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Interview: Tom Pursglove MP, Grassroots Parliamentarian of the Year

MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire

Published in Sports Management Oct 2016 issue 127
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Tom Pursglove, MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire
Tom Pursglove, MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire

Tom Pursglove, MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire, has been recognised as the Grassroots Parliamentarian of the Year by the Sport and Recreation Alliance. Pursglove – who at the age of 27 is currently the youngest Conservative MP sitting in the House of Commons – picked up the recognition for his work to promote grassroots sport and recreation in Parliament as well as in his local constituency.

Pursglove, a vice chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for sport, has been championing grassroots sport and recreation in Westminster by initiating debates on physical activity in an educational setting and by recognising the value of volunteers. He has also launched two private member’s bills, both which looked to hand communities more control over their parks and playing grounds when faced with the threat of spaces for sport being sold off against their wishes.

“I passionately believe that getting things right at grassroots level is good for all levels of sport,” Pursglove told Sports Management magazine. “Elite sport in this country is fuelled and supported by the grassroots.

“Grassroots sport is also crucial for the health and wellbeing benefits it can offer – as well as the personal development of young people. I think being part of something, a part of a team, is incredibly important and all of those life skills which flow from that.

“I’m a passionate sportsman myself and – having swam competitively up to the age of 16 and as a keen cricketer to this day – I can say that playing sport offers such a brilliant learning experience, especially when it comes to getting to know different people and playing for each other.

“Those are really important things and I think for our youngsters in particular, to have some of those opportunities is incredibly important – it’s good for them, it’s good for their community and it’s also good for society in general.”

SIGN-POSTING
Pursglove adds that in order for young people to be physically active, it is crucial to ensure they are presented with enough possibilities to take part – and to communicate the options clearly to them.

“I think it’s all about providing opportunities locally,” he says. “It’s all about young people having good PE experiences and then making sure there is the right sign-posting in place to support those experiences. We need to ensure those who get a taste and enjoy a particular sport at school – or are particularly good at it – are given the support they need to join a local club.”

Pursglove also highlights the quality of facilities as a key point in order to secure a healthy future for local sport. “One of the things that we’ve got to do is to think outside the box and try and find ways in which we can invest in our sporting infrastructure,” he says.

“If you have great facilities, it’s an enormous pull factor for people to want to come and get involved – whether young people or adults. So for me, it’s important that we constantly think of new and different ways of protecting our existing facilities and also making sure that there are the investment opportunities in new facilities.”

BREXIT – NO WORRIES
Pursglove’s passion for sport is matched by his passion for the UK to leave the European Union. He was a founder member of the Grassroots Out campaign alongside veteran MP Peter Bone and campaigned actively during the run up to the referendum.

As Brexit became a reality, there were fears that the decision to leave the EU might end up having an adverse impact on the UK’s sports industry. Not so, according to Pursglove.

“I’ve never quite bought into the argument that sport will be adversely affected by our decision to leave,” he says. “For one, there’s a lot of red tape and bureaucracy which gets in the way of our businesses at the moment – particularly small businesses – many of which don’t do any business with the EU but are still bound up by the red tape.

“My view on this is that we can be really optimistic about the trade possibilities which will be opening up to us in the near future – including sport. We’re already seeing enormous interest in countries wanting to sign free trade agreements with us – Australia have already announced their desire to do so alongside New Zealand.  

“As for elite sport and fears over free movement of people, the government is now in a position where it will enter negotiations over the details of how we will leave the EU. I have every confidence that the government will do everything in their powers to deal with any issues potentially affecting sport. It wouldn’t benefit our economy to not get that right so I don’t see any danger there at all.”

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