The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1995Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech in Millwall – 14 July 1995

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech held in Millwall on Friday 14th July 1995.


Good Morning. Thank you for being here this morning. Some of you, I know, will have been at Downing Street earlier, but I would like to set out in slightly more detail than I did in the garden early this morning some of the plans we have for sport as a result of the document we published this morning.

Sport, for most people in this country, is more than just a game, it is a way of life. And I think organised team sports is one of the gifts that this country has given to the world over the years. What I want to do today is outline some of the plans we have, both for the near term and the long term development of sport.

If one looks back over really the whole of the period since the Second World War, when it has come to the big debates on policy and resources, sport has generally come out second in the race. The necessary demands of other aspects of education, of social security, of health, of defence, of welfare, have always necessarily taken a larger share of public resources.

It was for that reason that I conceived the idea of the national lottery. The national lottery, when it is in full flow will provide something over 1.5 billion to be divided between the good causes set out in our legislation, one of which is sports. What that means, as soon as it is fully in operation, and that will be within a year or so, we can expect a continuing flow of funds of around 300 million a year for sport that will be directed through the Sports Councils for sporting facilities and sporting opportunities up and down the country.

Against that background, we have been reviewing sports policy with the Sports Council and the result is the proposals that we have today. What I believe we are doing today is setting in train a revolution in sport, in schools, in clubs and also at the topmost level. The policy paper we published builds on a whole series of discussions with the Sports Council, with educationalists, with individual sports stars and with many other people as well. The programme is ambitious, it is a costly programme and it will use quite a few of the hundreds of millions of pounds that is going to be available to sport, year on year, as a result of the lottery.

It is a substantial move today, but what I would like to emphasise to you is that this is but the beginning of the revolution I wish to see in sport, this is not a once and for all announcement that won’t be followed up with further changes in the future.

Neither are our announcements today just for the favoured few, they are intended to be for everyone who loves sport, starting with children, but I don’t just [indistinct] that those who are supremely talented at sport. It is for people who are talented and less talented, able bodied and disabled. We propose to ensure that this is for everyone, adults, boys and girls, the able bodied and the disabled.

Let me start from the grass roots upwards and say something about the plans that we have in mind, starting with sport in the schools. I believe sport is immensely important for children, it is an integral part of growing up. I think it is character building, but above all I think it is fun for children and they have a right to enjoy it.

I also don’t accept the premise that competitive sport is bad for children. You only have to see youngsters together to realise that that frankly isn’t true. Put any group of youngsters together in any environment and they are likely to compete. So I want to redevelop skills in competitive sport.

One of the sadnesses to me, and I think to many people in education as well, is the extent to which competitive sport has declined over the last 30 years. I know the Teacher Unions are concerned about that, some of their own surveys have indicated the depth of the problem. And it is frankly completely the wrong way round that our young people seem to spend one and a half hours on sport and beyond a full day in comparative time watching television, whether other people playing sport or other aspects of television as well. One of the aims of this White Paper is to begin to reverse that decline and to put competitive sports back where it belongs, right at the heart of weekly life in every school in the country.

The revised curriculum that will come into schools from the autumn places a proper emphasis on traditional team and competitive sports. But I think we need to do a good deal more than that. We will be expecting all schools to offer 2 hours a week of sport, in formal lesson time. But in addition to that, we will be looking to all schools to match the practice of the best and extend sports provision at lunchtimes, evenings and weekends, and the target we will be setting is for a further 4 hours of sport available weekly to all our youngsters.

Those schools that reach these and other standards will be eligible for a special Sportsmark Award and a special gold award for those who are most innovative. We intend to make sure that parents have information about sport in schools by ensuring that prospectuses and annual school reports include all the information on sporting provision and sporting competition between schools, and will implement that as speedily as possible.

We intend to give schools quite a lot of help to reach the Sportsmark standards. The Chief Inspector of Schools will conduct a national survey of school sport and report annually on it so we can see how our plans are developing. The Office of Standards in Education Inspectors will focus on team games in all the schools they visit. We have plans to encourage more volunteers and coaches to come into schools and help teachers lead sport.

Let me say at this point that the role of teachers in our plans is vitally important. I suspect that the vast majority of sportsmen can trace a large share of their interest and aptitude for sport back to the enthusiasm of a particular man or woman who taught them as a child. Teachers will still bear much of the brunt of sports leadership, schools will have powers to reward teachers who help with extra curricula sport and I hope that those powers will be used.

But of course teachers themselves will need training to make the most of the opportunities, so we will be using some of the resources of the lottery to target extra training on schools whose sporting provision is below average.

We also wish to take the opportunity to enhance career opportunities for teachers by giving them a great chance to win coaching qualifications. So we intend to ensure that all Physical Education Teachers are equipped to lead both major summer and winter sports, as well as their more formal PE teaching.

And we also intend to see that every single trainee teachers is offered the opportunity to take coaching awards to enhance their own particular career prospects within education.

The Sports Council will be looking very closely at what is done for sport in the teacher training institutions. At OFSTED we will inspect those colleges with the intention of seeing that every one of them gives students the chance to gain the qualifications in leading team games that we will need to carry

But of course, however much you love sport, however well you may be able to teach it, you cannot teach it, and the youngsters cannot enjoy it if you haven’t the facilities. So we propose to give the Sports Councils the powers to block off the sale of school playing fields. What we will do is to keep the rules that protect school playing fields, but will monitor them to make sure they offer proper safeguards to sports like cricket which need a great deal of high quality space.

I seek the best quality provision for every school. So we are this morning setting a target to bring every child, in every school, within reach of adequate sporting facilities by the end this decade.

All of this would not have been possible, but is now possible as a result of the national lottery and the funds it is introducing. The Sports Council will also provide funds from its own resources, funds to deal with matters like school kit or transport to facilities for schools that lack fields of their own.

Let me now say a little about sport beyond school. Too often what happens at the moment, youngsters in good schools have sporting facilities, they leave school, they lose their opportunity to continue their interest in sport. So sport mustn’t end with school, so the lottery will help us carry through the second feature of the strategy, and that is to ensure that fewer young people drop out of sport at 16,18 or 21.

To do that we need far better, closer, more concise links between schools and clubs. I would like to see clubs adopting schools, and by clubs I don’t mean football clubs like Millwall, professional clubs, I mean amateur clubs as well, athletics clubs, cricket clubs, rugby clubs, sports clubs, tennis clubs, let us see them form a proper link with schools, both to help the youngsters in school and as a focus for the youngsters to go on to when they leave school. The Sports Council regional offices will have a special duty to develop those links and there will be a new challenge fund to help promote them.

We also intend to help schools win more business sponsorships. Sports governing bodies will be asked to develop plans to develop school sport as a condition of grants from the Sports Council.

Let me move on from immediate after-school to sport in Partner Education Colleges and universities. Some of them are superb, others frankly are not. So we will be carrying out a national audit of college and university sport, and I am delighted to say that Roger Bannister will be deeply involved in this. Those audits will be up-dated regularly. We intend to set up groups, drawn from the universities, to see how sports scholarships can be extended and obstacles to university sport removed.

Those policies that I have described so far are going to open sport to everyone. But in addition to that we would like to see excellence in sports. Sports administrators feel the same way, they have been working towards it. The FA school at Lilleshall I think is but one example of that. But the national lottery will enable us to create something that we have never before had in this country, and that is an entirely fresh and new asset. And the asset I refer to is a new British Academy of Sport. Other countries have such centres and I believe it is time for this country to have one as well.

The Academy of Sport will be the pinnacle of a national network of centres of excellence, some organised on a regional basis, some will be academies of individual sports. We shall be consulting on the precise form this academy will take and we have no wish to be completely prescriptive. But let me tell you broadly what it is likely to be. It is likely to be a very large greenfield site and it will involve investment of around 100 million pounds that will be financed from the lottery. The British Academy will be residential, it will offer specialist courses to our best young sportsmen and sportswomen, it will offer top-class training facilities, laboratories and expert support services in sports science and sports medicine. And I emphasise the medicine point, too often in the past some of our leading sportsmen have needed specialist treatment abroad, we propose to develop the opportunity for that treatment at the British Academy.

Some of the athletes may just be there for days or weeks, others may be there on scholarships for 2 or 3 years, perhaps attending local schools during that period. The aim of this I think is quite straightforward. It is to help them compete with and beat the best of the rest of the world in whatever their particular discipline is. The Academy will be wholly new, it will be ambitious, it will have state of the art facilities, it will run across a whole range of our major sports, it can’t cope with every minority sport as well and we will consult to decide precisely which sports will be covered, but you may be certain all our major sports will be there. And the purpose of it is to build pride, confidence and ability right across the face of British sport.

What I have been saying to you in the last few moments is that the beginning of the plans that we have for the future of sport, it is by no means a single one-off announcement. We now want to discuss these details further with teachers, volunteers, coaches, parents, sports administrators, sportsmen and sportswomen themselves. It is to be the start of a 10 year programme that will embrace each and every significant sport in this country.

And to make sure that that moment is sustained, let me tell you this morning that we are starting work today on a follow-up White Paper that will be published next year. That White Paper will set out a detailed 10 year plan for the future of each and every one of our leading British sports. We will be asking the sports administrators of each main sport to set out their ideas for future development, to set out how they would enhance its place in schools, raise the level of participation, improve spectator facilities and sustain the pursuit of excellence. What I would like to do is to form an alliance between those administrators, sport generally and the government and volunteers to improve sporting provision for the future.

So those are the outlines of what we propose. You will all have seen the press pack with further details and some initial observations from sports administrators in them.

In essence the position is this. I believe that sport has a central place in our national heritage. I intend to cherish that central place and build it up, build it up for the fun and the enjoyment it offers, build it up for the recreational facilities that it will offer, build it up for the spectator enjoyment it will offer for those who wish to watch rather than participate, and build it up for the pride that this country has when it produces the best in sport in whatever discipline it may be.

As a result of these plans, and as a result of the resources now released by the national lottery, I believe we can look forward to a golden future for British sport. I look forward to working together with sportsmen and women and sports administrators and schools to bring these plans forward to fruition. There are many details still to be examined with them and those discussions will continue immediately, but that is the broad outline of what we propose and I will be happy to take, with my colleagues, any questions you may have on these plans.



QUESTION (Sky News):

Everybody will obviously welcome any money going into education but do you not think most parents at the moment would rather see this money going to reducing class sizes, to getting more textbooks for their children? Rather than thinking: “I want my child to run faster!” they are thinking: “I want better classes for my children!”


They are getting better classes and they are getting better equipment in schools and they are getting better examination results and they are getting more of their youngsters going on to university. A few years ago, one in eight of our youngsters got to university, now it is one in three as a result of the changes in education but what has happened over the years is that Central Government funding has never been able to deal with matters like this.

The issues you raise are legitimately matters for tax-paying contributions. This would never come out of tax paying funds and I don’t think we should confuse the two. This is to add to the quality of life – I mean the lottery – whether in sport, whether in the arts, whether in the Millennium Fund, whether in charities or whether in heritage and it is designed specifically to add to areas that the national tax-paying burden wouldn’t support so there are two separate points.

As far as the improvement of education is concerned, we are committed to that and that is a matter of Central Government policy. Here, we have developed something that can operate through the Sports Council to improve sporting facilities.

QUESTION (Robert Hardman – The Daily Telegraph):

Firstly, in your foreword, you say that some of the problems of sport come from misguided attitudes and mistaken policies. What policies are you specifically referring to and whose were they?

Secondly, how long do you think it will be before we win a World Cup in rugby, cricket or football?


As a result of these plans, it will be sooner than it otherwise would have been that we win a world cup but I am making no predictions about that.

Regarding the mistakes in attitude and policies over the last thirty or forty years, I am not particularly in the business of picking out individual policies or individual mistakes. I just take the general view that we have undervalued the importance of sport both to the quality of life of most of our youngsters and as part of the role that it plays in our national life and what I am seeking to do is to correct that and I believe this is a giant step towards doing that.


Prime Minister, for this initiative to be truly effective, won’t there have to be a change to the legislation surrounding the national lottery, that is to say that money can be made available not only for capital projects but also for maintenance and administration costs?


In due course that may be so. There is a certain degree of latitude now in the interpretation as you will see and I am grateful to lain Sproat and others who have looked at that to see how we can do it.

For example, in the definition of capital, we would include things like school sport strips so whereas many people think of capital and may think of something costing many tens of thousands of pounds, that isn’t necessarily the case in terms of the definition of capital.

What I do want to do is to look at the general provision of mainstream facilities. I think over time you are right and it will be possible to relax some of the definitions and look at a little more of the resources going into revenue funding but I think at the moment that lies a little way ahead but I certainly don’t exclude that.

QUESTION (Ben Preston – The Times):

You say you are setting a target of bringing every child in every school within reach of adequate sporting facilities by the year 2000. How many don’t have those facilities now?


I can’t give you an immediate total but there is a significant number, far more than I would wish to see. I would like to have been able to say that I could guarantee an individual sports field for every individual school by the turn of the century but I can’t guarantee that; what I think we can ensure is that by the end of this decade every school will have access to these sort of sporting facilities so they won’t be inhibited from soccer, rugby, cricket, athletics because they didn’t have access to the facilities and the Department of Education and National Heritage, with the sports councils, will audit what sporting facilities we have and where the shortfall is and then we can draw up a proper programme for correcting it.

QUESTION (Harry Smith – ITN):

How would you characterise your own sporting education at school and what influence do you think that has had on the development of your career?


I think sport was about the only part of school that I enjoyed, to be frank. Much to my distress, we didn’t play soccer but I learned to play rugby at school, we had cricket at school, we had athletics at school and we had a great deal of enthusiasm engendered by the masters who were there. I think I loved sport when I went to school but I learned a good deal more about it, I learned to have a lifelong love of sport during my years at school and I think that is true of most people of my age. What I would like to do is to ensure that the youngsters of today and tomorrow have the same opportunities.

QUESTION (Julia Bradbury – LIVE TV):

Do you think that this academy is going to enhance career opportunities within sport and following on from the previous question, if you had had a career in sport what would it have been?


Well it would have been over by now, that is for sure! I would have been proud to have had a career in sport but I might have had the ambition, I might have had the will but I didn’t have the talent so, alas, not. I think it will enhance career opportunities.

There is a second matter that we are thinking about which I might broadly float though the ideas are not yet worked up. One of the problems that many sports stars face is their careers tend to end some time between 30 or 40, in some cases even earlier and one idea we are looking at is to try and see if we can develop a scheme together with business to try and arrange for a form of sponsorship so sportsmen and women can actually join companies and learn to begin to develop a career on a part-time basis whilst they pursue their sporting career and I think then we would end the difficult cut-off suddenly for many people often in sports that aren’t terribly highly paid to which they have given a tremendous amount and suddenly find that they are no longer young enough to compete at the top level and I would like to see if we can ease them properly into better career prospects than they have had in the past. That is an idea very much in its infancy, it frankly isn’t worked up yet but it is one of the things we are looking at.

QUESTION (June Kelly – BBC Radio):

Won’t there be resistance from teachers because of the extra demands you are placing on their time and also resistance from some children who simply don’t like sport?


As far as the teachers are concerned, I am delighted to say that representatives of most of the teacher unions were at Downing Street this morning and they gave very strong support and backing to this.

As far as teachers are concerned, there will be extra resources in teacher training, there will be the opportunity of extra performance payments for taking part and of course we will be bringing in other people from outside schools to help as well but I think, if I may say so, you might perhaps underestimate the extent to which many people in education – many teachers, many head teachers, many leaders of the teacher unions – will actually enthusiastically want to see education rounded-out with a better sports contribution and better sporting facilities so the initial reaction that we have had I have to say from the teacher unions and others is very positive indeed.


The Prime Minister obviously is quite right. There has been a good reception from the teacher associations and the teacher unions and some of them have been associated with drawing up the document. There is access of course to special responsibility allowances through excellence points to reward teachers for any extra responsibilities they take on in this area. Those things already exist and they are available to heads and governors.

As far as children not enjoying sport is concerned, I think must say that it is part of growing up to learn that just sometimes you have to do things you don’t like very much and we all had to go through that and I think it is quite a useful lesson for young people and who knows, by being obliged to take part in compulsory team games between 14-16 which they will be, some of them might even enjoy it and find themselves fitter as a result.

QUESTION (Christine Smith – The Groundsman):

Your reversal of policy on the sale of playing fields by schools will be very welcome to people in the industry. Do you think it is in time or do you think they have already been destroyed?


No, I think it is in time. What we are doing is setting minimum standards which will need to be kept and also giving the sports councils the right to be a statutory consultee if they object to the disposal of any playing fields so it isn’t an absolute blanket ban but what it does mean is that sports playing fields in effect will remain. There may be occasions where some schools have a huge excess of playing field facilities and they would still be able to dispose of them but that would only be if it was self-evidently an excess and the sports council themselves as a statutory consultee didn’t object.

I would like to invite Iain Sproat to say a word or two. Iain has been in the engine room of this particular initiative right from the start.


Thank you very much, Prime Minister. It is a marvellous day for sport and I would just like to say that we would not have been able to get what we are getting in this Sports Policy Paper had not been that we have a Prime Minister who is knowledgeable and dedicated to sport himself and without his drive it would never have come to pass. Also, perhaps I should say that the Secretary of State for National Heritage has been chivvying me in the past when she was Secretary of State for Health and I know she is extremely glad that health is one of the great benefits that is going to flow from this Paper.

The only other thing I would like to say is that what pleases me particularly about this is that we are not just dealing with the champions, the gold medallists. That is very important and the British Academy of Sport and the other Centres of Excellence around the country will deal with it but I think that the benefit to schools, the benefit to young people, particularly perhaps those who are not particularly good at sport is enormous because I believe that sport teaches lessons at schools that many other aspects of schools cannot teach, aspects of character, of self-discipline, of commitment, of learning to work with others in a team, of learning to play within the law, good sportsmanship, all these socially valuable things are probably better taught by sport for most young people than almost any other aspect of school life.

I am very pleased and proud today to be associated with the Sports Paper which goes all the way from the schools right the way through to the championships and I hope that we are going to see the benefit of that at every level in our country very quickly.


Thank you very much for being here. I know some of you were at Downing Street this morning so you probably know as much about the proposals as I do now. I hope all of you have got a full copy of the press pack; it has a lot of background detailed information in it; if any of you require any further detailed information, do have a word with lain, Robin, Virginia, Gillian or me as we go round and I hope you enjoy, as I shall, watching the youngsters getting some training. Thank you for being here!