Cash needed for athletes to attain Olympic dream

TSPL STAFF/David Ferguson/TS Sport'Pic.... Neil Hanna
TSPL STAFF/David Ferguson/TS Sport'Pic.... Neil Hanna

IF Borders youngsters are to get the chance to emulate Peebles show jumper Scott Brash and win Olympic gold medals of their own, then the Scottish Government has to step up to the plate and pledge appropriate funding.

That is the message coming through from those involved in sports provision and management in the Borders this week, following the closing of the hugely successful London 2012 Olympic Games.

Among them was David Ferguson, chief rugby writer for The Scotsman andvice-chairman of Borders Sport and Leisure Trust. He says Team GB’s 65-medal haul from the London games was not due to chance or luck, but from more than a decade’s worth of significant improvements in funding for facilities, coaches and programmes.

“But for Scotland to follow this and give our athletes the chance to win medals in Glasgow in 2014 [Commonwealth Games] and at Rio 2016 [Olympics], there has to be investment in sports facilities, structures and coaches,” Mr Ferguson told us.

“We have a good number of Borders athletes already pushing for the Commonwealth Games and to follow Peebles gold medallist Scott Brash, and Paralympians such as Libby Clegg, and compete in Rio.

“The Borders has a great history of producing sporting talent and it is still doing so. Excellent and willing coaches are still there too, but international sport has risen to incredible levels of competition in the 21st century and the reality at that level is that success comes through investment.

“There is no doubt that we need government funding and I am hoping to hear something positive on a sporting legacy in Scotland from Alex Salmond shortly.”

Helped by sportscotland, the trust has invested around £2million of new money in local facilities, but Mr Ferguson says significant cutbacks in government funding in the past two years, which are forecast to continue, will not help sustain any Olympic legacy.

However, he believes the region is prepared to cope with the expected upsurge in sporting interest in the wake of London 2012.

Under their chief executive, Ewan Jackson, trust staff are already moving on a crucial plan to develop sports hubs in every part of the Borders, with a major sports conference being planned for Galashiels in November.

Mr Ferguson says it follows a similar event staged with SBC last year, and will bring all sports together to plan for the future.

“SBC, sportscotland, the Scottish Government are all working with us on it and we plan to launch new hubs then,” he said. “Our new community sports hub manager, Mark Drummond, is leading that and will be meeting sports clubs, coaches, teachers, administrators and athletes across the region over the next three months to prepare for it.”