Like most Scottish sports governing bodies, Scottishathletics has recently been advised by Sportscotland of a cut in our funding for 2017-18.
This news was not a particular surprise, given the Scottish Government’s reduction in the overall sports budget. It is, however, a very disappointing scenario to be facing only three years after the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
To me, it seems a very short-sighted decision at a time when all of the indicators within our sport are positive, and when there is clear potential for a significant Games legacy in the years ahead.
What is the evidence of this potential legacy? Within athletics we only have to look at the success of our clubs, where membership numbers have increased significantly on the back of some ground-breaking club development work. Other governing bodies across the UK are showing a great interest in what has been achieved in Scotland and are looking to introduce similar programmes of their own.
There have been record attendances at our track and field, road, and cross country championships, across all age groups from junior to veteran, and encompassing both male and female athletes.
The number of people joining our Jogscotland programme has increased significantly, playing an important role in helping the Scottish Government achieve its objective of encouraging the inactive to become active.
And at the top end of the sport, we have seen Scottish athletes such as Laura Muir, Callum Hawkins, Andrew Butchart, Eilidh Doyle, Lynsey Sharp and Eilish McColgan produce world-class performances, highlighting their potential for the World Athletics Championships in London later this year.
The importance of a vibrant club structure to the overall health of Scottish athletics cannot be underestimated. All of the athletes mentioned I’ve mentioned, plus many others, have benefited in their development from being part of a club, with appropriate coaching and competition, before graduating into the UK Athletics high performance programme.
There are others following in their footsteps, not yet household names, but inspired by their role models and by the inspiration of a home Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Those developing athletes will be the stars of the future.
The success of our clubs reflects the significant commitment of the coaches, officials and administrators who give so much of their time, generally on a voluntary basis, to provide a quality experience for those taking part. Communities all over Scotland are enhanced by those clubs.
I have always recognised the importance of sport to the Scottish nation; it is a national obsession.
We thrive on successful Scottish sporting performances, and the ‘feelgood factor’ of the nation is greatly enhanced when our Scottish athletes, players or teams do well. As a relatively small country with our own devolved government we are in a great position to treat sport as an important priority, not only at the top end but also in our communities across the country.
The decision to cut funding does not recognise the important role that athletics and other sports clubs play, and will inevitably have a detrimental impact in the longer term.
We welcome the government’s statement on April 4 in relation to the additional funding (£2m for one year). But I still believe it is vital that we all sit down and look at the long-term funding of sport as a priority rather than the current short-term approach.