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Andy Murray in sports schools plan
Andy Murray, the Scots tennis player, has said he wants to build a network of sports academies across Britain to produce the elite sports stars of the future.
The 21-year-old, who is the top ranked British tennis player, said he hoped to fund specialist schools that would cultivate sporting excellence as well as academic achievement.
The venture has been welcomed by the Scottish government, which said it was keen to work with the tennis star to establish a network of sports schools in the run-up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Murray, who was educated at Dunblane primary and high school, said he believed that he would have benefited from attending a sports academy as a child and that the specialist centres would help young athletes realise their potential.
Writing in his autobiography, published last week, Murray said: “One of the things I want to do in the future is to set up a foundation or a charity to fund a school, eventually more than one, that treats sport as seriously as the academic side.
“I’d have loved that when I was at school because I adored playing sport and wasn’t much interested in the classroom. I had to be allowed out of lessons to train.
“In countries like Australia and America they really value sport and I would like to do something to encourage a more positive view in the UK. We think sport is great in this country and yet we do so little to promote it to kids. I’d really like to help with something like that.”
Murray, who is ranked 12th in the world, is the joint 77th wealthiest person in The Sunday Times list of Britain’s 100 richest young people. His wealth, from prize money and sponsorship deals, is estimated at £6m.
His decision to help to fund centres of excellence follows in the footsteps of Scotland’s richest man, the sportswear tycoon Sir Tom Hunter, who invested £600,000 in Labour’s Schools of Ambition scheme. Hunter, whose fortune is estimated at £1.05 billion, invested in six of the 52 schools in the project, which has since been scrapped by the Scottish National party.
The Scottish government hopes that Murray will help to fund the network of sports schools it plans to establish across Scotland over the next few years. Under the scheme, certain schools could receive £600,000 to provide special facilities and training.
Alex Salmond, the first minister, is determined to ensure that Scotland is able to build a team of young athletes with a realistic chance of medals in every discipline in time for the 2014 games.
“Andy Murray is doing Scotland proud all over the world, and it’s great that he wants to contribute to sporting success at home,” said a senior government source.
“Our commitment is demonstrated by the first minister’s recent announcement to establish a Scottish university for sporting excellence at Stirling. We also want to build sporting excellence in schools, and are certainly open to discussing Andy’s ideas with him.”
Pupils in sporting schools mix academic subjects with coaching during the school day in a range of sports, including athletics, badminton, gymnastics, hockey and swimming.
The new schools will be modelled on the Glasgow School of Sport, based at Bellahouston Academy in Glasgow, the only school in Britain that helps up-and-coming sports stars to succeed in their chosen field.
Since the secondary school opened in 1999, more than 60 pupils have represented Scotland, including Lynne Donaghy, the gymnast who competed at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Other young people have won gold medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games.
Promising athletes receive rigorous physical training in state-of-the-art facilities, as well as classes in lifestyle management and sport psychology.
Patricio Apey, Murray’s agent, said the tennis star hoped to open “Andy Murray schools” in the “short to medium term” and is keen to discuss how other schools such as Bellahouston Academy have performed.