Investing in sport gives good return


HOLD THE BACK PAGE:IN TESTING economic times, State funding of sport has a habit of rising to the top of the list of budgets to be filleted, despite persuasive arguments that the return for investment, most notably in terms of tackling health issues and youth crime, can far outweigh the cost.

It’s an argument the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation has been making since it was set up in the 1990s by South African businessman Johann Rupert, the organisation now funding over 100 sports projects around the world, specifically aimed at disadvantaged children – like its first, the Mathare Youth Sports Association in one of the largest slums in Nairobi, and another which backs sports projects for Aborigines.

Among the “legends” of sport working with the foundation are Boris Becker, Cathy Freeman, Franz Beckenbauer, Jack Nicklaus, Martina Navratilova, Nadia Comaneci and none other than Mick McCarthy, who was one of those who cycled 526km from London to Champagne during the summer as part of a fundraiser for Laureus, proving his engine is still in fine fettle.

They, needless to say, all promote the foundation’s belief that sport can make a positive difference in people’s lives in any number of ways, and is therefore more than worth investing in, but actually quantifying those benefits has always been the tricky task for those trying to persuade the budget-setters it’s a false economy to cut funding. Laureus, though, has attempted to do just that with a report, Sport Scores, they released this week.

In it they studied the impact of sports-based crime prevention programmes in Germany, Italy and Britain and concluded that for every one euro invested there is an average return of €5.02 to society “by reducing costs to victims, police, prisons and courts”.

To those dubious about their ability to put such a precise figure on that “return”, Laureus said they drew on “validated research methodologies from outside sport, including economic impact assessment, health research and literature on youth crime”. (You can see the full report at their website,

The projects they studied were Fight for Peace and Sport and Thought in London, KICK Im Boxring in Berlin and Midnight Basketball in Milan, all of which, they argue, have had a significant impact on the reduction of youth crime in their areas. The Milan project, for example, provides late-night basketball for young people in a city centre park, thus “keeping them off the streets and out of trouble”.

“What we see from the projects are the positive benefits that sport can generate in relation to health, education, and employment,” said Edwin Moses, the eight-time Olympic gold medallist and chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

“When these projects work they work for us all – whether it’s a reduction in police time spent on dealing with criminal behaviour, less health care on those who are leading more healthy lives or less support for those no longer cared for by social services or the prison system. This report helps frame that bigger picture, by contributing to the growing body of evidence showcasing the social and economic returns of sport worldwide.”

Laureus have two projects running on this island, both in the North, PeacePlayers International and Urban Stars, the first encouraging cross-community involvement in basketball, the second “working to reduce gun and gang violence among Belfast youth” by involving them in sport.

It might still be a slog trying to persuade those with their hands on the purse strings that slashing sports funding is, indeed, false economy, but Laureus have, at least, given “putting a price on it” their best shot.

Hoping Celebrity Splash doesn’t bomb

So, which London 2012 sport so fired up television producers the world over it’s about to star in its own celebrity reality competition? Diving. Honestly.

While it simply will never be possible to top Peter Kay’s dive-bomb in that John Smith’s ad from a few years back, ABC in America are hoping their new Celebrity Splash reality show will prove almost as unmissable.

Connor Simpson at the Atlantic argued that they had “made a terrible, terrible mistake with their choice of which Olympic sport to turn into a reality competition”, suggesting gymnastics would have been a better option – and who wouldn’t want to see Donald Trump take on a pommel horse? – but diving it is, after it proved a particularly big London 2012 attraction for American viewers.

Celebrities, then, “will perform dives from dizzying heights, which increase in difficulty each week, including backflips, somersaults and other gymnastic feats”.

Set your recorders now.

Friends of the Earth have pop at Gunners

 Arsenal’s trip to Norwich last weekend proved less than successful, a 1-0 defeat – the home side’s first win of the season – leaving them ninth in the table, a daunting enough 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Worse again, they ended up upsetting Norwich and Norfolk Friends of the Earth with their decision to fly to the game, rather than take the train.

“Usually we take the train but there was no train available,” explained Arsene Wenger, “so in the end we decided to fly.”

Friends of the Earth’s Jennifer Parkhouse, though, wasn’t impressed. “I cannot see any reason why they would have flown, other that it being a rather ostentatious display of the players’ and club’s wealth,” she told the London Metro. “It is absolutely absurd, they must have spent more time getting on and off the plane than in the air.”

They probably did too – the flight took 14 minutes.

Texas scout chooses the wrong trail

THE FINAL STRAW:AFTER PABLO Sandoval’s exploits for the San Francisco Giants this week, when he became only the fourth man in history to hit three home runs during a World Series game, there’s a Texas Rangers scout out there – well, if he’s still of this earth – who must feel like the man from Decca who turned down The Beatles.

Back when he was 16, Sandoval was playing in a scouting tournament in the Dominican Republic when he was approached by the Texas scout who promised him he would visit him in his native Venezuela with a contract for him to sign.

Sandoval, giddy with excitement, announced the news to his family and friends, and then waited for two weeks: no sign of the man from Texas.

But: knock, knock. Another scout, this one from the San Francisco Giants.

The rest, you know, is history.

For the Texas scout, you’d imagine, Sandoval’s treble made for, well, a hard day’s night.

Olympians all a twitter over medals

IT’S HARD to know who would have got the bigger surprise in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the two British Olympians who had their 2012 bronze medals stolen from a Mayfair nightclub, or the thief who found two Olympic bronze medals in the jackets he pilfered some time between midnight and 5am.

Rower Alex Partridge and hockey player Hannah Macleod, possibly not sensibly, brought the medals to the nightclub after a bash at Buckingham Palace, when it might have been wiser to ask Queen Elizabeth to look after them, and when their jackets were left unattended a 29-year-old man, who was arrested on Thursday, allegedly pounced.

Needless to say, the pair took to Twitter seeking help, both posting a photograph of the alleged suspect.

“Had my Olympic medal stolen. Please RT to help get my bronze medal back – Does anyone know this man,” Macleod typed.

Soon after: “This man MIGHT be able to help shed some light on the theft of my medals. I’m not accusing.”

A bit late, maybe, You just have to hope he wasn’t an innocent having a pleasant night on the town. Even another Olympian partying after the palace do.

And the story had a somewhat happy ending. Yesterday, Macleod’s medal was posted anonymously to the England Hockey head office in Buckinghamshire but Partridge’s medal is still missing.

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