Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Where is Alf Tupper (The Tough of the Track) today?


Where  we refer to some elite sports we are not only talking about success  but also a class divide,
As a young boy nearly 50 years ago I used ti read the Victor and then exploits of Alf Tupper (The Tough of the Track) today.

Whatever his job and wherever it was located, Alf was the eternal underdog.Regarded as a "guttersnipe" by the posh blokes from the Amateur Athletic Association, he was at his best the day after a night on late shift, lifting heavy objects and getting little sleep. His journey to the track (often White City) almost invariably involved falling asleep on the train and missing his stop.
Sometimes his tardiness was caused by skullduggery of the worst kind by "stuck-up" rich boys from a university somewhere, but usually it was because he could not stop himself from rescuing people in distress or just generally being a selfless chap. Regardless of this, he always got there in the nick of time and, having just finished his fish and chips, went on to win the championships or even, in "end of series" stories, break the world record for the mile and utter his famous catchphrase "I ran 'em all!”
I was reminded of Alf when reading on the BBC Scotland news that 
" An overwhelming majority of Scotland's publicly-funded elite athletes are drawn from middle class backgrounds, a BBC Scotland investigation has found.
It discovered that almost nine in 10 went to either fee-paying schools or a state school in a wealthy area.
The data was uncovered by The Medal Myth, a documentary looking at elite sport, health and public spending.
Sport Scotland said it was trying to do more to increase opportunities for all on its elite programmes.
BBC Scotland originally asked Sport Scotland for demographic information about the athletes it supports - a total of more than 500.
However, the agency said it did not have any data, so the programme team used search engines to try to determine which schools athletes attended.
Where data could be found, it showed the vast majority of athletes went to schools that were private or served relatively wealthy communities"
 Where Scotland's elite athletes went to school
School bands according to free school meals entitlement
  • Private school
  • 'Wealthiest' top 20% of state schools
  • Middle band 21-40% of state schools
  • Lowest band 41-100% of state schools

I suspect there may be a similar figures fir Wales and the rest of the UK
When we consider the UK
If we look at the overall medal Table fr the Simmer Olympics We cam see whilst Athletics  tops the Table  some of the sports Sailing, Equestrian Shooting  and Rowing can hardly be seen as sports that many from the deprived backgrounds have access to
Here a list of the Tp sports "Team GB" have won in the  Summer Olympic
SportGoldSilverBronzeTotal
 Athletics558066201
 Cycling32302587
 Rowing31241368
 Sailing28191158
 Boxing18132556
 Tennis17141243
 Swimming16283074
 Shooting13151846
 Equestrian11111335
Its not even the case that success in these areas  will have a trickle down affect and encourage people to take up such sports.

Cycling  may be such an outlet but to be successful  you need a specialist bike  which would be well beyond the pockets of many families.

I do not know how we can improve these figures  beyond the likes of Athletics,Boxing and Swimming  and even these need local clubs where access is not within the pockets of poor families.

But if we carry on with funding based on success in events like the Olympics we will be concentrating on events like sailing, which many of young people will never have chamber to take part in let alone compete.

I do not call for a cut in support for these "elite" sports but more must be done to make access to sport available and affordable.

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