Sports representatives from the four islands of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man and Isle of Wight met in Guernsey this week to share good practice, discuss current challenges and promote close working relationships between the jurisdictions.
This is the first time the annual get together has happened since 2019 as the previous meetings had to be cancelled due to Covid.
Each island was able to suggest agenda items which included developing a new PE curriculum, support for sport, the need to review swimming pool provision, ideas for targeting hard to reach groups and how the islands support performance athletes.
‘This is a great opportunity for us to meet and discuss areas of mutual interest,’ said Graham Chester, the Guernsey Sports Commission’s Operations Director.
‘Although each island is unique in the way it funds and supports sport, there are many similarities in what we deliver and ways that we can learn from each other.’
Spiralling energy costs and the maintenance of ageing swimming pools attracted detailed discussion with all islands facing challenges in continued provision and considering whether to review existing facilities. Community and political opposition to closing inefficient and costly facilities was recognised as being a barrier to addressing future provision.
The islands shared the way they support performance athletes, acknowledging that it was difficult to provide the level of expert input required for elite level performers and balance this against helping young athletes be the best they can be.
‘I think we need to ask ourselves do we want medals or do we want our athletes to inspire the community to be more active,’ said John Scriven from the Jersey Sport Foundation.
‘We all share the same issues and it’s important to start building these relationships. There are a lot of skills across the islands and being able to share these benefits everybody,’ said Dan Guillemette from the Guernsey Institute of Sport who took part in discussions around performance sport.
‘There’s so much experience and knowledge in the room, it’s great to be able to share it,’ said James Tilley from Jersey Sport.
‘We have sport envy, we are quite a way behind the other islands down to the fact that we don’t have the autonomy or control over the governance of sport,’ said Kevin Winchcombe, chair of the Isle of Wight’s Island Games Association.
Paul Bridson, Head of Sport, Recreation and Youth from the Isle of Man was keen to see discussion between the islands carry on.
‘Naturally we now have an opportunity to form some sub-groups looking in detail at things such as high performance, schools, governance and information sharing, maybe catching up quarterly,’ he said.
‘I feel this forum really works because everyone is so open,’ said James Tilley.
‘We’ve all got brilliant people on our islands but we’re all having the same conversations and all trying and doing and thinking about the same things so amalgamating that learning is really impactful.
‘It’s sparking ideas and it’s inspirational; we can now to go back and have further conversations that will help us.’
Photo: L to R Dan Guillemette, Guernsey Institute of Sport; James Tilley, Jersey Sport; Graham Chester, Guernsey Sports Commission; Paul Bridson, Head of Sport, Recreation & Youth, Isle of Man; Clare Griffin, Isle of Wight Sports Foundation; Kevin Winchcombe, Isle of Wight Island Games Association; Jeremy Frith, Guernsey Sports Commission; John Scriven, Jersey Sport Foundation.