An Independent Scotland and Deaf sport

Scottish athletes like Lauren Peffers have a choice - will it be "Yes" or "No" ?

Scottish athletes like Lauren Peffers have a choice – will it be Team GB or Team Scotland ?

I have been asked a few times now to comment on what could happen to Deaf sport in Scotland after the Referendum next week.

This is how I understand the situation.

If Scotland votes No – things will remain as they are.

If Scotland votes Yes – then the White paper  says that:

  • Scotland will have its own Olympic and Paralympic teams.
  • Individual athletes like Lauren Peffers above will have the choice to compete in the Olympic/Paralympics for team GB or Scotland as long as they meet the citizenship criteria.

Lauren lives, works and trains in the North East of England, so she will not be voting on 18th September.

But what does this all mean for Deaflympic sports if people vote Yes ?

If the IOC accepts Scotland as a member of the IOC, then ICSD is likely to follow and give Scotland ICSD membership. History shows that the CISS and ICSD have followed decisions made by the IOC in respect of the Olympics and Deaflympics.

But will the Scottish government recognise a Scottish Deaflympic team on par with a Paralympic team?

This question has not yet been asked. From experience, for the past three Deaflympics (2005, 2009, 2013) Scottish politicians have showed their support to Scottish athletes within the GB Deaflympic team, but this does not necessarily mean they will provide equal support to the Deaflympic and Paralympic teams.

The Working Group on Scottish Sport (made up of prominent Scottish residents) recognises that they will have to budget for sport very carefully if the country chooses to go independent. They recommend that the Scottish government should seek a transfer of funding form UK Sport to sportscotland to meet the needs of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

So far, UK Sport has declined to respond to questions from the Working Group on Scottish Sport.

Judging by the way things are at the moment in Ireland where athletes from Northern Ireland have the choice to either compete for GB or Ireland. There are no arrangements for UK sport funds to follow athletes who want to leave GB and compete for Ireland.

Funding for UK sport comes from the National Lottery. According to the Yes campaign, Scots will still be able to play National Lottery games and they will see a fair share of tickets sales to support good causes. But the Better Together says the opposite. Meanwhile Camelot, the company who operates the Lottery is remaining neutral in the debate so far.

An independent Scotland will need a new infrastructure to govern Scottish Olympic (NOC), Paralympic (NPC), Commonwealth Games teams for Scotland and the working party believes that Scotland has three options:

  1. Replicating the current UK system within Scotland by establishing separate and new bodies for NOC and NPC.
  2. Merging the NOC and NPC arrangements into one Scottish body
  3. Merging NOC, NPC and Commonwealth Games arrangements into one Scottish body.

The Working Group have reccommended option 3 because it is expected that there will only be approx. 300-400 elite Scottish athletes to support.

Again UK Sport has not responded to the Working Group.

Who knows what an independent Scottish government will do, perhaps it will embrace Deafness more than the UK government has done, perhaps they will listen AND respond effectively to the needs of Deaf people who live in Scotland. But it will not happen automatically, Deaf people in Scotland will have to campaign hard.

Scotland – It is up to you. Use your vote wisely. Good Luck.

Celebrating Women in Deaf Sport

The Twittersphere is a crowded place today with every opportunity to tweet the celebration of International Women’s Day.

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Here in the UK, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation has launched its “Say Yes to Success” campaign to drive more commercial and media investment and attention to women’s sport. They plan to achieve this through investment and coverage of as many high quality events and competitions as possible.

According to WSFF, women’s sport only receives 0.4% of the total commercial investment in sport and only gets 7% of sports coverage by the media.

Today I am celebrating women in Deaf sport. I want to do this because I am concerned about the lack of deaf women taking up strategic roles in sport. UK Deaf Sport is currently recruiting for new Board members and we are very impressed with the high calibre of applications that we have attracted and we hope to be making some announcements later in the year. However, we need more women to apply for a place to help us go forwards.

Personally I don’t think we are communicating publicly how important women are to UKDS, perhaps people think we already have this sorted ? Maybe there is a lack of inspiration ? or there is a resignation that it remains a male dominated institution and it will be difficult to make an impact?

UK Deaf Sport has, up until now, always had women on its board of trustees, but both remaining women have tendered their resignations this year and we will not have replacements on the board at our AGM on 26th March.

I cannot stress how important it is that we have women represented at board level. There is so much that needs to be done and we need inspirational leaders to come and help us achieve our ambitions.

Did you know that at the first Deaflympics in Paris, 1924, there was only one woman competing. The pioneer of women was Hendrika Nicoline Van der Heyden (NED) who competed alone in the 100m backstroke swimming. According to Same Spirit Different Team  “Her event is probably, the first and only ‘walkover’ in the history of the Deaflympics.”

IMG_0533In the 2013 Summer Deaflympics, the majority of medal winners in the GB team were women. Athletic’s Melanie Hewitt, Lauren Peffers and the GB Womens Football team. The team was inspired by a charismatic Chef de Mission Fiona Brookes who was at the forefront from the moment she took on the role.

The CISS (Committee International Sports des Sourds) was the first international sports organisation to appoint a women, Maria de Bendeguz (VEN)  onto its Executive Committee in Koln 1981.

Donalda Ammons followed next as CISS Secretary General in 1997 and then succeeded John Lovett as President in 2005 and served until 2009 as she celebrated what was the most successful Deaflympic Games in terms of commercial and media coverage to date when the City of Taipei invested $200m of which $4.34m came from commercial sponsors and vastly increased media coverage which saw attendances rise from 12,00 in Melbourne 2005 to 278,884 in Taipei.

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Emile Sheng, CEO of the Taipei DOC said that the real ‘gold’ in staging the Deaflympics was not in the number of medals generated by the national Chinese Taipei team or the financial profit generated but by the raising of Taiwanese international profile, initiating a regeneration of Taipei City and, for the countries leading businesses, showcasing their products and services. Tony Phoo, an economist with Standard Chartered bank Taiwan PLC, observed:

Taiwan has long been seen primarily as a supplier of electronics components. This will change after the nations socio-economic development is displayed for all to see. (Brisebois 2009, p60 Same Spirit Different Team 2014)

The UK Deaf Table Tennis Association, this week has appointed Sereena Gilmour as its Chairperson. She is the mother of Deaflympian Nick Gilmour and the wife of the late John Gilmour who the UKDTTA owe a great debt to for his dedication and hard work.

IMG_1138Swimmer Danielle Joyce is currently enjoying sporting success breaking 3 world records at the EFDS National Juniors last week and destined to go further.

Like the WSFF, we need more media coverage of the Deaflympics. Same Spirit Different Team explains in detail how in 2001 the IOC contributed US$9m for the promotion of the 2008  Paralympics and US$14m for the 2010 and 2012 events but only 150,000 swiss francs for the Deaflympics to cover 2005-2009. The book suggests a plan of action.

PE and Deaf children

Hello Readers,

Your Sign Language version here.

Lord Moynihan, outgoing Chair of  British Olympic Association is worried that poor quality PE lessons, lack of space on timetables means that a failure to provide “a ladder of opportunity” for children will lead to an increasingly wide gap to standards between state and independent schools.

Two Big Ears is concerned that this means a ‘double whammy’ of lost opportunity for deaf children in schools.

Moynihan says that primary school children are being taught PE by teachers who lack the expertise to deliver the subject because most primary teachers receive just six hours of training in sport at university or college. Two Big Ears would add that that means there is very little training to make teachers aware of the needs of deaf children in their classes. Two Big Ears suggests that schools should do more to link up with local community providers to help them deliver appropriate activity. Teachers of the Deaf are usually English and language specialist and very rarely have any skills or training towards PE or after-school sport, working with the local community will be of benefit to them.

Moynihan wants to see a greater range of activity such as dance to inspire children turned off by traditional team games. Deaf children would be further marginalised by this. We need to see an emphasis on accessible activities that are inclusive and are activities that children can continue with at home with siblings, friends and family. The fundamentals of physical exercise should be nurtured.

Lord Moynihan said the nation is failing to “identify and provide a ladder of opportunity and performance pathways for outstandingly talented kids in the state sector”

Deaf children at primary and secondary mainstream schools are marginalised from after-school clubs and activities because many of them are bussed or taxied to school and the transport service providers are not flexible enough to accommodate this. The problem lies with Local Education Authority budgets not enabling such resources to be used more flexibly. Deaf children who have talent will be missing out.

Schools need to welcome the support of specialist organisations in the community who can come in and work with staff and pupils to enable them to become aware of the sporting pathways and opportunities that exist NEARER to home instead of at school. This information also needs to reach parents of deaf children so that they can help in this process.

Over 90% of deaf children are educated in their ‘local’ mainstream school and will not be aware of sporting pathways available to them. Visits to every school at least once a year by organisations such as UK Deaf Sport or one of its many National Deaf Sports Organisations would help to bridge the gaps in knowledge, not just for deaf children but for all.

If you are concerned about what you read and would like to contribute your ideas, time or support in any other way, please contact Bryan Whalley  bdwhalley@o2.co.uk  Chair of the UK Deaf Sport sub-committee on PE & School Sport for Deaf children. This committee meets three or four times a year to feed information up to the decision makers at the Youth Sports Trust and also acts as a hub of information for PE staff, teachers, classroom assistants and parents worried about deaf children’s lack of opportunity in PE.