Thankyou Janet for inviting me to such an important event, and through you I would like to thank your Board and your team for all of your work in creating this new strategy and the important change in your name and the work that you all do and of course I wish you well in the future too.
Being from a public relations background, I fully understand and appreciate the need to ensure that the name of the organisation reflects both its values and also what it does, which is why this change will further build on the success of Lincolnshire Sport.
It will have a broader appeal to those who are perhaps put off by the word sport, (those of you who know me will appreciate that I do not suffer from such an apprehension – I’m willing to give most activities a go – although bungee jumping holds no attraction whatsoever…) but those put off potentially by the word sport, should be reassured as they can now feel that there is something they can do that does not need them to join, take part and enter competitions – as being active – going for a walk, gardening or cutting the grass, is something you can do on your own, in your time and at your own pace.
Our County of Lincolnshire has so much going for it, a rich history, successful businesses, a great rural economy, a lovely County City – the most loved City in the East Midlands certainly, and a strong civic culture in its towns and villages and Countryside that is the envy of many areas elsewhere.
On top of all of that we have great people living and working here and also great organisations such as those of you in the room, all working together to provide the best support possible to everyone in our County. This creates a real sense of belonging so people are proud to be a Yellowbelly, or feel as I and some of my family do, that they are part or honorary yellowbellies as they make our County their adopted home.
This is why being active is so important because it binds people together. There are of course the health benefits, the economic benefits and the mental benefits, which are clearly articulated in the strategy and the vision. And I hope that we can make sure more than 20,000 people who are currently inactive across the County lead a more active life by 2021.
But on top of all of this, there are the social benefits.
I and my wife Cordelia both coach and referee my youngest son’s rugby teams every Sunday and are also involved in other sports with them such as football, tennis, cricket and rowing. I myself in my time was a mean/keen footballer, an agricultural cricketer and I am now one of our country’s largest and slowest rugby union fly-halfs…allegedly. I still don the boots of my youth from time to time …if truth be told when any opportunity arises.
What makes this all fun is not just seeing my sons play, it is the camaraderie with the other parents and teams – the common purpose and experiences you share, the spirit of being with people from all walks of life and of course the gossip. And never forget complaining about the referee… except when I am the man in the middle of course.
We can also see this in how the whole City and County came together behind the exploits of Lincoln City FC in the FA Cup and it would be really be interesting if we can find out how this has had an effect on young men and women wanting to start playing football in Lincolnshire, and being more active.
This camaraderie we can see not just in sport in its purest sense but in fitness activities in gyms, walking clubs, jogging clubs, slimming clubs, walking football games, bowls and or just those who want to walk home from work rather than getting in their cars.
With such a rural landscape where there are plenty of activities, it can seem strange at face value that we need an Active Lincolnshire at all, but often it is human nature not to appreciate what is on your doorstep. This is why this organisation is needed more so than ever and why I really welcome this new strategy and the new name. I would also like to mark my thanks to Active Lincolnshire and to thank everyone from Sport England, our local authorities, schools, sports clubs and individuals who all play a role in keeping Lincolnshire Active.
Lastly, and I know there will be many official thanks before she leaves, but I would like to start the ball rolling by saying from both Cordelia and I that it has been a great pleasure working with Janet since I was first elected and we both wish you the very best for the future. I know over the 17 years at Lincolnshire Sport, including the last seven as Chief Executive that Janet has made a real difference to the lives of people in the City and Constituency I represent, and across the County. This new strategy and name are a fitting legacy.