This week's MP's column comes from Imran Hussain, Labour MP for Bradford East.

Fresh from the sensational success of the England Women’s football team over the past few weeks, as well as from the Ashes campaign over the summer and the hosting of the Rugby League World Cup last year, putting more money into school and grassroots sports is a cause on the lips of all those with even a passing interest in our nation’s sporting success.

After all, as I’ve said over and over, it is at school and at the grassroots level where budding players and the next generation of Adil Rashids, Lauren Jameses, Tasif Khans and Tom Burgesses, and particularly those from more disadvantaged backgrounds where families can’t afford top-tier facilities, develop their love for their chosen sport, hone their skills, and catch the eye of scouts and agents searching for undiscovered players.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Adil Rashid as he was given the Freedom of Bradford along with Harry Brook and Jonny BairstowAdil Rashid as he was given the Freedom of Bradford along with Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow

Without these grassroots channels feeding promising players up into the professional and ultimately national teams, we simply wouldn’t have the same sporting pedigree that puts England and the UK in competition to reach the furthest stages of sporting competitions like the World Cup or the top-end of the Olympics’ medals table.

That’s why if we want to aspire to participate with the best of the best in all sports, we need to put money and support into grassroots sports to make it happen.

Yet it would be wrong to see investing in grassroots sports as just a means to creating a national team that can lift trophies or athletes that can win medals, because sport at the grassroots can be, and should be, so much more than that.

It can be about creating community hubs with clubs that don’t just get people together for a kickabout, but actually support and care for their neighbourhoods in which they are embedded. It can be about giving young people an outlet and a means of building their confidence in all walks of life where they feel like they can achieve anything.

And it can be about breaking down barriers between communities with sport as one of the great levellers, united by a shared passion for sport and for winning.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tasif KhanTasif Khan

With the right support, grassroots sports can also be about helping tackle both the symptoms and the causes of disadvantage and deprivation that sadly exist in so many of the left-behind areas not just across Bradford, but across the country.

This disadvantage and this deprivation is driven by rampant inequalities in health, in income, in education, and in opportunity, all of which are interconnected in a great vicious circle, with those with poorer healthcare unable to grasp the economic opportunities available to others, and those struggling to make ends meet often forced to sacrifice their health for their incomes.

Yet when grassroots sport gets the investment that it needs, when people are provided with easy and affordable access to leisure and recreation, opportunities to take part in sport and physical activity are opened up to everyone, not just those who have the time and flexibility to fit their lives around their work, or those who have the money for private sports club membership and facilities.

Grassroots sport is therefore not the silver bullet, but when used correctly and where investment and support are properly targeted, it can be a valuable tool in the fight for better lives and in overcoming the rampant health inequalities that people in Bradford face, which allows us to go on to tackle the inequalities in income, in education and in opportunity too.

It is these benefits that grassroots sport can provide that is the reason why getting support for our local clubs and facilities is a cause that’s so close to my heart, and why I’ve continued to pursue it with such passion, pushing Ministers to invest in grounds and equipment for grassroots sport, urging governing bodies to put their money where their mouth is when they talk about tackling the disadvantages and discrimination faced by those wanting to be involved in sport, and encouraging communities to use and support grassroots facilities where they do actually exist.

Whilst it has been hard-going at times, with Ministers often turning a blind eye to the immense social, health and economic benefits that grassroots clubs can provide, and with governing bodies beset by scandals that undermine the trust that those at the grassroots level have in them, we’re now starting to see the campaign pay off.

Just this year, the Minister for Sport made a special trip to Bradford to see the excellent work undertaken by grassroots boxing clubs and to set out the Government’s commitment to supporting such clubs, and over recent weeks I’ve had positive engagement with the England and Wales Cricket Board about the desperate need for better facilities in cricket-mad Bradford.

Yet the work is not done, and it won’t be done until all those kids wanting to play sports in Bradford can play on a proper pitch, not in the street, until they can play with proper nets, not against a garage wall, and until can play with proper equipment, not a deflated ball or wooden planks for bats, or until the same sporting opportunities that are available to those in more affluent areas are open to all those in Bradford too.