The North East is missing out on thousands of pounds-worth of sporting grants, the region’s sports champion claims.
The legacy of London 2012 was supposed to see increasing uptake of sports across the UK, particularly for young people.
But questions have been raised over whether more should be done to boost the region’s sport as new figures show that only four of the top 100 largest Sport England grants dished out between 2008 to 2012 came to organisations in the North East.
Malcolm Dix, secretary for Sport Newcastle, said there appears to have been a decline in the number of people and organisations applying for grants to help boost sport.
And he claimed we as a region need to press harder for our slice of the cash.
“Since the Olympics we here at Sport Newcastle have found we haven’t had as many requests for financial assistance from our sport development fund which invites applications for relatively small grants to help with regard to things like travel expenses,” said Mr Dix.
“It’s a bit depressing when money is coming through from UK Sport and the Lottery which should encourage people to better their facilities, and the youngsters to get involved.
“If we press harder as a region we should get more of it coming into the area.” Figures released by Sport England, following a Freedom of Information request, showed how out of the top 20 grants dished out by the public body each year for the past five years - totalling 100 large payments - only four came to the North East.
The largest was £499,999 to North Tyneside Council in 2008 for Burnside Community Swimming Pool; Northumberland County Council received £443,379 to go towards Morpeth’s Craik Park in 2011; in the same year Newcastle University was awarded £75,000 for Cochrane Park Sports Ground; and last year Sunderland City Council were given £150,000 for Billy Hardy Sports Complex.
Mr Dix, who is honorary life vice-president of Newcastle United, believes a new approach needs to be adopted if the region wants to see more people becoming involved in sport.
“We are trying to get more coaches into sport because we think that’s the best way of getting people involved,” he said.
“If we can get enthusiastic coaches then they can then go out and attract children to get into sport, that’s something we are very keen on doing,” explained Mr Dix.
He added: “I think there is a bit of a lack of leadership, if you can get somebody who has really achieved something in the sporting world who comes in and says, ‘I managed to do it, so can you’, then that would really help.”
He cites Olympic track cyclist Victoria Pendleton, a former Newcastle University student, who was supported by Sport Newcastle throughout her years here.
“She is still very much in touch with us and wants to come back to Newcastle and put something back into sport here. She a lovely role model,” said Mr Dix.
Sport England said it has pumped more than £8.1m into North East communities in the last two years but does not allocate funds by region.
A Sport England spokesperson said: “We invest in community sport in a variety of ways with our funds carefully designed to support our work to increase the number of people playing sport regularly.
“The majority of our facilities investment tends to go towards smaller projects which have an immediate impact on sport in their local community.
“For example, over the last two years our Olympic and Paralympic legacy programmes has invested more than £8.1m in the North East in 160 community sports projects.
“Sport England does not distribute funding on the basis of region with each application judged on its own merits in accordance with the criteria of the funding programme.
“We are working closely with Newcastle City Council and recently met with them to discuss sport in the city.”
Coun David Stockdale, deputy cabinet member for public health, culture, leisure and libraries, said: “Getting Newcastle’s young people interested and involved in sport and leisure is something we prioritise.
“Newcastle Fusion Card gives our young people free and discounted access to leisure facilities and opportunities to have fun participating in sport across the city.”