Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, like all noble Lords who have spoken, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for securing this debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, said in her contribution, before this debate some of us had been taking part in another debate about the arts and their role in regenerating communities. I start linking those by declaring an interest in both those subjects. I am currently chairing an inquiry in Manchester funded by the Whitbread Foundation, whose terms of reference are,

It is important to remember in generating interest among our young people in becoming citizens of the country that the contribution that both the arts and sport have to make to that process should be linked and encouraged.

The five-year plan for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport "Living Life to the Full" includes the sentence:

Of the two phrases that the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, used about the game plan of increasing international success or increasing participation, I will concentrate on increasing participation, because that is what I am looking at in particular in the context of Manchester. I confirm the remarkable change that has come about in Manchester as a result of the Commonwealth Games. It has provided an impetus and an inspiration for Manchester that is tangible and touches many things other than sport.

In another place on 20 July 1910, Winston Churchill, summing up a debate on prison estimates, urged everyone to have,

The only raw material that every nation has in common is its people. Woe betide it if it does not do everything that it can to identify, nurture and develop the talents of its people. By that I mean all its people. Nowhere is that process more appropriate than in sport.

The subject of the debate is "sporting excellence". What Manchester has done about that has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry. I should like to refer to the deliberate effort of Manchester City Council and Manchester Leisure to start a process whereby individuals could have talent identified in the community or at school that could be taken forward to international level. That came up with an idea of the talent identification being matched by provision in 11 sports, up to and including international level, because it was backed up by mentors or experts at all levels and backed up by facilities. In other words, the marriage of facilities and
16 Jun 2005 : Column 1387
facilitators at all levels enabled each of them to be accommodated. Particularly important in that were a large number of sports clubs, which had a role wider than providing the sports facility, because they provided a social context in which the people taking part developed relationships among themselves that went outside and beyond the playing field.

Having succeeded in that, they have continued the process in two areas, first in leisure and adventure activities in parks, making canoeing and rock climbing and so on available; and secondly in 1995 they moved on to reach those in care and foster homes and those refugees and asylum seekers who were coming into Manchester to make certain that all their talents were identified. Instead of sporting clubs they developed community clubs in which those partaking in those activities could follow that up with social relationships as well.

In addition, to make sure that funding was available to help out and that people did not always have to go into that extraordinary drawn-out procedure of trying to apply for government money—which can take many months—they set up a contingency fund in Manchester so that bright ideas could be instantly financed and sustained, because the one lesson that seems to have come out of all this is the need to break away from annuality in those developments and have three-to-five-year funding to make sure that they be continued.

Among all that there is a remarkable figure whose name has already been mentioned: Geoff Thompson. He was born in Manchester: his father died when he was five, he came to south London with his mother, where, having a Manchester accent, he was picked on by people in south London. We can imagine the result: fighting and activities that are now called anti-social, which ended up with Thompson in a young offender establishment. He there came into contact with a Japanese karate instructor. We now fast forward to Geoff Thompson, captain of the Great Britain gold medal-winning karate team, having developed what he was inspired to do by someone he met in a young offender institution.

He then considered, if sport had been the way that had lifted him out of the trough he was in, what could he do to enable others to do the same. So he formed something called the Youth Charter for Sport, Culture and the Arts and went to look for mentors to go into the hard areas of Manchester to try to encourage people out of it. I first met him in a prison outside Manchester recruiting sportsmen from prison whom he felt would be easily able to relate to the people whom he wished to attract.

We then fast forward a bit further to Geoff Thompson being awarded an MBE for his work in helping to promote the Commonwealth Games. Geoff Thompson is now an agent for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, one hopes building on all those activities in the city, recognised by the people at the bottom who are causing all the trouble as someone who has come there and done it.
16 Jun 2005 : Column 1388

To me that emphasises the importance of role models, and particularly sporting role models among our young. We must not underestimate their potential for weaning people into leading useful, law-abiding and healthy lives with social responsibility. I am fascinated how, in all this process, I find marvellous work being done by Manchester City football club and tremendous work being done by the Bradford Bulls rugby league club among that ethnic cocktail in Bradford. There is also a development by Chelsea, working with Youth at Risk, to develop sport not just as sport itself but also the lessons for life that come from team games, discipline, fitness and integrating with others.

Therefore I feel very much that sporting excellence has a role in developing social responsibility that should not be ignored. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Carter, mention the role of the private sector. I should like to commend him not just for the marvellous work of Sport England but for the work that his regional representatives do around the country. It is helping hugely.

When thinking of social responsibility one can also think of corporate social responsibility and the role that the corporate organisations in communities have in developing those communities. I would like to see in all the programmes and plans that are made the government part including the corporate sector in the partnership of those people who are providing the facilities for helping people through this life.

I believe firmly that the importance of developing sport in local communities is not only what it does for those communities and those who live in them but what it does for the future. That future is pressed on by concentrating on sporting excellence as driving up the standard of everything, so we could say that sporting excellence is a way to community excellence.

3.15 pm

Lord Giddens: My Lords, let me first join the queue and thank my noble friend Lord Pendry for initiating the debate. I must register an interest in that this week I became a member of the board of the Football Foundation; or at least I believe I did. I had something of a misspent youth: when I was at school I played a lot of snooker. In my defence it was in a local temperance hall, but my teacher said, "You'll never get into university".

When I got to university I played even more squash, and my tutor said, "You'll never go on to postgraduate work". When I went on to postgraduate work I chose to write a dissertation on the sociology of sport, which was not the thing to do in those days. I was at the London School of Economics, and if one was at the London School of Economics one studied work, not sport and leisure. My supervisor said, "You'll never get to teach in a university". When I got to teach in a university I sustained the interest in sport that I developed as a graduate student because sport makes a massive difference to people's lives. It matters an awful lot to an awful lot of people.
16 Jun 2005 : Column 1389

We live in a world that is rapidly changing, that is marked by the intersection between the global and the local. Nothing is a clearer exposition of that than sport, especially football. If we look at the last World Cup, the statistics are amazing. If I were to ask noble Lords how many people watched the last World Cup on television, you might not be able to tell me, but the number was 28.8 billion people over the 25 days during which the contest unfolded: four times the population of the world.

The 2002 Cup Final was watched by 1.1 billion people simultaneously: the most-watched event in the whole of human history. I do not know whether one is allowed to tell jokes in the House of Lords, but if I am excommunicated it was very nice to know you all. A man arrives at the gates of heaven and St Peter is waiting for him. He says: "I'm afraid I can't let you in unless you've done something either extraordinarily good or brave". The man reflects and says, "Yes, I did do something brave: I used to be a football referee. I was refereeing an important game between Liverpool and Everton. The score was 0-0; it was at Anfield; there was one minute to go and I gave a penalty against Liverpool at the Kop End". St Peter says, "That was indeed brave. When did this happen?"; and the man says, "Three minutes ago".

Sport is inspirational and aspirational. We cannot say that of many of our activities. That gives sport a fabulous transformative power. In the bulk of what I have to say I would like to discuss how far the transformative power of sport can be harnessed to social objectives and concentrate especially on the connection between sport and social exclusion. If we cannot solve some of the problems of social exclusion, we will not achieve the excellence in sport that this country needs.

It is important to recognise that the Government have been active on that front as have been a number of other voluntary organisations. In 1999, a study was carried out by the University of Loughborough on sport and social exclusion. It was commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and was fastened on to by the Social Exclusion Unit in No. 10. It became the basis of PAT 10—Public Action Team 10—which came up with a range of important proposals for utilising sport as a means of regenerating communities and overcoming social divisions. One also has to mention the communities action programme that Sport England has initiated.

Social exclusion is not the same as poverty. It is a better concept than poverty, because poverty is only one form of social exclusion. Social exclusion is whatever separates us from the mainstream of social life. I would like to comment briefly on three areas of social exclusion in relation to the role of sport. One is economic differences. Poorer people in this country participate far less in sport than more affluent people. The second is gender differences, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Monro. Women participate less in sporting and physical activities in the UK than men, which is not true in some other countries. The third is the question of most of us sitting or sleeping here—
16 Jun 2005 : Column 1390
older people. Older people also fare poorly in sporting statistics in this country. Only 21 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women in this country do the recommended 30 minutes of exercise, four days a week, which is an appalling statistic.

Briefly, what can one do in those three areas? On the role of sport in regenerating communities and overcoming social divisions, the Government must recognise—as must anyone involved in the administration of sport, such as my noble friend Lord Carter—that sport often accentuates social divisions. It represents wider social divisions. To say that sport can simply and easily overcome them is disingenuous and false. I spent a lot of my life in Cambridge, which is radically divided in terms of sports facilities. The colleges have an amazing range of grounds for all kinds of sports. On the other side of town, you have a few recreation grounds for the whole of the rest of the town.

We know that sport is divisive, too. If you are a Tottenham supporter, who do you hate most? You should know if you come from north London. We were all brought up to hate either the Arsenal or Tottenham depending on which side of the fence we were on. Those communities that are closest often tend to have most animosity, so sport divides as well as integrates.

Nevertheless, we know that sport can play a major role in community regeneration. The work of PAT 10 and Sport England is important on that. We have learnt that sport—like the arts, discussed this morning—has to be integrated with community development programmes. You cannot simply have sport as an add-on factor. To have a positive effect, you have to use sport and what I described as its aspirational and inspirational qualities in direct conjunction with a range of other programmes.

By now, we know how that can be successful. For example, the Leyton Orient community sports scheme works in Tower Hamlets and a couple of other deprived communities. It has been very successful, because the people involved have not just sent one or two footballers down for the odd Sunday afternoon when they are not fully employed. They have been involved in a detailed and continuous way with leaders and ordinary people in the community. They speak regularly to teachers, doctors, business leaders and many others in the local community. You must engage in a positive way with the whole community.

What about gender divisions, which are so important to sporting activity and the health of the nation? I looked at some material on the United States, which is really interesting compared to the UK. The United States has a significant organisation in its centre for research on girls and women in sport. I do not think that we have something wholly analogous here, but we probably should. The organisation is practical as well as intellectual. In the United States—not wholly because of that organisation—you have a massive surge in women's participation in sport and physical activities, so that the statistics there look very different from those here. There, more women than men take part in sport and physical activity—55 million women compared to 43 million men.
16 Jun 2005 : Column 1391

We should aim for the same thing. There are problems, because class division again expresses itself through sport. Poor women in the United States are especially subject to obesity and other illnesses associated with lack of physical activity. There is a major class division to be overcome there, as in this country. If we cannot overcome such divisions, we will not be able to mobilise the power of sport.

Finally, I turn to older people, including most of us sitting here. A lot of discussion of older people in this country has been about pensions and, in many of them, older people are treated as a problem. Why should we not treat older people as a solution? In our own lives, why should we not treat ageing as a positive process, not just a negative one? Of course ageing is a physical phenomenon and is, in some degree, inescapable. However, studies of ageing recently are extremely interesting. They show that, on the latest estimate, about 40 per cent of the ageing process in the body is the result of not taking exercise and the accumulation of bodily fat that results.

Fauja Singh started running aged 81. He ran his first London Marathon aged 89, and has since run five of them. He is well into his 90s. Last weekend, he was due to be running in a relay marathon in Edinburgh. His team of five people had a total age of 400 years. Whether they won the event, I do not know.

I come into the House quite a few days and see the coat hooks, which I think remind us all so much of our school days. We are all older people. I would like to come into the House in two years from now and see far more tracksuits than sticks hanging on the hooks, and I would like to see that to be as true of noble Baronesses as of noble Lords.

3.27 pm

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page