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YOUNG LONDONERS ARE SPORT-SHY

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Young people in the capital have the lowest participation in sport in the country, the London Assembly reveals in a...
Young people in the capital have the lowest participation in sport in the country, the London Assembly reveals in a report.

Following an investigation into the impact of sport on children's lives, the Assembly's sport committee says that opportunities to use recreation as a 'hook' to connect young people with education, employment and self-development could be a major contribution to tackling health and underachievement.

The report outlines what should be done to encourage children in the capital to become more active. However, this challenge is being hindered by a decline in the number of playing fields in London and opportunities to use facilities - such as cricket nets, tennis courts and outdoor swimming pools - are becoming increasingly limited.

During the investigation, the Committee was told that young people can find sport centres intimidating, costly and difficult to reach on public transport. Many sporting programmes are also struggling for funding to develop activities. Grants for projects in the capital from Sport England, the major sports lottery distributor, are likely to decline in future.

For sport programmes to succeed, they must be tailored to the needs of certain groups, says the report. Taking sport out of recreation centres and into housing estates and community-based venues can encourage young people to exercise more. Better co-ordination and more support are also needed for seamless cooperation between schools, after-school initiatives, health and local authorities, private clubs and regional sporting bodies.

The report highlights how this can be achieved by showcasing, among others, the work of Leyton Orient Community Sports Programme, Football Foundation, Westway Development Fund and amateur and non-contact boxing programmes by the Fitzroy Lodge boxing club and Tony Cesay, an international boxer and ABA National Champion.

The committee believes that the mayor should be giving greater prominence to sport's contribution to the cultura l life of the capital. Assembly members recommend that London's Olympic Bid Company should consider establishing an Olympic Legacy Fund to encourage sporting opportunities for young people.

Meg Hillier, chair of the sport committee, said: 'Young people in London are less physically active than in other parts of the country. When you combine this with the high levels of child poverty in the capital, which often means unhealthy diets, it is crucial that children are given more opportunity and encouragement to get involved. Exercising can be fun and the more tangible health, physical and psychological benefits it can bring should not be underestimated or ignored.'

Notes

1. The report is available here.

2. Members of the culture, sport and tourism committee are: Meg Hillier [chair]; Angie Bray [deputy chair]; Brian Coleman, Len Duvall, Noel Lynch and Mike Tuffrey.

3. The Greater London Authority is run by the mMayor who, in turn,is held to account by the London Assembly.

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