In terms of sport, 2016 proved to be a fantastic year for the UK. Even Scotland – who seem, at times, like perennial losers – had a great year due to them winning a sizeable number of medals at the Olympics. Moreover, the individual achievements of Andy Murray and the reemergence of Scottish football due to the return of Rangers have also provided some hope.
This year, however, will prove to be a quieter one in the world of sport as a result of a lack of major sporting events. As such, it provides time for reflection concerning what benefits the aforementioned sporting triumphs have had for the UK. Politicians, for one, are often extremely quick to praise sporting success even if they appear not to care. This is in order to validate the huge sum which many athletes are awarded through the national lottery funding scheme in order to compete at the highest level within there respective sports.
Although this has been a resounding success in terms of the pursuit of gold, the problems with the way in which this is conducted are rarely ever touched upon. In a recent documentary, however, former rugby player John Beattie presented findings which cast a dark cloud over who is benefiting from funding. Although sport is often seen as accessible to everybody – footballers are often portrayed as evidence of social mobility – Beattie showed that the vast majority of Scots who receive elite funding actually came from wealthy backgrounds due to attending fee paying are highly quality schools.
These findings reminded me of my own experiences with sport in Scotland. Whilst growing up, for example, I used to play rugby for my school. Although I wasn’t great, I was always perturbed by the fact that state schools, which mine was, were never allowed to play private schools in the Scottish Schools Cup; something which meant that they were separated into two competitions. Such a policy therefore ingrains an inferiority complex as well as causes many young people from less fortunate backgrounds to pursue a different and less lucrative career.
Regarding clubs which operate outside of schools, people are often expected to spend large amounts of money on membership fees as well as the equipment they are using. This therefore puts a lot of sports completely out of reach for people from poorer backgrounds and only allows certain people from wealthier ones to take part and therefore perpetuate their wealth.
All in all, the Scottish Governemt should help democratise the sporting scene in Scotland in order to facilitate a level playing field. One way in which this can be achieved is through the introduction of subsidies for sporting clubs who provide free equipment as well as no membership fees for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. By doing so they would also be helping to improve the health of the nation as instead of expecting people to go out and exercise after watching sporting success, they will actually be incentivised to do so.