Sport central to winning future North of Tyne
Today in Newcastle’s Walkergate, I visited the wonderful Newcastle East End FC, to mark the launch of my new vision for sport for the North of Tyne region. My vision celebrates the power of sport in boosting regional pride and underpins a strategy for economic growth North of Tyne. If I’m elected Mayor on May 2, I’ll appoint a Deputy for Sport to help turn the vision into reality.
The North East is home to some of the UK’s true sporting legends, from Alan Shearer to Steve Cram, and Lucy Bronze to Katy Daley-Mclean. And we have Newcastle’s United, Falcons and Eagles that have become internationally recognised brands beyond sport and great beacons for economic growth.
From success with Gateshead Harriers to the international arena, Brendan Foster created the Great North Run, now the world’s biggest half marathon. It’s an icon of sporting success that annually brings thousands of city break visitors and worldwide TV coverage.
Together these names have generated unmatched passion from among the people of the region, with a clear link to local economic growth.
A report in February by accountant EY demonstrated the economic power of Newcastle United alone. It showed that NUFC added £236m to the regional economy in 2017/18, with 2,000 jobs supported and £89m generated in tax revenues.
Football can be a stronger lynchpin for international recognition of the city of Newcastle and the wider region, if the city and club can be more aligned on future growth.
The economic power of sport is a key reason I have put it centre stage of my economic plan for the North of Tyne. I recognise sport’s unparalleled power to build communities, improve well-being and stimulate economic growth.
I’m pleased that my sports vision is welcomed this week by North East sporting legends, including triple jump Olympic and world record holder Jonathan Edwards and former Newcastle United owner Sir John Hall, as well as grassroots clubs like Newcastle East End FC, which I visited today.
Jonathan Edwards said: “I have seen first hand how sport can transform people’s lives and bring communities together. I am delighted to see it take centre stage in the upcoming election for the mayor.”
Sir John said: “Sport can be a power for good, particularly around health and wellbeing. It can also be a catalyst for wider community teamwork beyond sport.”
My strategy will see new sporting facilities in North East hubs and bring key talent together so the region’s players have a path from village green to Olympic gold.
If I become Mayor, I will appoint a new Deputy for Sport. The Deputy, a leading figure from the world of sport, will lead a team of ambassadors and coordinate with sports organisations across the region, bringing in funding from national bodies like Sport England, the RFU and FA.
My vision for sport reflects my wider ‘Projects not Politics’ approach: to deliver real action on the ground, backed by new seed investment. I will bring together stakeholders, on issues from pitch provision to diversity, from general fitness to bringing beacon events in, such as the Tour de France and Commonwealth Games.
Among the proposed facilities supported by the vision are a new pavilion and sports pitches for public use in the heart of the city, and a set of new community sports hubs in towns across the region.
Initiatives supported by the sports vision include:
- New satellite sporting hubs in key towns across the North of Tyne area
- A city pavilion and pitches on Newcastle’s Town Moor, offering a new public sports facility
- Community revival of the much-loved but disused Tynemouth Pool, with investment to back it
- Murray House, the new Newcastle United Foundation sporting hub at St James Park
- New Youth Zones, offering sporting facilities for younger people in the community
- A new clubhouse for community-based Newcastle East End FC
- Local initiatives to promote fitness and health, and tackle obesity
- A new bid for the Commonwealth Games for Newcastle.
Among parties keen to deliver on the ground are the Freemen of Newcastle Upon Tyne, who manage the 1000-acre Town Moor. Discussion has started for a possible public sports ground with pavilion for community use and competition, right in the heart of the city.
A great example of impact is community sports club Newcastle East End FC. The Walkergate charity has run a sports teams since 1995 – and today has 49 teams and a membership of 500 including boys, girls, young and old.
Backing my vision for sport, Sir John called on professional footballers to get out into the community more, including to the region’s smaller towns. “Our star footballers must actively engage with these hubs. Young people idolise players and they are role models. They can encourage people to change for the better.”
Sport is a great unifier North of Tyne. We know the passion for it is stronger here than almost anywhere else. With focus, the region’s confidence can grow off the pitch as well – and we will be unstoppable on the field and elsewhere.
I’ve seen the determination of teams in competition, whether in cricket, athletics, rowing or netball. While there are performers on the field, the networks stretch through parents and club structures. We must coordinate to invest in the facilities for elite play and future generations.
Photo: Charlie Hoult with players and staff from Newcastle East End FC, with Sir John Hall, in the centre of the back row