Politicians are noted for looking after their own and that was illustrated once again by the British Government’s bewildering support of upper class sport in their financial relief package announced last week.
The Government pledged an eye-watering £135 million to rugby. Great news for Tarquin and friends, but a mystifying financial snub to boxing that ranked behind the ‘sport of kings’ horse racing (£40 million) and the ‘gangster’s refuge’ of badminton (£2 million) in Government support.
Boxing was completely overlooked despite its long history of taking marginalised kids away from the streets and their temptations to an environment of discipline and self-value. One could argue that no sport has greater social importance than boxing in guiding disaffected youngsters down a more positive path.
Covid-19 has hurt boxing more than most sports. Amateur clubs, the lifeblood of disenchanted youth in working class communities, are now threatened by closure with small hall pro boxing non-existent without fans and the crucial support of TV revenue.
At the top end of the sport, Eddie Hearn has helped keep boxing alive during the pandemic but the promoter has expressed his bewilderment and disappointment at the Government’s snub of British boxing at grassroots level.
“It’s so disgusting that the government are not supporting grassroots boxing,” Hearn told the Independent. “A huge amount of money is going into rugby and horse racing, yet nothing into a sport that’s saving people’s lives and that’s because they’re so far removed from those communities.
“They have no idea what boxing does in the community. They’ve never been to an ABC boxing club. You would only have to walk into one to see the kind of kids who are in there.
“It’s keeping kids off the street, it’s keeping them physically in shape, mentally focused, it’s keeping them driven. Yet you want to put money into horse racing. These kids aren’t going to gravitate towards horse racing or rugby. There’s too many barriers to entry. You can walk into a boxing club around the corner in your community and change your life.
“It’s down to a lack of understanding about what is important deep within communities. It’s a lack of understanding about the sport of boxing, and they don’t take any notice or care about it. Go and talk to Anthony Joshua about what boxing did for him and where he’d be without boxing – in prison, dead, anything. They can help so many community clubs survive.
“Clubs are doing everything they can to survive every day with the help of local businesses, but those businesses can’t afford to support them any more. They’re always fighting a losing battle, but now, they’ve got no chance. We could lose many of them. There are plenty of other sports that should have received the money other than boxing – any sport that’s giving back to the community. It could be karate, athletics, other things in the community that make a big difference – but not horse racing and that much money for rugby.
“You can’t just say – ‘I quite like rugby union, I think that’s good for the kids, yes, I’ll put in £100 million’. You’re letting these kids and these communities down so badly because it shows a lack of understanding about the real world. All sports rely on volunteers and need help.”