March 9, 2006 12:56 AM

Rochdale Liberal Democrat MP Paul Rowen has quizzed Government Ministers about the missing £millions of public money in the sport of Rugby League.

During Culture, Media and Sport Questions in the House of Commons, Paul Rowen MP asked:

"In December 2004 the Minister announced the creation of a National Sports Foundation which would be used to support development of sport including £2.5million for Rugby League. However no money has yet been allocated. Could the Minister explain why?"

The Minister replied that they had not decided how the money would best be spent.

Speaking after the debate, Paul said: "Since the Government announced this scheme, not a single penny of the National Sports Foundation has been spent on improving Rugby League.

"£2.5million is a lot of money, and it would be better used encouraging people to play the sport, and making sure that good facilities are available, than being sat on by the Government. Instead, the Government can't even decide the criteria for how the money should be awarded - talk about moving the goalposts!

"Voluntary groups and local sports clubs are used to jumping through hoops to get public money, but it shouldn't be that way. Local clubs should be encouraged to keep on doing what they do best - and improve on it - not forced to fill in endless forms.

"I know from my own local club, Rochdale Hornets, that the investment would be well-used - making sure that as many people as possible get to enjoy this sport and making sure that young talent is encouraged.

"Sadly, it's a common story. It's all very well holding press conferences and creating headlines about the next Government initiative, but all too often they've forgotten about what they've already promised!


Note to editors:

Paul Rowen can be contacted on 07976 295 205 or Dave Hennigan (Rochdale Liberal Democrat Press Office) on 07955 427 453.

Paul Rowen has recently been appointed as become a member of the Parliamentary Sports Fellowship where he chose to specialise in Rugby League. Paul will be spending 12 months getting to know more about the sport.

The full Transcript from the Houses of Parliament is as follows:

Rugby League

1. Paul Rowen (Rochdale) (LD): If she will make a statement on the support her Department is giving to rugby league. [55617]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): Before I answer that question, may I congratulate Alastair Cook on scoring a fantastic century out in India? I think that this is only the sixth time in the history of the fantastic game of cricket that anyone has scored a century and a 50 in their first test match. I also congratulate Shelley Rudman, our silver medallist in the winter Olympics, and the rest of the team. They did a fantastic job. I want to pay tribute to the talented athletes scholarship scheme money that Shelley Rudman received from the Government. That scheme was designed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State some 18 months ago. Silver today, gold tomorrow.

Rugby league's recent modernisation was led by its superb chief executive, Richard Lewis, and I can see the game going from strength to strength. It is one of Sport England's top 10 priority sports, which is why Sport England has recently invested £11.5 million to build on the recent renaissance of rugby league. If other sports looked at rugby league for an example of what can be achieved in modernising their governing bodies, they could learn a lesson or two.

Paul Rowen: In December 2004, the Minister announced the creation of the national sports foundation, and the allocation of £2.5 million for rugby league, but I understand that no money has yet been allocated. Will he explain why and tell the House when rugby league can expect to receive its share of the resources?

Mr. Caborn: That was £27 million of public money that the Chancellor had put into his Budget, and it will start to come on stream in April this year. The hon. Gentleman will know that we are still discussing with the national governing bodies and those involved in the

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regional structure how best we can dispense that money to get maximum value from it. I remind Opposition Members that this involves £27.5 million of public money, and it will start to come on stream in April. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will see rugby league getting its fair share.