PM's move on competitive sports backed

Wimbledon might be over for another year, but yesterday prime minister Gordon Brown served what he hopes will be an ace as he pledged to put competitive sport at the top of his agenda.

Wimbledon might be over for another year, but yesterday prime minister Gordon Brown served what he hopes will be an ace as he pledged to put competitive sport at the top of his agenda.

In an echo of his predecessor Tony Blair's own photoshoot on the tennis court, Mr Brown, dressed in a suit and tie, showed off his skills with

a racket by smashing two

balls over the net before announcing an additional £100m in sports funding.

It comes alongside a promise to increase the number of hours of sports in schools from two hours a week to five and begin a national sports week in which pupils can compete.

However, in emphasising the benefits of competition, Mr Brown risked criticism from some educators who believe that having “winners” and “losers” stigmatises children.

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In recent years, a number of schools have opted to amend their sports days in a

bid to focus on participation rather than competition.

But Martin Radmore, Norfolk County Council's PE and sport adviser, said: “We are currently working to recruit three competition managers who will be in place by 2008. The aim is to increase the number of schoolchildren experiencing competitive sport in line with the government's National Competition Framework.

“Competition is a good thing as long as it is done properly. Children need to learn about winning and losing and need to experience some success. It is about including everyone in competition and having A, B and C teams, festivals and a range of sporting activities, rather than just concentrating on the very gifted children.”

Fields in Trust (FIT), a pressure group that protects local playing fields, is “cautious” of Mr Brown's promises.

FIT chief executive Alison Moore-Gwyn said: “We're pleased Gordon Brown is bringing competitive sport back to the centre of education but the question remains - where will it take place?”

FIT was formerly the National Playing Fields Association and has been campaigning for green space conservation for 80 years.

Norwich Green Party councillor Adrian Ramsay has been involved in a battle with Labour's former education secretary Charles Clarke since 2004 over the sale of two playing fields at schools in

the city.

He said: “What Gordon Brown says is certainly not ringing true here. Let's see if his statements make a difference on the ground first. We've seen the evidence in Norwich when Charles Clarke supported the sale of playing fields at Blackdale Middle School and Hewett School - the largest playing fields in East Anglia.

“Playing fields are crucial to promote exercise and combat obesity and for the community to use as a green space.”

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