The sporting legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games for future generations of youngsters could be at risk over a shortage of grassroots volunteer organisers, a Holyrood report warns.
The Scottish Government and national sporting body Sportscotland are now being urged to undertake an immediate inquiry into volunteering numbers and skills around the country in order to highlight any gaps.
The report by the health and sport committee has called into question that ability of local clubs to “cope with the numbers” of youngsters expected to flood through their doors as a result of the surge in interest from the Games in Glasgow next year.
Scotland is enjoying a “once in a generation opportunity” to secure a sporting legacy, said Duncan McNeil, the committee convener.
“The summer spectacle of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, countdown to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, hosting the Ryder Cup also in 2014 and our bid for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games – many a country would envy such a sporting bonanza,” he added.
Volunteer organisers and coaches are the “pied pipers” of the 13,000 sports clubs in Scotland, but the committee voiced concerns about the absence of detailed information about the “scale and skillset” of this unofficial workforce.
“Given the emphasis placed on the legacy of Glasgow 2014 and its potential for bolstering participation, a stronger sense of ‘where we are’ might be expected,” the report stated.
“The committee is particularly interested in qualified coaches and the state of readiness for the increase in demand for club sport that it is hoped will materialise on the back of Glasgow 2014.”
Andy Murray’s mother Judy, herself a respected tennis coach, and Scots track legend Liz McColgan were among the witnesses who gave evidence to the inquiry.
Ms Murray said: “Retaining them in sport comes down to the people – the pied pipers who get children and adults into clubs schools or parks If we miss out on skills development, we get mediocrity and we are just investing in mediocrity, which does not get us anywhere.”
Ms McColgan, who coaches in Dundee, said: “How are we supposed to cope with those numbers and keep up their interest?”
Sports minister Shona Robison admitted that the country’s sports clubs are “not quite there yet” in terms of meeting the wave of enthusiasm expected after the Games, when she gave evidence to MSPs.
“There are pinch points and sometimes clubs struggle with what is a great story of enthusiasm from kids who want to try out a new sport,” she said.