Tavish Scott: Sport richer with UK funding plans

Andy Murray poses with the Wimbledon trophy. Picture: PA
Andy Murray poses with the Wimbledon trophy. Picture: PA
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IN years to come people will ask: ‘Where were you when Andy Murray won the men’s singles at Wimbledon beating the number one-ranked tennis player in the world?’

The answers will be many and various but they will have a unifying theme – the utter joy and some relief that he has won the “home” grand slam at the All England tennis club.

Centre Court must rank with the most famous of worldwide sporting theatres. Sydney’s Olympic Park qualifies. The day before Murray’s triumph, rugby witnessed the utter vindication of sporting selection as Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions clinched a 2-1 series win against the Australians. Gatland had dropped Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll for the match, and yet won by a huge margin.

Back in London amidst the Murray entourage was Sir Chris Hoy, another Scot who knows how to win against the world’s best in the greatest show on earth – the Olympics. Thousands of column inches will analyse success in sport and with a year to go before Scotland decides its future, what sporting success means for politics.

Not much seems the lesson of political history. But rather more important to the millions who revelled in Murray’s fantastic performance is future success. Winning breeds winning. Do not go backwards observed a kiwi friend in sports administration. He cited the fall in Australia’s Olympic medals after Sydney as government funding and private sponsorship dried up. Australian medals were markedly less in Beijing and London.

So a podium finish to those who lobbied and won the argument for Team GB sports funding to be maintained. Tennis benefits as Andy Murray will defend his gold medal from London 2012 at Rio in 2016. The runners, rowers, cyclists and other sports who brought home victories last year will have funding maintained on a Team GB basis. A Scottish sporting leader looking forward with optimism to Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games observed he needs the UK-wide lottery funding, the Team GB approach and the commercial sponsorship which all that attracts. It is an overall package.

This issue remains an unanswered question about independence. The national lottery is run on a UK basis by Camelot. The income from the lottery is funding many projects across the UK. But with sport, the funding is absolutely crucial. It is the basis for the elite athletes’ programmes focused on winning world championships and Olympic medals. Yet when Camelot were recently in the Scottish Parliament explaining their business it transpired neither the Scottish Government nor the independence campaign had bothered to get in touch. So how come the government machine mobilised to deliver for independence has chosen to ignore yet another significant factor?

Scottish sport needs to know what independence means. If the SNP state they will maintain sports funding without the lottery, then it comes from general taxation. What is cut to pay Murray’s airfare to Rio – or is sport all the more richer with what we have?