The rising cost of taking part in sport for children and parents was the focus of a BBC Radio Scotland discussion this morning with presenter Kaye Adams.
Observatory for Sport in Scotland CEO David Ferguson was invited to share the OSS insight to barriers to sport for children, including cost, and how these affect participation trends. David cited research produced for the OSS by Professor Tess Kay and Nick Rowe in outlining how poverty and inequalities had become the main barrier to sport participation in Scotland in recent years, and how the rising cost of facilities were contributing to the ongoing decline in adolescent children and young people taking part in sport.
The debate was sparked by Twitter comments by former Scotland football striker Kevin Kyle, who was shocked by the rising costs of enabling his own children to take part in sport and responses from other parents.
Parent Miranda Adderley admitted that her 20-year-old daughter Georgia could not have become the top Scottish squash star she now is, ranked in the top 100 in the world, without significant parental support and funding that helped her to receive coaching and participate in tournaments across the country. She agreed that sport now had a clear divide along lines of financial means and that this had implications for the nation’s health and wellbeing.
Andy Burns, secretary of West Park United FC in Glasgow, explained that his 41-year-old club provided weekly football to over 600 children, but cost over £150,000 per year to run, with £105,000 needed simply to hire community facilities from Glasgow City Council. Despite the club relying almost wholly on volunteers, the West Park membership fees for players range from £15 to £43 per month, to enable the club to function and provide weekly football.
David outlined the support the OSS is providing to the Scottish Government, with research and evidence around the Scottish picture, but also on how other European countries are dealing with the same issues. While investment in community sport and leisure has reduced eyar on year in Scotland over the past two decades, it has risen in more active European countries where governments have invested in sport to tackle wider societal physical and mental health issues. He said:
‘The [Scottish] Government is also very keen and we’re very supportive of them, and are working with them, to look at solutions here. I think there is a recognition that more has to be done to tackle the costs of sport, and challenges of poverty.”
Listen to the 20-minute discussion here and share your views – and your experience of the cost of children’s sport – in the Comments section below.