Threat to amateur sports clubs

HUNDREDS of Suffolk's amateur-run sports clubs could today face uncertain futures due to a cash crisis threatening a lifeline for information they rely on.

HUNDREDS of Suffolk's amateur-run sports clubs could today face uncertain futures due to a cash crisis threatening a lifeline for information they rely on.

The Federation of Eastern Sport is on the brink of collapse because Sport England does not believe it is worth up to £5,000 it pays each year to fund it.

More that £330m was given to Sport England for funding its programmes during the financial year from 2004-05 – £80m more than in the previous 12 months. However the organisation has decided to withhold the FoES' funding amounting to a few thousand pounds, on the basis it does not believe it is value for money.

Bernard Baker, the Ipswich-based secretary of the federation run by unpaid volunteers, said the organisation could become extinct by the end of this month.

Mr Baker claimed if that were to happen, it would lead to many volunteers across all amateur sport in the eastern region, not receiving important information, including advice on financial matters.

He believes closing down the federation would put intolerable strain on those who give their time for free and could eventually lead to clubs having to fold.

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Mr Baker said: "It would make it very difficult, in that they would not find out what is going on if they do not get told by their governing bodies. They would lack the encouragement and impetus to keep going as volunteers. Some clubs would fold, no question.

"We try to make life easier for them by addressing their particular issues and asking them what are their current problems and what they want to do."

He also said his federation's funding was turned down even though it had provided Sport England with a copy of its strategy for using the money it needs to keep going.

The FoES has around 45-50 members who pay a nominal fee on an annual basis.

Among its membership are local sports councils, along with regional and county governing bodies of many sports and leisure clubs.

As well as the more mainstream sports such as football and cricket, the organisation in the eastern region also helps clubs involved in less well-publicised pursuits such as motor sport and dancing.

In addition it provides assistance to water sports such as sailing, rowing and angling.

Throughout the country the federations advise those involved in other activities as diverse as tennis, horse riding, caving, parachuting, gliding, rambling, canoeing, snooker, gymnastics and badminton.

Chris Perks, acting Regional Director of Sport England East, said: "As part of its commitment to delivering the East of England Plan for Sport, Sport England East is currently reviewing how the voluntary sports sector can best be supported and how the benefits of sports volunteering can be fully promoted.

"The Federation of Eastern Sport is actively supporting this work, which will help to determine its future role and funding requirements.

"Until this work has been completed, any future funding to the Federation is

on hold."

Mr Baker responded by saying his federation had provided a strategy and work programmes for how any grant would be spent, but felt the organisation had not given any encouragement to continue pushing for funding.

He added that as far as he was concerned that process was now "dead in the water".

N Has your sport benefited from the FoES' help? What do you think of the federation's funding being cut? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to