‘Millions of pounds’ needed to upgrade sporting facilities
TENS of millions of pounds need to be invested in sports facilities if Jersey is serious about inspiring the next generations of elite athletes and significantly improving Islanders’ health and wellbeing, says Senator Steve Pallett.
Speaking in the wake of Team Jersey’s remarkable success at the NatWest Island Games in Gibraltar last week, the Assistant Economic Development Minister, who has responsibility for sport, said that people no longer knew what good facilities looked like and would be ‘screaming’ at the government if they realised what was available elsewhere.
His comments come as ministers continue to discuss the long-awaited Government Plan, which will set out detailed spending allocations for the next year and provide outline funding priorities for the next four years.
As reported exclusively by the JEP yesterday, the release of the plan has been delayed because of disagreements about departmental allocations, as well as the extent of efficiencies and savings.
Senator Pallett said that he was ‘comfortable’ with the current proposed level of spending on health and wellbeing, which are listed as priorities in the Common Strategic Policy, the document which provides a hierarchy of issues for government focus and funding.
Jersey finished at the top of the medals table in Gibraltar, with success in a host of individual and team events. The team came home with 33 golds, 31 silvers and 29 bronzes.
‘It was a great success for the Island to climb to the top of the medals table,’ the Senator said. ‘That success is borne out of hard work and a lot of dedication from a lot of athletes over a number of years. You don’t produce these athletes overnight.
‘I am really proud of them.’
He added, however, that it was now time to act on the CSP pledge if the Island was to capitalise on the success for decades to come.
‘We are at a crossroads in terms of facilities in the Island,’ he argued. ‘We are going to have to invest in sporting facilities.’
While he stressed that he was ‘comfortable’ with the level of funding for health and wellbeing in the Government Plan, he said he was concerned that there would not be adequate funding for much-needed work to update and improve the Island’s ageing public sports centres.
‘At the moment they are okay, but Fort Regent, Les Quennevais and Springfield are going to need investment in the next four years.
‘We do not know what good is any more. We are just about getting by, but it needs to be better than that. We have just got too used to what we’ve got.
‘It is not just Gibraltar, where they spent around £70 million on facilities for the Island Games, we recently visited facilities in Glasgow and Edinburgh. If people saw what was provided for the public there, they would be screaming about why our government is not providing the same.’
Senator Pallett stressed that while Jersey was not going to spend £70 million, it was going to take tens of millions of pounds to get facilities to where they ought to be after 20 years of under-investment.
He said that independent consultants were currently working on a report that would recommend specific areas where investment and new infrastructure were needed and where new facilities might be located.
Insisting that he did not want to pre-empt the findings, he did say that he thought there was great potential to work with Jersey Rugby Club and private investors to develop a centre that would bring a number of sports together – potentially including rugby, football and netball – in St Peter.
And he said that he thought that Fort Regent needed to be a hotel and entertainment/conference centre, with cinema, bowling alley and other facilities.
‘There could be some sporting events there, but we need to have a clear understanding of what it will be used for in the future,’ the assistant minister said.
‘This can all be done quickly, we just need to have the right commitment.’