Martin Dobson, Green Party Spokesman on Sport
Martin Dobson, the Green Party's spokesperson on culture, media and sport, took the time to speak to the Sports Think Tank. He informed us of his party's aspirations for sports policy, if they were to find themselves in government.
1. Your party's current sports policy is outlined on your website: what priorities would you like to take forward in the event of your party being in government?
Firstly, we are proposing to combine some of the local authorities' responsibilities to improve local health services. We will therefore be aiming to improve sports provision to help deliver improvements public health in the local community.
Our second priority would be to improve sport in schools. We will be placing schools back under local authority control. In doing so they will be better able to work together, not only with each other, but also with local sports clubs and local facilities.
Thirdly, large football clubs continue to be taken over by offshore multi-millionaires and we know that a lot of fans want their clubs to have a greater connection with their local community. We will put certain legislation in place to enable fans to buy their local clubs together to have a mutually owned club.
2. What new policies can we expect from the Green Party come the General Election?
We are releasing our manifesto in March, as will the other major parties. Until then we will continue to review policies although it is unlikely that sport will be one of the main priorities in this review. However, as the spokesperson for culture, media and sport, I will be pushing to ensure the party includes sport in major policy announcements.
Sport will be included in an announcement shortly, as it remains an integral part of our approach to general health and wellbeing at the local level. We believe that there should be closer ties between sport and the public health agenda and that we would want to ensure that physical activity remains a primary objective for sports policy.
3. How does the Green Party's general policy narrative influence your approach to sport policy and how does this differ from the other major parties?
I think the main difference is that we are an anti-austerity party. We will be putting more money into public services, including local sports centres, sports clubs and sport within education. We are a local party, aiming to have decisions at made at lowest possible level, hence why we place a lot of emphasis on local government provisions. I think this would be the catalyst for local sport facilities.
4. How would you improve access to community sports facilities?
As a party we are very keen to protect green space and publically owned facilities. Sports facilities, such those owned by schools and clubs, are a key part of this. We would bring in legislation to ensure that they are used for community and public use.
We would also want privately owned land by schools and clubs to be made more readily accessible to more people. A lot of clubs do this already, so we are not in any way 'pushing at a closed door'. Nevertheless, we will be encouraging more people to use sports fields and protect these facilities for the sake of the local communities.
5. What resources would you make available for community sport through Local Authorities?
We will be investing a large amount of money into local authorities. They have been cut back dreadfully, and my locally authority has witnessed the second worst cuts in the country. We will be investing in local authorities to ensure they re-establish some of the services that have been cut. Sport centres and provisions for sport clubs would be a central part of those plans.
6. You have proposed that schools should provide half a day of sport a week: How would you find this time in the school day or do you plan to extend the school day?
The details we set out on our website remain a long-term aspiration for the party and do not necessarily reflect our plans for the next five years. We are yet to agree the detail of this proposal and it may or may not be in the manifesto, but we certainly want to incorporate physical activity in the school day.
We will be working with schools in the future to develop our thinking in this area. However, we recognise the importance of promoting exercise at for young people and believe this can be incorporated over the course of a school week: the equivalent of a half a day's activities could easily be achieved. If not, we would however, also look at extending the school day in order to achieve this.
7. Labour have said they want to ensure the Premier League invests at least 5% of their broadcasting rights into grassroots football: do you agree?
We are not necessarily thinking about implementing levies or taxing the Premier League any more but we intend to increase the taxes from the economy as a whole.
8. How does the Green Party intend to invigorate clubs' ties with local communities?
We propose to create a greater link between clubs and local fans in their communities. We would first bring in legislation to enable clubs to become mutually owned by fans or trusts. The secondly we would ensure that fans are allowed to group together to form trusts to buy football clubs, in whole or in part. Thirdly we would allow local authorities to invest in local football clubs. This is a way of creating stronger links with the community.
9. Is culture, media and sport policy a priority for the Green Party and how do you expecting your thinking to develop over the next five years?
Currently there are areas that have much stronger policies such as health, energy and transport, however, the level of interest in our culture, media and sports policies is very high. With a Member of Parliament and representation in the House of Lords, the Greens will continue to make an impact on whoever is in power and we will certainly be placing greater emphasis in this policy area in the coming years.
As a result, I expect to work with more organisations to help us develop our policies over the course of the next parliament.