LOTTERY profits should be used to support the development of the Island’s elite sporting talent, according to the retiring chair of Jersey Sport.
Phil Austin, who is standing down from his position after a seven-year involvement, said that one of the organisation’s frustrations was the lack of support available to help develop the Island’s most promising sportsmen and women.
‘Sport has never had the political priority that it should have, though each of the previous two sport [assistant] ministers have tried hard to get it on the agenda but, generally speaking, it’s been difficult for them and it’s always been an afterthought, I think.
‘We have some outstanding sports people but they have got there through various routes, often supported by parents. We don’t have a fast-track programme where we pick people up at an early stage and say ‘we think they’ve got really high potential, so let’s get them developed’,’ he said.
Acknowledging that support for elite sport was on the agenda of current Assistant Minister for Sport Deputy Lucy Stephenson, Mr Austin said that discussion with previous assistant ministers had led Jersey Sport to believe that the issue would be resolved by the allocation of lottery funds to the organisation, something which had not happened. Much elite sport in the UK was funded in this way, he said.
‘I think Jersey Sport should get a slug of money, which should be hypothecated for elite sport programmes, and we would be happy to work with others to develop those programmes and get people on the fast track. We think we have the expertise to do that but that funding has never been given to us,’ he said.
Jersey’s Sport’s retiring chair also urged the government to work with its counterparts in Guernsey and Alderney to help resolve the ‘horrendous’ cost of inter-island travel, something which Jersey Football Association president David Kennedy highlighted recently.
‘I would like to think the governments of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney could get together and somehow sort this out. Sport can’t do it. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done at political level and not just for sport. Sport has definitely been seriously affected,’ Mr Austin said.
Speaking at the end of an association with Jersey Sport that goes back to his chairmanship of the shadow board set up to assume responsibility for sport from the government, Mr Austin paid tribute to the organisation’s chief executive, Catriona McAllister, and the staff.
Mr Austin is the subject of this weekend’s Saturday Interview in the JEP.