Nadine Dorries has urged sports to do far more to boost opportunity and activity levels in Britain’s poorest communities, the new culture secretary saying she wants the next Emma Raducanu to be just as likely to come from Burnley as Bromley.
In her first major speech on sport and physical activity since taking charge last month at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Dorries revealed the government was working on a new strategy for sport for 2022 that would include broadening participation and getting more people active, particularly in underrepresented groups.
“We were all so delighted to watch Emma Raducanu triumph at the US Open – but I don’t want to wait another four decades for us to find our next Emma Raducanu,” Dorries told the ukactive conference in London.
“And I don’t want a sports star from a council estate to be held back because they can’t afford a racquet, let alone coaching, or because they’re forced to play on one of those shabby old tennis courts which I am afraid we can find up and down the country.
“It can be so much harder for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to make the most of their potential. Children should be competing on a level playing field from day one. And so we must work together to open up access on every rung of the ladder. I want our next tennis champion to be just as likely to come from Burnley as Bromley.”
Last year the Sport England Active Lives survey found that nearly 14 million adults did less than 30 minutes of exercise a week, with the poor, elderly and ethnic groups particularly affected.
Dorries said the government had funded more than £1bn into supporting all levels of sport during the pandemic, including recently spending an extra £30m to train new PE teachers and another £30m to renovate 4,500 tennis courts. But she also accepted the government and the sports sector had to work better together to make the country healthier and more active.
“We will be putting sport and physical activity at the heart of the recovery from Covid,” she said. ”And I want to use our experiences over the last 18 months as a trigger for a new generation of physical activity and exercise. Improving the nation’s health and well being is vital to reducing the pressure in the NHS.
“Throughout the whole process, we will constantly be looking for opportunities to work with the sector to level up facilities, infrastructure, and the support that we provide.”