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Sports academy falls a wicket short of Major's cricket nirvana

Cricket, football and rugby are to be excluded from the proposed Pounds 1 billion national sports academy for young talent, it emerged this week.

Chris Smith, the Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, caused a furore when he said that the academy should concentrate on Olympic sports as the others could afford to look after themselves.

John Major, the former prime minister, accused Mr Smith of "sheer political spite". Mr Major, a keen cricket fan, promoted the idea of an academy while in office, and intended it to include cricket and other team games. Lord McLaurin, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, was told by Mr Smith last Monday that he would be happy to discuss plans for a separate cricket academy, and that cricketers would be able to use the academy's sport science and medical facilities.

Sue Campbell, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said if the academy was to be a resource for the best young performers it should include all sports. In any case, the academy's success would depend on getting youth and school sport right in the first place. "How can you build an academy when the foundation is crumbling?" Nigel Hook, technical director of the Central Council of Physical Recreation, said it was anomalous to exclude some professional sports and include others. After all, many athletes were professionals.

The Government is expected to announce the location of the academy at the end of September. Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire, Sheffield and Loughborough are the three contenders.

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