Bright new era for sport and leisure

SPORTS bodies from across the Borders will come together in Galashiels on Sunday to begin to plot a bright new era for sports and leisure facilities in the region.

Scottish Borders Council (SBC), the Borders Sport and Leisure Trust (BSLT) and Jedburgh Leisure Facilities Trust (JLFT) have organised a unique facilities conference to be staged at the Borders College campus from 9am to 3.30pm in an effort to allow those involved in sports and leisure in the Borders to play a central role in creating a new strategy up to 2020 and beyond.

The event will also include a specific Berwickshire workshop.

Sportscotland chief executive Stewart Harris and local internationalists Gregor Townsend and John Collins will join over 100 delegates from around the region at a conference that it is hoped will become an annual event, designed to inform, prioritise and monitor sports facility development across the region.

Graham Garvie, SBC’s executive member for sport, culture and community learning, explained: “This conference is important to the development of a facilities strategy that can take sport and leisure in the Borders forward despite the difficult financial climate we are operating in.

“It needs all sports to work together and to work with the organisations involved in funding, building and managing the facilities like never before.

“That is the key to success in the modern world – that is what lies behind the excellent facilities we are seeing being provided in other parts of Scotland and the UK.

“We have already started the process and sought an independent view of the region through Kit Campbell Associates and that has stimulated a lot of debate and provided us with ideas. What we need now is the central involvement of Borders people, those involved in sports and leisure, whether administrators, participants, users or fundraisers, who can help us to formulate and drive the strategy over the next ten to 20 years.”

Due to limited space delegates have been invited to represent various parts of sport and leisure in the hope that it covers all areas, but there are also follow-ups planned.

The conference will take the form of workshops aimed at debating the priorities for sports facilities, the ability of sports to work together in shared facilities, the balance between rural and centrally-located facilities and funding and management proposals.

The morning workshops will be based around sports and the afternoon workshops split geographically with a specific Berwickshire forum to focus on the future make-up of the district’s facilities.

Tony Taylor, the BSLT chairman, added: “This conference has the potential to create a new, vibrant future for facilities right across the Borders.

“It is crucial that the people involved with sport and leisure in the Borders, and who are working hard to develop and drive it, take a central role in creating this new strategy and driving it. The organisations behind the conference pledge our commitment to taking the ideas forward and managing them, but no strategy will work efficiently without the Borders people taking responsibility for it and making it succeed.”

Mr Townsend commented: “I have been fortunate to experience some terrific sports facilities in England, France, South Africa and elsewhere, and I have no doubt about the impact the right facilities have on increasing the numbers of people involved in sport and healthy living, and also the skills of the people looking to develop into elite sportsmen and women.

“This conference is huge for the Borders and I hope that we will see it provide a launchpad for a new sports facilities strategy that people across the Borders will buy into and help to take forward over the next ten years.”