Helen Martin: Is the game up for our sports clubs?

Sports clubs play a major role in inspiring, encouraging and coaching children. Picture: Getty
Sports clubs play a major role in inspiring, encouraging and coaching children. Picture: Getty
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JOBS are being lost all over the city thanks to a botch-up of business rates for the hospitality sector. While some rates rose by 400 per cent, hotels, cafes and restaurants were told early this year that their increases would be capped at 12.5 per cent.

It might have been logical to assume that councils could identify those involved and reduce rates demands, but life is never that simple.

Training explosions were set off at Dreghorn Barracks

Training explosions were set off at Dreghorn Barracks

Instead, each business had to apply for the cap – something that councils were unable to process.

That’s a modern problem. Changing a system no longer means training staff to cope, it means ordering and installing new software to process these applications, and that takes time – almost six months.

In the meantime eligible businesses have had to pay the full whack, thousands of pounds a month rather than hundreds, hence the inevitability of having to lay off staff or reduce hours.

Eventually, once the process is complete, they will get their rebate, before having to re-apply next year.

It’s something that happens so often now in politics and the public sector. An idea may be approved and in theory could be beneficial for many, but no-one’s worked out how it can be put into effect with a system that works, so chaos ensues. That’s the “Brexit syndrome”.

Business rates are up in the air again with the Barclay Review. My colleague columnist and city councillor John McLellan last week covered many aspects of the Review, explaining much of the background and the effect on education, specifically university and independent schools. One thing he probably didn’t have room to include (despite being a guy who is keen on sport) was the effect on sports clubs.

For a few community clubs, run by and for the community on a voluntary basis, rates won’t apply.

But for those with paid membership and “assets”, sadly, the game’s up.

Yes, it will be tough for golf clubs and perhaps some folk believe that’s fair enough given the “posh” reputation and vast land involved.

But tennis, bowling, cricket and other smaller clubs across the city may also take the hit. And even though they do have paid memberships and “assets” such as pitches and courts, they also contribute hugely to the community.

Such clubs also have an army of volunteers and I confess, I’m one of them – a tea lady at the local cricket club even though I still know zilch about the game. Entry to matches is free and spectators pay the princely sum of £2 for a cuppa, sandwiches, savouries and cakes.

It brings the community together but the club is also a major player in inspiring, encouraging and coaching kids of all races, backgrounds and gender to take part in team sport. Out of season, community events take place in the clubhouse welcoming even folk like me who can’t understand why there’s an over but no under and believe all bats have wings.

Paid membership is necessary to support the club, its pitch, kit, travel etc. Nobody pockets profits. But new “business” rates applied to such clubs? Well that could seriously damage communities and rob the country of sporting talent.

I think John and I are on the same page, in more ways than one. No idea is workable until it’s been planned and thought through.

So much for military ‘intelligence’

AT 8.20 on Thursday morning, the terrifying bangs started. The dog was shivering and rolling his eyes. I leapt up feeling the floor vibrate with every boom. It couldn’t be fireworks that early. Birds suddenly flew away and birdsong stopped for an hour.

Explosions, or a terrorist attack when the city was full of tourists? Like many, I panicked and rang the police who had established it WAS explosions – by soldiers at Dreghorn in a training exercise. He didn’t believe at that time the police had been forewarned and the public certainly hadn’t!

The timing was disastrous. Children would be making their way to school unaccompanied. It was the start of rush hour but drivers were pulling up in fear and anxiety. Friends in Liberton told me horses were galloping round fields in fear and dogs in local kennels were terrified – just like mine. Thank God it wasn’t lambing season.

Do MoD communications officers have to pass an intelligence test? Judging by Thursday morning’s ill-prepared chaos, probably not.

Crack down on rogue cyclists

IT was bound to happen eventually. A London cyclist has been convicted of “wanton and furious driving”, having hit a pedestrian leaving her fatally injured.

Charlie Alliston potentially faces only two years in jail, despite the judge concluding he had not shown “a breath of remorse”, something backed up by his comments on social media.

The husband of the victim, 44-year-old mother of two Kim Briggs, is now campaigning for the law to be updated to include a “death by dangerous cycling” offence with a substantial sentence.

Cyclists rarely cause serious injury, let alone death. And along with pedestrians, they are most vulnerable. But in this instance the culprit believed that as a cyclist, he was not responsible at all. That is not entirely his fault. It’s the biased culture we have created. Everyone would benefit from more laws on cycling behaviour.

Just let Diana rest in peace

OF course, Diana’s death was tragic. But the 20th anniversary coverage on TV and yes, in newspapers too, is distastefully milking it. Re-living every horrible moment is unnecessary. RIP.