider community and how can such barriers be overcome?

Making sports facilities (including those in schools) more available to use by members of the local community, in a similar way to the way that computer suites in some schools in the UK have to be made available for members of the local community to undertake training. Therefore open access to schools and other facilities in all areas is important.

This of course depends on travel costs and advertising. Sgoil Lionacleit in Benbecula, in the Western Isles, is a superb example of how school and community requirements can be combined in remote areas. The centre includes a school, public library, swimming pool, playing fields, community hall and bar/café.

How can examples of best practice in the provision of facilities be learned from and rolled out on a wider basis?

Best practise should be shared with other schools and sports facilities, with the participation of schools. This can be done through organising joint seminars at a Alba/Scotland level and also at a more international level, which can include best practise being shared with other schools and sports facilities within the other Celtic countries. There could also be internet forums and/or a website for teachers, trainers and children to share good practise and ideas in the provision of sports.

Also different types of sports could be learned and shared with the other Celtic countries e.g not many people in Breizh/Brittany, Kernow/Cornwall, Cymru/Wales would have heard of Shinty. There will be sports in these other Celtic countries that children in Alba/Scotland will not have heard about either e.g. Cornish wrestling, which could be of interest, particularly as Scotland has its own little known form.

Sports facilities should be spread throughout Scotland and not just the Central Belt.

What lessons can be learnt from the way in which community sports facilities are used in other countries?

The best models for Scottish sport are probably to be found in other countries of similar size.

As mentioned above, it maybe worthwhile organising a European seminar in order to share best practise on how community sports facilities are used in other countries, especially by looking at the cases in the other Celtic countries, whose situations are comparable with Scotland. In addition to this it may be worthwhile to look at how community sports facilities are used in some of the autonomous communities in the state of Spain e.g. Catalonia , Galicia and the Basque Country. Denmark, Norway and Sweden would also provide some interesting comparative examples.

On the other end of the scale, we should note the example of Australia. This is obviously a massive country, but one with an extremely scattered population. Nonetheless, all of the Australian states and the Northern Territory have a wide range of facilities, in contrast to the UK, where the vast majority seem to be located in a corridor between Manchester and London. Australians from every region excel in a spectacular variety of sports. From the Australian experience, we can learn that it is better that sports facilities are not over concentrated in Greater Glasgow/ Edinburgh or the Central Belt“ this merely replicates the UK 's deficiencies on a smaller scale.

Coaching

Are there enough coaches and volunteers to support sport in Scotland?

This obviously depends on which sport is being talked about. In the case of football, there are much more than other Scottish sports, and these are well distributed. In the case of shinty, rugby union and cricket, this is extremely dependent on the region – in the big cities, and their regional heartlands, there are, but it would be much more difficult to source them elsewhere.

What are the barriers to more people coaching and volunteering to support sport in Scotland ?

As stated elsewhere, these would include travelling distances, and also the negative image of sport perpetuated by sectarian chants, and violence on and off the sports field. Why would anyone with an Irish family background wish to enter an environment where the Great Famine is treated as a subject for a »humorous« song?

There is also one more particularly delicate matter, which probably puts off many men from coaching children. While all prospective coaches/volunteers should be subjected to background checks and proper safeguards should be in place, the widespread paranoia about child molestation in our society makes the idea of coaching children/adolescents an uncomfortable one for many adult males. The number of cases remains thankfully small, but the »red top« tabloids have helped create a poisonous atmosphere with their coverage of this subject, which has done more harm than good. This is a taboo, but should be addressed.»

J B Moffatt Director of Information Celtic League 30/10/08

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The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues. TEL (UK) 01624 877918 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609 (voir le site)

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