Eddie Hearn: ‘It’s so disgusting that the government are not supporting grassroots boxing’

Eddie Hearn says he is “disgusted” by the government’s £300m support package for elite sport and threw a stinging right hook at bulging bailouts for rugby union and horse racing.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston this week announced a fund to support 11 sports which will lose significant revenues over the winter, with rugby and racing the biggest beneficiaries, awarded £135m and £40m respectively.

Hearn criticised the decision that comes as the doors of amateur boxing clubs remain closed and claimed politicians are out of touch with the role boxing plays in deprived communities.

“It’s so disgusting that the government are not supporting grassroots boxing,” said Anthony Joshua’s promoter, speaking at the launch of The National Lottery and ITV’s Miss Out to Help Out project, which encourages the public to miss out on their favourite TV shows and instead use that time to help out in their community.

“A huge amount of money is going into rugby and horse racing, yet nothing into a sport that’s saving people’s lives and that’s because they’re so far removed from those communities. They have no idea what boxing does in the community. They’ve never been to an ABC boxing club. You would only have to walk into one to see the kind of kids who are in there.

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“It’s keeping kids off the street, it’s keeping them physically in shape, mentally focused, it’s keeping them driven. Yet you want to put money into horse racing. These kids aren’t going to gravitate towards horse racing or rugby. There’s too many barriers to entry. You can walk into a boxing club around the corner in your community and change your life.

“It’s down to a lack of understanding about what is important deep within communities. It’s a lack of understanding about the sport of boxing, and they don’t take any notice or care about it. Go and talk to Anthony Joshua about what boxing did for him and where he’d be without boxing – in prison, dead, anything. They can help so many community clubs survive.”

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In his announcement, Huddleston said the funding was based on an assessment of need and that the assistance will be spread “fairly well” across the country. 

In July, England Boxing announced a £150,000 Tackling Inequalities Fund to ease the financial burden on boxing clubs in the most deprived areas of the country.

Hearn and his company Matchroom Boxing have intervened themselves, helping a boxing club in Hartlepool raise £3,000 to repair their rotting floor within an hour of launching an online appeal.

“Clubs are doing everything they can to survive every day with the help of local businesses, but those businesses can’t afford to support them any more,” said Hearn. “They’re always fighting a losing battle, but now, they’ve got no chance. We could lose many of them.”

Even bodies who benefitted from the fund say they are unclear as to how the money will help the grassroots of their sports. Badminton England, who received £2m, can now stage their All England Championships next year but admit they don’t know how local clubs will benefit. And it’s far from just boxing that needs a helping hand, according to Hearn.

“There are plenty of other sports that should have received the money other than boxing – any sport that’s giving back to the community,” he said. “It could be karate, athletics, other things in the community that make a big difference – but not horse racing and that much money for rugby.

“You can’t just say – ‘I quite like rugby union, I think that’s good for the kids, yes, I’ll put in £100m’. You’re letting these kids and these communities down so badly because it shows a lack of understanding about the real world. All sports rely on volunteers and need help.”

Hearn is backing a new volunteering initiative from The National Lottery and ITV encouraging the public to use the time they spend watching their favourite TV show helping out in their community.

Hearn himself spent an hour virtually volunteering and talking to 12 members of charity Sporting Memories – one of the thousands of community groups supported by some of the £30m raised by Lottery players weekly.

“Volunteering with Sporting Memories was a really rewarding experience,” said Eddie. “To witness first-hand the impact, you can have on the wellbeing of an individual just by giving a small amount of your time to help out was so nice to see.

“I’d like to encourage everyone who has a bit of time to spare to go to MissOutTohelpOut.com to explore how they can support their local community.”

Miss Out to Help Out is encouraging the public to miss out on their favourite TV shows and instead use that time to ‘help out’ in their community – a new initiative from The National Lottery and ITV – visit MissOutTohelpOut.com.

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