POSTED: July 9th 2009

Tony Blair tells sport: Work harder to make world a better place

Tony Blair: making his point at Beyond Sport / Paul Harding, Action mages
Tony Blair: making his point at Beyond Sport / Paul Harding, Action mages

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: Tony Blair led a powerful appeal in London today for sport to understand and exert its power as a catalyst for social change.

The former British Prime Minister said: “Sport can be exciting and innovational but we are still coming to terms with what a big thing sport can be.”

Blair recalled a prime ministerial visit to a school in Japan when the greatest positive reaction he gained from the children was not words such as “Britain” and “London” but “David Beckham.”

He added: “As Prime Minister I learned about power but I also learned also the limits of power and how government should be more about setting a framework for organisations to come together, particularly in sport.

“There are so many doors which remain closed and we need to access the way in which corporates and stars can make such a difference to help grassroots sport scale up, if they had a little help.

“It’s tough to make it all work but with a little help, and the right networks, together we can see sport affect peoples lives in a big way.”

Blair’s stage was a conference entitled Beyond Sport which sought to focus the minds of sport, business and sport representatives on ways of interacting more effectively in the cause of worldwide development.

Universal theme

His words were echoed by Prince Faisal of Jordan (right), from his experience as founder of the Generations for Sport initiative. He said: “We work so that young people no longer see their differences but their similarities.

“Sport is such a universal theme that its appeal allows us, particularly working with children, to teach issues of tolerance, respect for rules and hopefully become better people and create a better society.”

Film-maker Lord Puttnam praised Spanish football club Barcelona for its agreement to wear the UNICEF logo on its shirts rather than a commercially-lucrative corporate logo.

But he added: “The world is a pretty brutal place and the disparities between the rich and poor worlds are growing and the best investment in the developing world is in the education of girls and women and thus creating systemic change.”

He suggested both FIFA and the IOC were not doing enough in development work and added: “There’s a lot of money in sport which should be playing a greater role in social development.”

He thought Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, would be disappointed at sport's failure to contribute enough to social development.

Project awards presented included: Sport for Pearce Award to Open Fun Football Schools; UNICEF Children’s Rights Award to Goals For A Better Life.

Keywords · Blair · Prime Minister · Beyond Sport · Prince Faisal · Lord Puttnam · Barcelona · UNICEF

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