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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

‘It’s not just about winning medals’

The Chaplain for Sport has joined Paralympic gold medal winner Baroness Grey-Thompson in urging ministers to look at a funding model for sport which “goes beyond just winning medals”.

At last week’s question time, the independent crossbench peer warned that “inactivity” was costing Britain £20 billion a year.

Lady Grey-Thompson said funding cuts on some sports would “destroy” participation and prevent them making the Paralympic games again.

“Isn’t it time to look at a funding model that guarantees an opportunity to participate but goes beyond just winning medals?” she asked. “Doesn’t our nation deserve more than that?”

The Chaplain for Sport, Mgr Vladimir Felzmann, echoed her sentiments, suggesting that UK Sport – the UK Government’s organisation for directing the development of sport and Sport England – part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – work together to provide youngsters with the correct facilities.

“UK Sports funds elite sport, Sport England is there to fund and encourage grassroots sport. The two should work in close partnership,” he said. Young people are motivated by brilliant role models but they need the facilities and encouragement at sports’ grass-roots; where they currently are,” he added.

Meanwhile, Culture, Media and Sport Minister Lord Ashton of Hyde said this was a “very valid question for debate”.

However, he added: “I’m not sure I agree that winning medals doesn’t encourage participation. After each Olympics when we do well there is a great resurgence in interest in sport.”

Medals weren’t the only thing that mattered, “but they do matter a lot to a lot of people,” he told peers.

Mgr Felzmann, who is also CEO of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, said: “Parents need to know that belonging to a sports club gives their children a sense of belonging, a sense of identity, which can keep them off the streets and crime and away from radicalisation. How many successful athletes readily admit it was their parental taxi service that made their training and thus success possible?”

He shared a poem he learned at the age of seven, when he arrived in England in 1946, which read: “Good better best, I never let them rest, until my good is better, and my better best.”

Picture: Wheelchair athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson holding her gold Paralympic medals with other medal-winning competitors. (Andrew Parsons PA Wire/PA Images).