BASKETBALL has recently challenged UK Sports’ £32 million funding of ‘posh’ winter sports, whilst they themselves are struggling as their funding has been stopped. In fact GB Basketball have created enough interest to stimulate a debate around funding of their sport and this was heard in the House of Commons earlier this week, and was in fact the first House of Commons debate around basketball in more than five years.

The debate seems to centre around the impact to the community that sport can make, and the argument from basketball is they have much more opportunity to inspire youngsters in urban areas through the success of Great Britain teams than many winters sports, that they believe can be too expensive to participate in and offer limited access to facilities for most people.

Currently I chair Scottish Sports Futures, and their two dominant programmes are Jump-to-it and Twilight Basketball, both using the power of sport to make a difference and, in many respects, changing the lives of many young people throughout Scotland.

Jump-2-it work alongside The Rocks, who are great role models and are Scotland’s only professional male basketball team. The players help deliver important messages to the young people in the community and encourage them to participate in sport through coaching and supporting tournaments.

Twilight Basketball is a 40-week programme which offers young people the opportunity to shape their own programme and access the information that they need to develop. And all sessions are free.

There are many programmes like this throughout Scotland, all of them working hard to inspire young children to ‘get into sport’ and given the incidence of childhood obesity and the many long-term health implications that in itself brings, this seems to me to be great value for money. That’s before we even start to look at the important social impact these programmes have, and the benefits of being part of a team.

I’m not advocating one way or another in terms of funding, but what I feel we do need is a balance and a clear understanding on who delivers what and the impact it has on the wider society. I do believe that work carried out in the community should not impact on funding that is earmarked for elite participation, but I also think we need a debate around how we fund sport, from grassroots to elite, from local to national, and how transparent the decisions and reasons are from the powers that be, that impact on finance.

Many smaller organisations, such as Scottish Women in Sport, still operate without any financial support from statutory bodies, and it would be good to know what has to be done to be in a position to access grant-aid. Clear guidelines and transparency of decisions would be a good start.

On another note, this is a great quote from Dr Fiona Skillen, who is supporting our Pioneers in Sport day. Fiona, a Lecturer and Sports Historian at Glasgow Caledonian University, has helped us identify our four past Pioneers in Sport. She said: “If you look into the history of Scotland’s sporting past, it is likely you will find lots of fascinating and inspiring stories of sportsmen past. It is unlikely you will find many sportswomen on the pages of Scotland’s history books. That is not to say that there are no Scottish sportswomen in our past who deserve recognition, on the contrary there are many, who until now have largely gone unrecognised.”

We aim to change this on March 4, with eight inductees, four being great past-pioneers and all with interesting tales to tell. They are Edna Nellis, Marjorie Langmuir, Helen Graham and Isobel Newstead. Marjorie was an amazing all-rounder, born in 1905 and lived till just short of her 80th birthday. She played hockey, badminton and tennis and was first capped for hockey in 1923 aged 18. She went on to play in 36 consecutive internationals and also represented Scotland at badminton in 1930 and was Scottish Ladies doubles champion in 1926.

A PE teacher at Hillhead High School, she not only represented Scotland in three different sports, but did so in the same calendar year with two of those appearances on consecutive days in 1932. I’ll bring you more on our other pioneers in sport next week.