YOUR AM WRITES: South Wales East AM Mo Ashgar
OVER the years I have become familiar with the ancient proverb: “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime”.
As I understand, the saying simply teaches us that it’s more efficient to equip a man with the skills and tools for the future than simply to fulfil his immediate needs.
This mirrors the way I feel about Welsh sport and the Olympic legacy we are trying to establish. It’s easy, isn’t it? Invest into sport at grassroots level and in years to come the sporting organisations of South Wales East will naturally develop from small fry to big fish.
So, I wondered, who is supposed to be teaching us to fish?
Last year Girling RFC battled through to finish 5th in their division, despite repeated vandalism.
Race AFC reportedly felt pushed into accommodating a gypsy site in order to replace a subsided football pitch.
This year, Underwood Leisure Centre is to shut its doors and will no longer provide gymnastics, circuit training or street dance to the local community. Newport Stadium could also be scrapped, even though the Newport Harriers have more members now than ever before. Cwmbran Stadium has had its competition licence withdrawn and Newport Gwent Dragons has been threatened with a downgrade.
Gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy once praised Newport Velodrome for its friendliness and its facilities.
However, unlike Manchester’s Velodrome, Newport has not reported any visitor uptake following the Olympics.
So how do we teach this man to fish?
I am meeting some of Newport’s business leaders to discuss the possibility of a new marketing strategy that will examine how grassroots infrastructure can be marketed to the UK and beyond.
With effective investment we can also create a domino effect on other areas of South East Wales.
We can attract visitors, fill stadiums, increase footfall in the city centre, create jobs and regenerate that pride in our city centres – all by implementing the right marketing strategy.
The issue here is not just about teaching the man to fish but about having healthy fish – after all, an empty pond provides no fish at all!
The responsibility of providing sporting facilities for the people of Wales is the responsibility of the Welsh Government and not central government. Whilst Welsh Labour have been happy to ride on the coat tails of Team GB’s Olympic success, this is something they cannot do with the legacy that’s left.
The Welsh Government needs to brush off its tackle and get the fish food out.