SPORTS charities in the North-East are set to lose out on millions of pounds in funding as Lottery cash is diverted to the London 2012 Olympics.
Funding for Sport England North-East in 2007-08 is already £4.4m less than it was for the previous financial year and money for 2009 onwards will be cut as money is diverted to pay for the Games.
In the last five years, more than £40m has been spent on projects aimed at tackling the problems of inactivity and childhood obesity in the area.
But money available for sports and other good causes is set to suffer from £50m of lottery funding being diverted to the Olympics.
Houghton and Washington East MP Fraser Kemp is seeking a meeting with Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe to ensure funding changes for the Olympics do not jeopardise the prospects of the region’s future sports stars.
He said: “I am genuinely concerned about the impact that the Olympic Games will have on sport in the North-East.
“One of the reasons the Olympics had so much support was because it was seen as a national bid, and to be truly national different regions need to benefit and need the resources to generate our own home grown talent.
“Sport is a huge part of our life in the North, we view it with great pride and we have a lot of talent here.
“We need the resources to nurture this and we need to be ever watchful that these resources are not sucked away into the Olympic preparations.”
Sport England North-East has set itself the ambitious task of encouraging 34,602 people a year to take up regular sport. Only 28% of people in the region currently lead an active lifestyle.
Regional director Judith Rasmussen said the current funding had underpinned many important projects.
She said: “We will not know how much money we will get for the future until March 2009 and that is when the impact will obviously be felt because then we have to take into account the Olympic Games.
“The Department of Culture Media And Sport have already said there will be £50m less available from Lottery funds and we just have to wait and see how much of an impact that will have.”
The sports body helps support a wide range of projects in the region, using Lottery funds to target hard-to-reach groups who may not normally participate in regular sport.
Northumberland Sport was set up to ensure people in rural areas have the chance to take part in sporting activities.
A spokesman for the group said: “Regardless of the politics of this, the Lottery funding is essential to allowing us to reach these groups.
“Now, from our point of view, anything that raises the profile of sport in the whole is a great thing, and we think the Olympics will do just that. But we need to continue using the money available to raise the profile of sport and highlight the benefits while this is going on so the money is very important to us.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture Media and Sport said: “Money will be taken from Lottery funds distributors and used for the Olympics. The total amount will not be known until the 2008-09 funds are set.”
Cricketer bowled over by award
ENGLAND’S one-day cricket captain Paul Collingwood has received an honorary fellowship from Sunderland University for his services to the sport.
The Durham cricketer was joined by around 2,000 students at the university’s annual academic awards ceremony at the Stadium of Light yesterday to receive the honour. Collingwood – who grew up in Shotley Bridge – has played for England since 2001 and was part of the team that regained the Ashes in 2005.
He was awarded an MBE that year, and was recently named Wisden Cricketer of the Year.
Speaking after his latest award, he said: “I was delighted to be offered an honorary fellowship.
“It was a real honour and it is something I will cherish.” This week will also see the university bestow honorary degrees on rock star Mark Knopfler, BBC Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas, former NatWest bank chief Sir Derek Wanless and one-time Nissan MD John Cushnaghan.
Tomorrow will also see a special award to university chancellor Lord Puttnam as he retires from his post.
Have a say on Olympic cash
ARE you worried about cash being taken from sports projects in the North to help fund the Olympics, or should we do our bit for the once-in-a-lifetime Games? You can comment on this or any other story from today’s Journal by going to the forums on our website: www.journallive.co.uk