Last week was dominated by an almost continuous stream of meetings about the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Because of the financial position that we have inherited, it is going to be incredibly tough, and cuts to sport’s exchequer funding are inevitable. Set against this we remain committed, as a government, to increasing sport’s share of the National Lottery to 20%.
However, last week was not all about finances. On Monday, I met representatives from The Special Olympics at Downing Street with the Prime Minister. They are about to compete in the 2010 Special Olympics Summer Games in Poland and the sense of excitement and expectation was there for all to see.
On Tuesday, we hosted an informal ‘get together’ for all the Chairs and Chief Executives of our Summer Olympic Sports accompanied by UK Sport and the British Olympic Association. Although there is an understandable sense of anxiety about the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, they understand that preserving elite athlete funding and the whole sport plans are this government’s top priority and, reassuringly, everyone seemed to understand, and accept, that savings are necessary to restart the nation’s finances.
Wednesday brought an interview with some of the top athletes in women’s sport. I appeared in front of a board comprising, amongst others, Baroness Grey Thompson, Dame Kelly Holmes, Claire Connor, Jennie Price, Chief Executive of Sport England, and Sue Tibballs Chief Executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation. They pointed out that a quarter of sport governing bodies have no women at all on their board, which is an utterly unacceptable state of affairs.
Grassroots sport was also very much in my mind last week. I met the Major Spectator Sports Division of the Central Council for Physical Recreation to discuss a wide range of issues across sport, and Sport Relief to discuss 2012. They have raised over £40 million for good causes and I want to help them capitalise on the London Olympic effect for their next campaign in 2012.
The only sad note of the week, apart from Kent’s relegation from the top tier of cricket’s county championship, was the retirement of Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. I was in the crowd for his incredible spell of bowling at The Oval in 2005 that, along with Kevin Pieterson’s hundred, bought home the 2005 Ashes. He was our best all rounder since Sir Ian Botham and a great character. I wish him every success in the future.