Exclusive: UK Sport and Sport England will undoubtedly work more closely in the future says Sports Minister

Sunday, 30 December 2012
By Tom Degun

Hugh-Robertson-1December 30 - Britain's Sports Minister Hugh Robertson claimed that UK Sport and Sport England will undoubtedly work more closely together in the future but explained that while there are still plans for a merger, the two organisations will retain separate identities.

UK Sport is the Government's high-performance sports agency at elite level  while Sport England is the Government agency responsible for grassroots sports in the country.

The plan to merge the two organisations together was announced in 2010 when the Coalition Government came to power although talk of the subject has gone quiet in recent months following a successful British performance at London 2012 that came largely due to UK Sport funding.

But while the Sports Minister said the merger was still on, he said it would not be the complete overhaul some had predicted and will instead involve more practical measures, such as sharing an office block.

uk sportUK Sport is the Government’s high-performance sports agency

"The core objectives of the merger when we set out on this two-and-a-half years ago remain there," Robertson told insidethegames.

"I have always maintained that it makes absolutely no sense to have two organisations, one doing elite high performance sport and one doing community sport, sitting in separate office blocks in London and not talking to each other.

"All the Olympic performance directors I have talked to agree that there is a need to join these two strategies up much better.

"This is incredibly important for the post London 2012 period because we did brilliant at the Games, but not in every sport.

"There will be sports that will not qualify for Rio 2016 so if sports have high participation levels, then we need to take note.

"Take handball as an example.

"It may be that we don't quite qualify for Rio 2016 in handball because the international standard of competition is so high.

"But it could be that there is huge participation potential following London 2012 that we need to support.

"We saw the two organisations working more closely together for the funding announcements at the end of the year and that sort of thing is crucial going forwards."

Sport England logoSport England is the Government agency responsible for grassroots sports

Robertson continued that he expects the two organisations to move into one office block when the leases on both their current headquarters expire in 2014.

"The big point here is that you still have money wasted on two separate office blocks and you have a lack of joined up strategy and thinking so we are not getting the maximum bang for our buck," he said.

"Both could share back office functions much more efficiently and arguably, there could be just one communications function for both.

"So the central challenge of a merger that we set ourselves remains the same.

"The complicated issue is how you UK-proof what UK Sport does and England-proof what Sport England does.

"The other home nations must have confidence in UK Sport and know that is a valuable resource for them to utilise just as it is for Sport England.

"We have looked at a number different governance proposals to do that and personally, I believe it could be done.

"But it is clear that there is nervousness around that which we must address.

"So is the process still intact and moving ahead?

"Yes it is.

"Do I expect them to have a much, much closer relationship in the future?

"Absolutely.

"And, by April 1, 2014 which is when their leases on their current offices run out, we could see change.

"Personally, I was never talking about a full merger with the two organisations becoming one but finding a governance arrangement that allows them to work more closely together."

Contact the writer of this story at tom.degun@insidethegames.biz
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