What's the excuse for not playing this time?

30th January 2009 at 00:00

Expensive transport, poor facilities, a dearth of coaches and fashion-conscious children all reduce participation in sport, according to evidence being pored over by MSPs.

Written submissions to the Scottish Parliament's Pathways into Sport Inquiry have revealed widespread dismay at the barriers which stop many young Scots from getting involved in physical activity.

"We generally don't have enough qualified coaches in Scotland to support sport," said East Renfrewshire Council quality improvement officer Ian Pye. The vast majority had minimal experience and, while in the past they were prepared to volunteer for two or three nights a week, they would now only give up one night.

Moray Council sports development officer Kim Paterson argued that bad weather was too readily used as an excuse to call off outdoor activities. Membership fees were too high at sports clubs, and the cost of clothing was prohibitive: "The perception that you need the latest Nike or any other sports-branded clothing to participate in sport is a barrier which has turned children off who cannot afford to purchase these expensive items."

Exorbitant travel costs in rural authorities were a "major barrier" to participation, said Richard Grieveson, Dumfries and Galloway Council leisure and sport operations manager.

Liz Carrie, chair of the parent council at Edinburgh's Balerno Community High, said a 20-year-old ash pitch was "unplayable" when wet, while playing fields were churned up so badly by a rugby club that it was impossible to reach the national target of two hours of PE a week. The school now had only one football team, and problems with transport meant numbers at training had dropped from 35 to 15.

"I would argue that the lack of adequate sports facilities in Balerno is compromising all education at Balerno High, not just sports," she said.

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