Fenland’s sports clubs are under-funded, MP Barclay claims

Steve Barclay MP.

Steve Barclay MP. - Credit: Archant

Fenland’s sports clubs are not adequately funded, MP Steve Barclay has claimed.

Wisbech tennis club

Wisbech tennis club - Credit: Archant

The North East Cambs MP challenged Helen Grant, parliamentary under-secretary of state for culture, media and sport, about the wide discrepancy in sports funding between cities and rural communities.

Wisbech Tennis Club hosted a Tennis Taster session for all Juniors aged between 8 and 15.

Wisbech Tennis Club hosted a Tennis Taster session for all Juniors aged between 8 and 15. - Credit: Archant

Since 2010, North East Cambridgeshire has received on average £120,000 a year from Sport England from its annual budget of £322.6 million - this represents just 0.03 per cent of Sport England’s budget.

March's young fighters compete at The Braza Club

March's young fighters compete at The Braza Club - Credit: Archant

Sport England has 11 different grant schemes but Fenland’s clubs have never had a grant under nine of them.

Mr Barclay says Wisbech Lawn Tennis Club, Coates Athletic Football Club and March Amateur Boxing Club are among the organisations missing out on crucial funding.

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Wisbech Tennis Club has 130 members yet it only has grass courts and no lights, so if it rains, play must be suspended.

But they have twice had funding bids for more courts rejected.

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He said: “The Lawn Tennis Association advised the club in 2012 that its bid for two courts and lights was too modest, and that to win LTA support it had to put in a bid for four courts.

“Sport England then changed the funding of the LTA, which led the LTA to withdraw its support.

“The club then put in a second bid. It still followed the LTA’s advice of four courts, but took out the lights. However, Sport England turned it down.

“The club was therefore penalised a second time for following a national governing body’s advice on securing funding from another body, Sport England, which strikes me as a pretty illogical process.

“A third bid is now proposed for two courts with lights. This means the club has already spent £8,000 on planning and other things to get to exactly where it was at the very start.

“This is a sport in a growing market town with massive levels of immigration from eastern Europe. Tennis helps to bring people together in the way that sport does at its best.”

Cash-strapped Coates Athletic needs major funding so it can build changing rooms.

Mr Barclay said: “Coates has teams of all ages and 11 acres of playing fields, but no changing facilities.

“I welcome the fact that Sport England confirmed funding for the club, which coincidentally came through last week, but unless the funding comes from the other bodies, there will be insufficient money to deliver the facilities.”

Forty children train at March Amateur Boxing Club three or more nights a week yet it has never received a grant from the Amateur Boxing Association.

Mr Barclay said: “As taxpayers, we hand over £5.8 million to boxing, yet only £1million of that goes to the clubs directly.

“The chief executive of the body is on a six-figure salary, yet the volunteers at March boxing have to pay a fee to the ABA.

“The Government are quite rightly allocating significant funds to the boxing body, but the kids who are training in the club and not causing trouble and the volunteers are not getting the support that they need.”

Mr Barclay made a passionate plea for his constituency not to continue to be overlooked.

He said: “We are talking about volunteers in our community groups doing what we all want them to, yet the system is not getting the money to them in communities such as mine.

“Wisbech tennis club, Coates and March boxing club need support so that we can deliver on our shared objective of getting more people playing sport in rural communities such as North East Cambridgeshire.”

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