FOOTBALL, and sport more generally, is often seen as a pastime but for many people, it is also a way of life. Many of Scotland’s greatest footballers of the past did not have access to the first class sporting facilities that we see today. The days of red blaze and ash pitches may be over, but the two-tiered system of access to sport remains.

It seems that access to facilities is often sold to the highest bidder rather than the Team or organisation who deserve it the most. In my meetings with decision- makers, I have raised this concern and the reasonable counter-argument they provide is that in times of budget cuts, they have to find a way to provide funding.

I often hear that children and young people ‘don’t go out to play’ like they used to but this sentiment lacks context. The streets certainly aren’t as safe to play on as they used to be but locked-up astroturf football pitches provide no alternative. I would argue that publicly-funded facilities should be open to the public especially during weekends and holidays. With the ongoing mental health crisis, sport, training, recreation and outdoor activity would give young people the opportunity to improve their mental health in a positive way.

It is my hope that this column will be published just after my motion before the Scottish Youth Parliament calling for padlocks to come off of astroturf pitches, the crawl holes to be opened and funding to be increased to  maintain sporting facilities is passed. This is just one step that I intend to take to make access to sporting facilities easier for young people in Inverclyde. It should never be acceptable to anyone that someone’s material circumstances determine whether or not they are able to access sporting activity. Public services must truly serve the public’s needs.

In a time of budget constraints, it is important to make the hard decisions. Young people’s access to sport must always come before the retention of crumbling, decades-old sports halls which face extinction in the modern age. It is time to modernise and have long-term thinking. The success of outcomes should be judged based on providing good quality services rather than protecting economically- inefficient buildings from a bygone era simply to generate a positive headline.

Young people should never settle for anything less than they are entitled to. Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) says that young people have the right to have fun in anyway they wish, including through sport. Decision-makers must always have this at the forefront of their minds when making decisions regarding access to sporting facilities. The time for action is now. Let’s come together to make sports more accessible for everyone. Whether my motion before the Scottish Youth Parliament passes or not, I will continue to advocate for better access to sport. It was one of my pledges during my election campaign and I intend to keep my word.


Matthew Quinn 

MSYP for Greenock & Inverclyde