Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, has decided to merge Sport England and UK Sport to reduce costs. He is also looking at the status of Visit England and English Heritage. Arts Council England is to be spared but it will be required to take on the work of the MLA, who are presently in charge of the Museums, Libraries and Archives of England.
Jeremy Hunt has no power to axe the equivalent organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, though I expect that the governments of those countries will have to cut their cloth accordingly once the spending cuts in England impact upon their budgets. But importantly they will have a choice. The Scottish Government will decide whether Scotland requires a national stand alone Arts Council; Wales will decide whether Wales, as a nation in its own right, is best served by its own stand alone Sports Council; and Northern Ireland will decide whether its culture is unique and important enough to warrant a distinct Hertitage body (as a point of interest the Northern Irish Heritage body is less distinct than the equivalents in the rest of the UK because the Northern Irish choose to consider natural and built heritage together under the auspices of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency).
England doesn't get a choice. The UK Government can decide at a whim to abolish the non-departmental English bodies that - in the absence of English government - provide the only tangible institutional recognition of English nationhood. And because the England-only non-departmental bodies fall exclusively under the command of Jeremy Hunt at the DCMS, England at a governmental level exists only at the discretion of Jeremy Hunt. Hunt will take his decisions purely on the grounds of cost, the issues of nationhood and cultural distinctness do not come into play as they do in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. No account will be taken on what is best for the governance of England; our sense of place, nationhood and identity will play second fiddle to the need to drive down the administrative costs of UK PLC.
Under Blair and Brown it was no different, England was adminstered as the rump of the UK rather than governed as a national community with its own distinct needs and policies. Administrative functions were devolved within England to 'regions' that ignored any sense of community, so that regional quangos could deliver UK Government policy in England under the guise of localism or regionalism, dictated to by the centre but without the sort of devolved autonomy provided to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. England was administered under the 'constrained discretion' of the Treasury, with policy dictated on the basis of cost and best delivery of services. For England there is no populism or nationalism, purely marketisation in 'consultation with stakeholders'.
Labour went back on their 2004 decision to abolish the English Tourism Council, recreating Visit England as a stand-alone English body in 2009. There was no national discussion about how England might like to market itself domestically and internationally, nor any public discussion about how England might like to structure its tourism council, this was a purely top-down bureaucratic exercise. Under the Tories English Tourism will hopefully have its regional structure swept away, but I suspect that it may find itself being incorporated back into Visit Britain on the basis of cost rather than what is best for England. A nice option for the cost-cutters in the British Government, but less good for England, and extremely bad for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who presumably do not have the option of consolidating with Visit Britain and must find savings elsewhere.
The biggest issue remains how to combine a body that affects the whole of the UK with one which only covers England - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have similar funding bodies to Sport England and these would almost certainly be retained as individual organisations.
"Where proposed changes have implications for the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we will work closely with them to finalise proposals," said a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Written Ministerial Statement attached.
This is the sort of embarrassing mistake that can happen when you wear two hats.
Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps (a) he and (b) Sport England have taken to ensure that the UK baseball team can compete in the 2009 World Cup; and if he will make a statement.
Gerry Sutcliffe: The issue of the GB National Baseball Team competing in the 2009 World Cup is a matter for UK Sport not Sport England, as Sport England does not lead or fund baseball's elite programme.
I was given your details by the Tour of Britain organisers in response to my query on the absence of an English team in the Tour.
The Tour of Britain maintain that their hands are tied because "We have to follow the guidelines and rules set down by the UCI, (the international governing body) and British Cycling which, in this case, preclude the England team from participating in the race."
Is there a reason why there is no English federation when federations exist for Scotland and Wales?
Also, do UCI guidelines really preclude the participation of an English team? I find this hard to believe given that the UCI is very clear that it does not discriminate on the basis of nationality.
And, has British Cycling applied for special dispensation from the UCI in order that an English team can compete? I am aware that there was a Team England at the Commonwealth Games, so why not for the Tour of Britain?
Phil Ingham of British Cycling replied:
To create an English federation to support an England team which would have one or two opportunities to race per season would be a vast waste of our already limited funding and would be the exact opposite of what we're trying to achieve with the first the UK-Wide One Stop Programme for cycling which we are currently working on with the sports councils. The government and sports councils want resources to be pooled and programmes of athlete development to be centralised under the GB banner and we agree with them and support them in this aim.
That didn't answer my questions! Sure it did present a reasonable rationale for having just one national team, but we don't. We have Team GBR, Team Scotland and Team Wales. I wrote back and reiterated my questions. Phil replied:
The UCI rules are avilable on their website - http://www.uci.ch - I'm sure they don't preclude the inclusion of an England Team in a stage race of this standard (i.e. sub pro-tour), but they do preclude an England (or other home nation team) in every important respresentative race in the calendar - eg world championships, Olympic Games, World Cups. Performances in these events are the criteria by which our funding is regulated. For funding purposes, the Tour of Britain is meaningless.
This raises the question of why Sport England have been telling us since 2004 that the UCI's rules prevented England from competing.
The Welsh, Scottish Feds question is an historic one - both were set up before current funding structures and to establish an English Fed now would be extremely costly an contrary to the way we wish to develop the sport in the UK - i.e. to pool funding and resources to the betterment of the sport rather than dilute them in the interests of home nation national identity in 1 or 2 events per year, when virtually every event we send a national team to requires it to be GB.
So, it all boils down to cost. Scotland and Wales can afford it but England cannot. So when were the Scottish and Welsh Cycling Unions set up?
So let me get this right, Scotland and Wales had Cycling federations set up prior to devolution, presumably paid for by the UK Sports Council!
To explain England's participation in the Commonwealth Games Phil explained:
England competed at Commonwealths because the rules of that specific event demand home nation teams. No other competition in cycling has this specific requirement.
One thing is clear from correspondence with the Tour of Britain, Sport England and British Cycling - that The Government (the UK Government) wants to consolidate sports funding to cover GBR teams, whilst the Scots and Welsh are free to make their own provision.
The best thing for English athletes would be the chance to race for Team GBR and Team England; to be given the same opportunities as their Scottish and Welsh counterparts.
Little Man in a Toque is extremely angry, incandescent almost, and I'll tell you why.
The people that have made me so angry are the UK Government, Sport England, the organisers of the Tour of Britain cycle race and the International Cycling Union.
The Tour of Britain 2004 contained three international British teams - Team Scotland, Team Wales and Team Great Britain. In the 2005 tour the same teams will be competing. Those of you with a keen eye will notice that my nation - England - is absent from the list. Those of you keener still will notice the absurdity of having a Great British team when two of the three nations that comprise Great Britain - Scotland and Wales - have their own teams. Again in 2005 England will be unrepresented in the Tour of Britain Cycle Race.
So why isn't there a team England?
Well, according to Sport England (a department of the UK Government - England has no government or parliament of its own):
Sport England does not wish to fund an England team entering the tour of Britain. I am not sure how you would justify putting a team into the event which would not be competitive either individually or collectively. An England team that is not competitive would have limited impact on the sport, and potentially be detrimental.
Remember this is an email from England's national sports council!
Sport England does not believe that supporting an England team would be an appropriate use of public funds.
So why not scrap Team Great Britain and replace it with Team England?
The GB team will not be renamed as English because this would leave us with no official national team. Cycling is not structured such that we compete as Home Nations.
So why are Scotland and Wales allowed to compete as nations?
the Scottish and Welsh teams are additional teams permitted by UCI [International Cycling Union] and classed not as national teams but regional teams.
So Scotland is a region rather than a nation?
Scotland is not a region in anyones eyes. My e-mail was not suggesting any different but just highlighting the level at which the UCI had accepted their team.
So why can't England compete as a regional team?
I believe the UCI would allow an England team although this was deemed innapropriate in term of standard.
We would love to see an English Team in the competition
So why don't you have one then?
This is impossible because the International Cycling Union has granted Scotland and Wales special dispensation to compete as entities separate from the GBR team.
Contrasting views there from Sport England and the National Cycling Centre.
But, but, but....without Scotland and Wales surely Team GB IS Team England. So why could an English team compete at the Commonwealth games in Manchester without special dispensation from the International Cycling Union? Further investigation on my part revealled the answer; the English Team competing at Manchester was in fact Team Great Britain (comprising all English cyclists) wearing England colours.
This raises several questions.
- Firstly, why do Sport England contend that an English team would not be competitive when the Commonwealth Games experience suggests otherwise;
- secondly, did the UCI give special dispensation for Team GB to race in England's colours, and;
- thirdly, why can't Team great Britain race in England colours in the Tour of Britain and call themselves Team England?
Yesterday I checked the Tour website to check for any updates on this issue. It turns out that they had released a pdf document containing the competing teams line-ups.
I sent them an email:
Dear Tour of Britain,
your pdf document has omitted to tell us which riders are English.
Would you rectify this please?
To which they responded
Thank you for your query regarding an English team in the race.
We have to follow the guidelines and rules set down by the UCI, (the
international governing body) and British Cycling which, in this case, preclude the England team from participating in the race.
If you have any concerns you might wish to contact British Cycling although I have, in this email, included the quote from British Cycling to a previous enquiry which can be found in Cycling Weekly: August Edition, which runs as follows:
"The teams represent each federation - there's no English federation, so no team"
Hope this answers your concern.
This was a new tack from the Tour. Whilst they still lay the blame at the feet of UCI for refusing to recognise England, they also seek to blame the British Cycling by citing the lack of an English federation as the reason why there can be no team. You will remember that the British Cycling spokesman said "We would love to see an English team in the competition".
The UCI, who seem to be the scapegoat for both Sport England, the Tour of Britain and British Cycling do not reply to emails on this issue (over the last couple of years I have sent three and never even received an aknowledgement of receipt) but their consitution states:
The UCI will carry out its activities in compliance with the principles of:
a) equality between all the members and all the athletes, licence-holders and officials, without racial, political, religious, or other discrimination
And their code of ethics goes further by stating that they:
comply with the principles of nondiscrimination, for whatever reason: race, gender, nationality, ethnic origin, religion, philosophical and political opinions, marital status or any other.
Taking the UCI at their word, and I have no reason not to, then I have to conclude that the lack of an English cycling team is the fault of Sport England and British Cycling who have failed to set up an English Cycling Federation along the lines of the Scottish and Welsh Cycling Federations. Ultimately this blame must be passed to the UK Government who have not given England the same right to self-government as Scotland and Wales - despite its name Sport England is a department of the UK Government, Scotland and Wales have devolved sporting councils. Sport England's slogan is "Making England an active and successful sporting nation", clearly they have failed spectacularly if they believe that an English team would be counter-productive and uncompetitive.
If you have a blog or other webpage then please link to this stand-alone page like so - Tour of Britain . You can put this link in your sidebar or work it into the body of one of your blog posts, either is good. This simple task will increase awareness of this issue and will help push this page up the search engine rankings. The Tour of Britain starts on 30th August 2005 so please do this ASAP. Many thanks.