HC Deb 01 March 1999 vol 326 cc535-7W
Mr. Caplin

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what progress he has made on the establishment of the UK Sports Institute. [74117]

Mr. Chris Smith

The English Sports Council is announcing today, Monday 1 March, with the Government's support, the United Kingdom Sports Institute's (UKSI's) network of centres around England. The English Sports Council is prepared to commit, in principle, up to £100 million of Lottery funding to help British athletes achieve future gold medals.

The provision of Lottery funding for the English network will, of course, remain a matter for the English Sports Council to decide on the basis of a full and proper assessment of suitable applications from the sites that have been identified, in line with the Policy and Financial Directions I have given them, and in line with advice from the UK Sports Council and UK Sports Institute when operational.

The Government are determined to ensure our leading sportsmen and women—now and in the future—have access to the very best sporting facilities and services to enable them to compete successfully against the world's top athletes. We have listened to their needs and concerns. The package announced today will deliver the right blend of local provision and central co-ordination. This is what sports want, it is what competitors want and I am confident we have got it right.

The network centres are central to delivering the UKSI's objectives. They will enable our sportsmen and women to have access to the most modern training facilities and methods in the world, near where they live. Competitors will in future be able to spend more time and energy in improving performance and less on struggling to find and get to the right place to train.

Facilities, expertise, resources and services will be sport specific and delivered where, when and how athletes want them. All sports will be able to make use of the facilities and services. There will be a mix of private and public investment. The public investment will be through Lottery funding. The UKSI will concentrate on the Olympic sports and those minority sports lacking a commercial element.

The UKSI will consist of a Headquarters in Sheffield, already announced, supported by network centres across England in 10 areas of England, as well as centres in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England these will be at Bath University, Bedford, Bisham Abbey, Crystal Place, Gateshead, Holme Pierrepont/Loughborough, Lilleshall, Manchester, Southampton University and Sheffield. These will be supported by regional sites of expertise; ensuring all best practice is harnessed for the benefit of athletes and coaches through a consortium approach.

The investment of £100 million of Lottery Funds into the network in England brings with it a commitment from the sports in the programme to make use of the services and facilities for a significant amount of time. Therefore the Sports Councils will expect the commitment to the network by the governing bodies of sport to be linked to the Lottery funding they receive through the World Class Performance Plans they produce.

Each of the networks in England, plus those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will have access to specialist science and medical advice from the UKSI's headquarters in Sheffield. The HQ will also co-ordinate research and other athlete services and training support to ensure that the UK's top athletes, wherever they may live, have access to the very best facilities and services through UKSI, with an emphasis on making the facilities easily accessible throughout the country. A separate announcement has already been made in respect of Scotland.

The UKSI's headquarters in Sheffield is also moving forward and announcements will be made at each key stage, as appointments are made and designs finalised.

Today's announcement adds another dimension to the extensive support now being provided to the UK's leading athletes. It will build on the success of the World Class performance programme and the English Sports Council's recent announcement extending this Lottery support to programmes for World Class Start and World Class Potential.

Sporting success brings with it an enormous sense of pride. Pride for the individual competitor; pride for those close to them; and pride for those of us who support the endeavours of British athletes. The UKSI is not a quick fix. It is a long term investment in the future performance of British sportsmen and women.

Work has already been undertaken in full consultation with Performance Directors, coaches, athletes and service providers to develop a menu of 40 UKSI services to be delivered directly to athletes by the network. The list has been further refined to indicate those which would be provided from the HQ and those services which must be provided via each of the network locations.

There has always been a commitment to deliver urgently needed support services as soon as they are ready, particularly those that do not currently exist. The athlete personal development programme, ACE UK, will be the first of these launched in May this year.

With the very best facilities, the best coaching, and the best scientific and medical support, I am confident that our top athletes—both those of today and of future generations—will have the best opportunity to turn potential into medals.