The belief that competitive sport damages children is misguided, but not daftby Matt Cavanagh / November 21, 2004 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2004 issue of Prospect Magazine
The government is worried about children getting fatter and growing into obese adults. There is clearly a lot we can do about this. Getting schools to play more competitive sport seems like a good place to start.
The left, however, has long been suspicious of competitive sport. The government could have tried to accommodate this in announcing its new proposals. It could have said: look, we understand that there is a real question about whether society is getting too competitive, but tackling obesity is just more important.
It chose not to do this. Instead, it used the backdrop of a successful and popular Olympic campaign to distance itself from what Tessa Jowell called “the politically correct nonsense of the 1980s that competition damages children and sports days are undesirable.” Andy Burnham MP, a former adviser in Jowell’s department, urged the left to support competitive sport for its own sake. “We can’t celebrate an Olympic gold and yet agonise over whether competitive school sport is right or not,” he said. “The left needs to accept that sport is about competition.”