Ipswich: Youth sport hit by funds bombshell

IPSWICH: Sports teams expressed their shock today at the withdrawal of council funding to help them compete at this year’s Suffolk Youth Games.

The 12th annual tournament will see teams from all over Suffolk travelling to compete against each other in nine different sports, including athletics, basketball, badminton, hockey, tennis and tag rugby.

The aim is to get youngsters involved in sports they might not otherwise have tried – especially in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

But in a massive blow for the town’s sporting ambitions, it has been revealed that Ipswich Borough Council will no longer fund or co-ordinate the town’s entries – the only district or borough council in Suffolk to withdraw.

Mitzi Read is a coach at the Orwell Panthers, an athletics team comprising youngsters between eight and 15 who have disabilities.

The group was formed in 2003 to get young people ready to compete in the annual Olympic-style contest and has gone from strength to strength since then.

The 54-year-old said: “I understand that they have to make cuts, but with all the other councils taking part, Ipswich has made the wrong decision, and it’s the children who will be worst affected.

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“Because it’s not being co-ordinated by Ipswich Borough Council, we’re not going to have integrated training with the able-bodied athletes this year, which is a deep disappointment because we have fought for years to get that.

“We don’t know whether we’re going to be able to get any transport, but we’re determined to get the kids there by hook or by crook.

“All we want is for these kids to have a fantastic day and join in with something they never thought they would try – and who’s to say they won’t be the next Olympic or Paralympic winner?”

A spokesman for Ipswich Borough Council said they put more than �10,000 into preparing for the games each year, providing transport, promotional material and other resources, along with a huge number of man-hours amounting to around �15,000 of council officers’ time.

He added: “The decision was made some time ago not to enter an Ipswich team because it was felt that we did not have the resources to make this one of our sport development priorities.”

But Bryony Rudkin, the new portfolio holder for culture and sport on the borough council, said: “This is something that we discovered having only just taken over [the council], so we don’t know what efforts were taken to find outside sponsorship.

“The important thing is that once it gets to Olympic year, Ipswich does not miss out on its Olympic legacy and the potential to get everyone involved.”

Suffolk Sport, which organises the games, which are to be held this year in Bury St Edmunds on July 10, is trying to help Ipswich teams and youth clubs to put together entries directly.

Operations manager Terry McEntee said: “In the light of Ipswich not providing co-ordination, we are trying to ensure that the young people of Ipswich have the opportunity to take part in the games.

“This is an opportunity to actually get into an arena where there are a number of sports, so you can have a bit of interaction between the different sports, make new friends and generally broaden your experiences – it can only be a good thing.”

n Have you or someone you know ever competed at the Suffolk Youth Games? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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