Commons speech and talks with FA boss Greg Dyke and Sports Minister Helen Grant boost MP’s bid to win £250,000 grant to Fenland

Steve Barclay MP

Steve Barclay MP - Credit: Archant

What began in December 2013 with a challenge in the House of Commons by MP Steve Barclay looks likely to culminate in £250,000 being pumped into Fenland to promote sports coaching.

The MP’s year long campaign – that included meeting with sports minister Helen Grant and FA chairman Greg Dyke- is set to deliver the cash to get more people in the Fens playing sport regularly.

Mr Barclay, whose father coached rugby for 39 years “and I have grown up with that”, is now hopeful Sport England is on the verge of recognising the need to improve sport in Fenland.

Earlier this year he won agreement from Sport England for the investment which is now subject to a detailed bid by Fenland District Council setting out how the three year “pathfinder project” will get people into sport.

“The project will be monitored and managed in such a way that it can be replicated in other rural places across England,” said a council spokesman.

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“The pilot project will bring together Fenland District Council, Sport England, Living Sport, the County Sports Partnership and several sport governing bodies.”

Mr Barclay began his campaign in the Commons by pointing out that sport participation in Fenland standards were seven per cent below the national average.

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Throughout last year – at a series of more than a dozen meetings- he hammered home the short fall to ministers and national sporting bodies.

In October he met Greg Dyke and the following month held talks with Sport England at a meeting in Wisbech, followed up with a meeting at the House of Commons with their senior officials.

“We have done a lot of research to find the evidence of participation levels in Fenland, looking too at health outcomes as well,” said Mr Barclay.

He hopes the money will filter through to a wide range of local groups – such as sports clubs and schools- to boost coaching in particular.

“I am very excited about how this funding method will work,” he said. In the past Fenland had categorically not been getting its fair share of support, he said.

The council spokesman added: “At the moment Fenland has one of the lowest participation rates in sport in England. Approximately 25 per cent of adults in the district take part in sport at least once a week compared to the national figure of approximately 35 per cent.”

They hope to submit a bid within two months.

Mike Diaper, Director of Community Sport at Sport England said: “We are excited to be working with a range of partners to develop the sporting opportunities on offer for local people in Fenland.”

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