The crisis in sport

A FEW years back, Egypt thumped Scotland on home territory. Now a small island in the Atlantic has all but humbled our national football team. Whether it's the Pharaohs or Faroes, the result is humiliation and crisis in sport. Mike Watson, the Sports Minister, is correct when he says the blame should lie with the system and that we have to look to Scandinavia for a lead. At last, the euro is dropping that we have to examine youth development in the context of mass activity, allied to structures that nurture talent carefully. That is dreamland compared to where we are now.

A report on talent identification (page four) highlights the importance of core physical education in primaries as the key to securing basic motor skills that are visibly absent in today's professional footballers. Twenty years ago, Scotland playing Norway or Denmark was considered an easy game. Now we struggle with even the minor Nordic nations.

These highly organised countries have invested in structures that shame a similar-sized country like Scotland. Alternative strategies are needed to replace our traditional reliance on voluntary enthusiasm and good fortune. What role does education have? Ministers are backing a health-driven agenda in the era of the fast food, no activity generation and want whole-school policies to tackle this. Czars for health and fitness are in place and have highlighted the significance of preventative strategies in primary school. It is not the job of schools to produce top athletes: it is their job to educate physically to the highest standards, which they do not. That is the conclusion of the physical activity task force currently setting out its ambitious aims to transform the nation.

This is long overdue. The nation cares about its sport and the base begins with young people. Whether that is in or out of school is another debate, but core basic skills are very much within the remit.

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