Amy Morgan: Get behind amateur sports clubs

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What’s the second most popular sport played in the UK by 11 to 15-year-olds today? Rugby? Hockey? Cricket? No, it’s basketball.

And when people hear of basketball they think mainly of the streets of New York or LA, or Michael Jordan in Space Jam.

They might not ever think of Portobello. But Portobello has been home to City of Edinburgh Basketball Club for over a quarter of a century. It started out in a small church hall before moving to Portobello High School, and later expanding to Holy Rood High School to cope with the increased interest of local children and young people.

Portobello’s own Rose Anderson, the only female Scot to make the 2012 GB Basketball Olympic Team came through the City of Edinburgh ranks from Towerbank Primary School and constantly pays tribute to the role the club played in enabling her to achieve her Olympic dreams. She has been an incredible ambassador for the club.

City of Edinburgh Basketball Club has grown in recent years and now boasts a membership of over 300 boys and girls, men and women. This makes it one of Scotland’s largest clubs and we look to continue to build. We have recently become the first to offer an introduction to the sport to children as young as five.

Our members enjoy over 50,000 coaching and teaching hours each season, all by the same kind of remarkable people you find in every sports club across the country. The people who are the beating heart of sport in communities – our volunteers and parents. The club recently took the step to become a charity, to enable us to contribute more fully to the communities in which we are based. We want to make a positive impact in the lives of local children and young people, not just on a basketball court.

This impact is allowing them to develop life skills such as leadership, communication, team working and taking responsibility alongside the associated benefits of being active, social inclusion and a reduction in antisocial behaviour in their local communities.

The Evening News reported on September 24 that school sports facilities were to be outsourced to Edinburgh Leisure to try and generate more money for the council, and we understand the position the council finds itself in having to save money.

But our club has spent over £100,000 in the last three years renting sports halls to provide for our 21 teams. Our volunteer fundraising efforts have been extraordinary but as we seek to keep membership fees as low as possible to make sure everyone gets a chance to enjoy our sport, we face a clear and present issue.

Anyone who has been involved in running a local amateur sports club knows how valuable being able to make block bookings is, booking out a hall for a number of weeks, for the running, stability and reputation of your club; the importance of being able to give your players and their parents the assurance where and when their training sessions will be each week. Last week, I represented our club at the City Chambers asking officials to put forward the case that there needs to be scope in their proposed changes for sporting clubs and voluntary organisations like ours.

Amateur sports clubs provide huge community benefits and need to be considered. We want those organisations – charities and voluntary groups that give back to their community – to be given the help they need and a positive attitude from those in power to support the work they are doing.

Our club has a vision to open our own venue. We would work with other clubs to provide a community-based sporting hub for East Edinburgh and beyond. A community hub where a membership card, fees or monthly subscriptions are not at a level which discourages people to take up sport and live a healthier lifestyle.

You might think this is a pipedream but it could end up being more cost effective than the possible hall charges coming our way.

Everyone at City of Edinburgh Basketball Club is ready to put in their time and efforts to make it happen, but we can’t do it alone. This is why more than ever we hope those with the power to help us make this ambition a reality, or to steal another American sports metaphor, step up to the plate.

• Amy Morgan is chair of City of Edinburgh Basketball Club.

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