Why I think more should have been done to help Ross be an MP and a football official

A Member of Parliament recently decided to quit his role as a football referee to dedicate his full attention to his position in Westminster. Thea Rogerson, Press and PR Officer at the Alliance, weighs up the social and wellbeing benefits of balancing sport and recreation as a part of our busy working lives. 

MP for Moray, Douglas Ross has said that being an MP is his first commitment and in doing so, stepped down from his role as a professional referee – while Parliament is sitting.

Ross was criticised in October after he missed the vote on universal credit as he was away officiating a Champions League match.

Arguably working in Westminster is different. An MP has been elected by their local constituents to represent important issues that are affecting them and being a dedicated MP requires time. But I can’t help wondering how this decision, to take a step down from his role in sport and recreation, will have an impact on Ross individually.

It brings to light a wider discussion about the social value of sport and recreation. Working in sport and recreation helps provide a constant reminder of how physical activity can benefit our mental and physical wellbeing. But how much do other sectors recognise this? It’s not just about participating in sport – it can be coaching, volunteering and in Ross’ case, officiating.

The Government outlined individual development as one of the five key outcomes of the sport strategy, Sporting Future. This means more people from every background regularly and meaningfully taking part in sport and physical activity, volunteering and watching live sport.

Should this not be applied across everything that we do?

In our strategy, we set out how we will make our members and us, fit for the future. A major part of this is making sure that organisations across the sector have an engaged and high performing team. And it doesn’t just stop at staff, we’re determined to make sure that our volunteering workforce is more representative of society. Therefore, we must make sure that the opportunities to volunteer in sport and recreation are advertised as far and wide as possible to attract a diverse range of people.

The Ross case is a unique one, but perhaps there is something we can all learn about making sure that wherever possible, sport and recreation is a feature of our daily lives. And the responsibility is also on employers, who can make sure that staff feel that they have the opportunity and flexibility, within reason, to pursue interests outside of their job description.

To me it seems a shame that Ross had to give up something that he was obviously very passionate about. It’s not to say that he won’t be able to continue in the future, and in the meantime it might encourage a discussion in Government about balancing the demands and pressures on MPs in their daily working life.

For now, it reinforces how important it is that we continue to highlight the value of sport and recreation for individual development and also, mental and physical wellbeing.