Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Giro d'Italia great but don't short change sport at local level

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

'When the Stormont beancounters sit down to decide which big event to throw money at next, they should attach equal value to investing in the development of local sport'
'When the Stormont beancounters sit down to decide which big event to throw money at next, they should attach equal value to investing in the development of local sport'

Once again we witness the phenomenon of Northern Ireland people as event people in full flight as thousands turn out to support and enjoy the Giro spectacle. Nothing wrong with that.

Why wouldn't people flock to an event offering colour, excitement and a festival atmosphere; something different from the norm, a distraction from the workaday?

A crowd follows a crowd and we've been doing it here since Mo Mowlam first bottled the opiate of big days out to dull our minds to the more unsavoury aspects of the peace process (and nothing much has changed on those fronts since Elton John, Rod Stewart and the Eagles rocked Stormont all those years ago).

Now sport is the great entertainer with massive investment in securing the Irish Open golf, World Police and Fire Games and now the Giro. People here have been conditioned to expect more bang for their buck, and why not?

But in the rush to feast on the banquet, the bread and butter is being swept off the table. The collateral damage of the event people effect is being felt at club, grassroots and local event level across all sports in terms of attracting crowd numbers and funding.

Support the big events by all means but we need to remember that without the bottom end there is no supply chain to the top end. No-one expects even a fraction of the thousands coming out to watch the Giro to turn up for the Tour of the North.

But when the Stormont beancounters sit down to decide which big event to throw money at next, they should attach equal value and importance to investing in the development of local sport. Bought-in is fine providing it is not at the expense of home-grown.

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