Protectour pitches

18th June 2004 at 01:00
Ministers admit failing to control sale of playing fields. Jon Slater and Rachel Morris report

Junior football pitches are being sold off because the Government has broken a two-year-old promise to protect them, the Conservatives claim this week.

Days after Sven Goran-Eriksson urged young people to go down to the park and emulate their Euro 2004 heroes, ministers have admitted failing to protect pitches.

The admission comes two years after John Prescott, deputy Prime Minister, announced that the Government would ensure Sport England was consulted on the sale of all community fields of more than 2,000 metres square. He said the move would "further boost grassroots sport in schools and clubs".

Previously, only the sale of adult pitches (4,000m square) had been referred to Sport England, the body with responsibility for promoting sport. But Lord McIntosh, junior minister, revealed in a written answer that the Government has not introduced the change. Ministers are looking at reducing the size of playing fields whose sale is examined, he said.

Lord Moynihan, shadow sports minister, who tabled the question, said: "The Government has broken its manifesto promise to stop the sale of playing fields. It is no good saying we want more young people to be engaged in sport when the facilities are not available."

Elsa Davies, director of the National Playing Fields Association, said: "We welcome the Government's ambition to get children active but that will not happen if playing fields continue to be sold."

* Children at specialist sports colleges may develop higher physical self-esteem compared with those at other state schools, a study claimed this week.

The report revealed that after just one academic year, sports college pupils' confidence had grown about their sporting ability, physical strength, condition and physique compared with those at a regular comprehensive school. The effect was more noticeable in boys than girls.

The Northumbria university study at Ashington community sports college and a non-specialist comprehensive, questioned almost 300 Year 9 students.

Honours list 17, leadership 27, libby purves 32

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