Leader: ‘Ordinary people need sport facilities’

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SPORT and exercise have a crucial part to play in improving Scotland’s state of health, combating obesity and extending life expectancy.

Governments and health professionals have been working hard to get the message across for years – but many men, in particular, seem not to be interested.

So it is particularly regrettable that Reith Rovers, a group of friends who have been playing seven-a-side football on the artificial pitches at Meadowbank at the same time every week for the past 31 years have been kicked out of their regular slot.

Following a revamp, community club Leith Athletic FC won a bid to become the venue’s “home club” and Meadowbank bosses shunted Reith Rovers from their accustomed Thursday night booking to make way for the club’s training sessions.

But if it wasn’t for guys like these meeting up and kicking a ball around as a regular habit, Scotland’s health problems would be even worse.

Reith Rovers founder Kit Fraser has calculated that he and his team mates have spent more than £74,000 on their weekly sessions since they started playing in 1982. Such long-standing customers surely deserve some loyalty points.

The revamped pitches, part-financed by the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities scheme, putting criminals’ ill-gotten gains back into local programmes, are a welcome boost to the facilities at Meadowbank.

But it is vital to keep a proper balance between the needs of more organised, community clubs like Leith Athletic FC and those of ordinary people who want to be able to take part in more informal exercise.

Millions of pounds have been spent over the years on promoting the benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle.

It seems a pity, then, that a group who have exemplified that message by enjoying a simple weekly game of football should suffer this kind of snub.