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Firms may manage sport

MINISTERS are considering allowing private firms to manage the pound;750 million worth of new schools sports facilities announced by Tony Blair this week, writes Jon Slater.

The money from the lottery-backed New Opportunities Fund will be used to provide Astroturf pitches, tennis courts and cricket squares for schools across the country.

The Government believes that schools will welcome private sector involvement to enable them to avoid managing the new resources.

It proposes that schools have use of facilities during school time but firms would open them to the public and sports clubs at evenings and weekeds. Private funds could also be used to boost the number of facilities available to schools.

Some 1,500 schools could benefit from the cash which is expected to be allocated regionally according to local needs.

The announcement is part of a pound;1 billion package of measures for youth sport which also includes the appointment of school sports co-ordinators and pound;40 million for playing fields and children's play areas.

Jason Queally, Olympic cycling gold medallist, said: "I hope there will be an increase in the choice - cycling, for example, is the most popular sport outside school-based sports."

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