Sport in the UK Debate

I spoke this evening in the general debate on Sport in the UK, highlighting the vast range of sporting events held each year in Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock and the value these bring to the community, not least the events organised by Ayr Racecourse on behalf of local charities.

9.20 pm, Bill Grant (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock)

It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant).

Sport has many forms. As far back as 1770, a racecourse was established in Ayr, and the sport of horse-racing has remained a local economic driver to this day. The present day Ayr racecourse is a modern venue with approximately 24 race meetings each year, including the prestigious Ayr gold cup and the Scottish grand national. It is Scotland’s premier racecourse. The racecourse and the sport of horse-racing generates income for the town, creates employment in the stables, grounds, catering outlets and so on, and affords invaluable work experience in various disciplines.

Today being World Cancer Day, it is interesting and a pleasure to note that Ayr racecourse has in the past supported race days for the local hospice and, I am sure, will do so in the future. It is also a changing venue. It holds ladies’ nights and special themed days for families, and so on. It has become a very enjoyable day out.

Scottish Racing’s economic impact study in 2016 established that more people went to racing than visited golf tournaments and rugby matches. The total attendance at Scottish racing in 2016 was over 300,000, with almost a third attending Ayr racecourse. Ayr racecourse generates more than £25 million per annum for the local economy—not an insignificant sum—and supports a significant number of local jobs in the community.

My constituency has a proud sporting tradition. Annually, we host the bowls Scotland national championships at Northfield and there is Cambusdoon cricket club, a very healthy cricket club. Former England cricket captain Mike Denness was from Alloway and educated at Ayr Academy. Ayr United football club is currently excelling in the league, although its pursuit of the Scottish cup came to an abrupt halt when a healthy and robust local junior team, Auchinleck Talbot, knocked them out—a wee red face for Ayr United, but well done to Auchinleck Talbot!​

We also have golf, not least Turnberry—now known as Trump Turnberry, after its famous owner—which held the 1977 open championship and its famous “duel in the sun” between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. We have a healthy rugby scene in my constituency, at Cumnock and Millbrae and Ayr. I commend Carrick Academy, in Maybole, for its range of healthy young rugby teams, covering all ages and genders. I give full credit to that school for bringing on the young ones in sport, particularly rugby, a sport that, through the British Lions, brings our UK nations together every four years to tour Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

My constituency also has swimming. Cumnock pool, New Cumnock pool, Britain’s newest, finest and warmest open-air pool, and Girvan and Ayr pools have gained popularity with locals, and it is a lovely area for cycling, too, while Scotland, being quite unique, also has curling, a sport suitable for all ages and genders. As a Scot, it would be remiss of me not also to mention the successes of Andy Murray, an exemplar in the field of tennis. Along with, I am sure, the whole House, I wish him a full and speedy recovery.

Such sports give people an ideal opportunity to engage with each other at a time when Governments and the NHS fear that some sections of the population are becoming insular and isolated to the potential detriment of their health, not least given the challenges of obesity.

The remainder of my speech was not given due to constraints on speaking time, but is as follows:

I note recent figures show 23% of adults achieved 150+ minutes of activity per week doing sporting activities in 2017/18, and I welcome the UK Government’s focus on increasing participation among the groups that are most likely to be inactive.  I agree that children should have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of sport.  However, even without dedicated facilities and a formal framework, there is an abundance of beautiful countryside and stunning coastal paths with clean air for walking and running as part of a keep fit programme. My constituents have a wealth of opportunities to enhance their fitness levels.

I also commend the good work carried about by Sports Scotland, not least of all the construction of the UK’s first residential sports centre at Inverclyde.  I understand that UK Sport will invest almost £30million over eight years (2017-2025) to bring some of the world’s top sporting events to town and cities across the country and that the Sports Sector contributed £9.8 billion to the UK economy in 2017.  This is to be welcomed and I hope that despite the uncertainties that lie ahead of us that the Minister will be able to provide us with some assurances that these investments will go ahead as planned and that the Government will continue to support and encourage participation in sport.