It's the taking part that counts, isn't it?

17th March 2006 at 00:00
says Chris Green: PE and games should be about participation first, winning second

The justification for spending the estimated pound;2.75 billion to stage the 2012 London Olympics is all about claims of legacy and inspiration.


Let's deal with the here and now. Never mind a nebulous, future feel-good factor. Why doesn't a nation in the grip of an obesity crisis, which has lost 34,000 playing fields in the past decade and is losing swimming pools virtually by the week - one in five 11-year-olds is unable to swim - simply splash the cash directly on facilities?

Yes, the Olympic activity packs coming teachers' way will stimulate interest among pupils, but where is the motivation if children have nowhere to emulate their sporting heroes?

New facilities at the Olympic Village in north-east London will undoubtedly benefit the local community - but how is that supposed to make teachers and children in Northampton, Northallerton or Norwich feel better?

The health of the nation isn't necessarily the primary concern of the Football Association (junior coaching sponsor: McDonald's). In April, it will reveal plans to improve the "technical quality" of 5 to 11-year-olds.

"The basics need to be taught and developed in a fun way," insists the FA's head of development, Sir Trevor Brooking.

The laudable aim is to coach the coaches "who feel undervalued". In theory, good news for schools - but is football speaking with forked tongue?

The FA is being pushed by professional clubs, whose main interest isn't the sporting development of children, rather the production of players they can barter (note 17-year-old Theo Walcott's pound;12 million transfer from Southampton to Arsenal).

Clubs carp endlessly about the inability of teachers to produce the primary school players they need. But should teachers take lessons from clubs who set aside "compensation" money to nab pre-teen players from rival clubs.

(Oh, its an ethical business, all right.) Having dismissed teachers' efforts, will clubs see this as a long-awaited chance to get into schools and whisk the best players into their academies at ever-younger ages?

Football academies offer fantastic facilities but have a ruthless reputation for tossing aside the vast majority of boys deemed not good enough.

Sure, a tiny few will make it, and others who have been rejected will bounce back - boys do. But I meet an increasing number of angry parents, teachers and grassroots coaches who are left to rebuild the crushed spirits of boys discarded by clubs. These lads are barely able to lace their own boots.

Why not let them learn to love sport instead of being greedily gobbled up by it?

Chris Green is a sports journalist

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