Netballer Ama Agbeze and double Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock joined forces in Birmingham this morning to celebrate the start of the Commonwealth Games.
To kick off the Games getting underway, Agbeze and Peacock attended a National Lottery-funded community project called Community Actions for Local Opportunities (CAFLO) at a sports and community centre based in Bromford, in Birmingham.
Bromford is an area in the top one percent of deprivation in Birmingham and thanks to support from National Lottery players – they were handed a National Lottery grant of £161,000 – they can provide sport and recreational activities for those who live nearby.
The centre provides spaces for meetings, lectures and classes, a food back, chat clubs as well as sports & recreation activities – all to improve the life of those nearby and is organised and managed by Tina O’Dell, her husband and an army of volunteers.
During the Commonwealth Games, CAFLO is running a mini sports tournament every weekend.
This celebration of community sport is highlighting the impact The National Lottery is having in communities across Birmingham, as well as highlighting the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep grassroots sport alive.
And Peacock hailed the event, the funding from The National Lottery and the legacy the project will generate.
“As an athlete, I remember when I came onto the scene, you don’t realise how much The National Lottery do and then you come down to an event like this and you see it,” said Peacock.
“They are not just supporting the elite athletes, they are supporting everyone all the way down to the grassroots level, there are so many people involved and when you have a Commonwealth Games around the corner, the inspiration is huge, the amount of people that want to be suddenly involved is huge.
“Giving them that opportunity is fantastic, and you never know, we might be hearing a story in 10, 15 years’ time when one of these guys is putting on a vest to represent their country.
“Easy access to sport is an opportunity that so many of us take for granted because you might have that opportunity, but not everybody does.
“The National Lottery has had a massive impact on my career, you cannot underestimate it. Everything from supporting British athletics, to events, to myself with the funding and being able to get medical treatment, to be able to live and to not have to go out and get a job and do a nine to five.”
Agbeze captained England at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 when a last-gasp Helen Housby score earned the Roses their first Commonwealth gold at the expense of Australia, the Games’ most successful side.
Though Glasgow 2014 and the World Cup in Liverpool three years ago helped to attract new audiences to the sport, Agbeze believes a home Games could not have come at a better time following the detrimental impact of the pandemic on grassroots sport.
“We’re here celebrating The National Lottery and all it does not just for elite sport but for community sport too and ensuring that young people and elderly people and everyone in between have the opportunity to enjoy sport in their local areas,” she said.
“I think when we won on the Gold Coast participation increased immensely, so I think if we can have that same effect, being on home soil, it will be far greater.
“Even if The Roses do not win, we need a resurgence of netball and female sport because Covid had a negative impact.
“I hope it’s a legacy of people seeing netball and then going out competing, playing or participating in the sport once the Games are done.”
Team Scotland chair Paul Bush, Team Wales’ Nicola Phillips, and Team England’s Ian Metcalfe also attended the event.
Bush, Team Scotland’s lead in Birmingham, hailed the importance of National Lottery funding, saying: “The National Lottery has been a game changer for British sport over the years.”
“Obviously, Team Scotland athletes and the team behind the team with the officials have benefitted in many ways.
“Obviously, there is the world class performance programmes, but then in Scotland you’ve got specific funding for those sports that aren’t particularly Olympic or Paralympic sports.
“So without The National Lottery funding you would not see some of our athletes perform on stages such as the Commonwealth Games, Olympic and Paralmypic Games.”
Metcalfe hailed the importance of events like Birmingham Inspires, adding: “It’s absolutely everything that community sport is all about. This is where it all begins really, the extraordinary pyramid of sport starts with community centres like this, fantastically supported by The National Lottery.
“Looking around I can see lots of young men and women getting involved and being given their first opportunity to participate in sport, lots of great coaches around and without those coaches and the opportunity for those young people then you don’t get people coming right to the top of the pyramid where those elite athletes can be found.”
And Phillips believes it’s crucial to get people from disadvantaged areas into sport, saying: “I think having an event like this showcases what is being done in the community and how The National Lottery funding is able to build facilities like this.
“They help keep it running and it just gets everybody from all ages, young and old, to be able to have somewhere to go and exercise and play sport.
“To have people from the Commonwealth Games to visit allows people to see someone who might look like them, whether it’s male, female, different ethnicities, different abilities.
“If they can see that, then they can think they might have a go at doing that and that is what is really important about the Games being in the city and what sports they can watch.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes.