SCHOOLS in North Yorkshire are refusing to fund a body which runs inter-county sports matches - with talented youngsters likely to miss out, it is claimed.

The North Yorkshire and York Schools Sport Association (NYYSSA) says many schools have not agreed to contribute to its voluntary work.

For 40 years, NYYSSA received an annual grant from North Yorkshire County Council to run county teams in football, athletics, basketball, cricket, cross country, hockey and rugby union.

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However, this year schools were handed the cash directly and given the option of what to spend it on following a change in policy by the Government.

Martyn Coombs, chairman of NYYSSA, said that while schools in Hambleton and Richmondshire had agreed to contribute, many in the Harrogate, Craven, York and Selby areas had either declined to contribute or failed to reply.

A meeting will now take place at Thirsk Cricket Club on Thursday, April 3 to decided whether the voluntary body can continue.

Mr Coombs said schools only needed to pay 40p per pupil.

He added: “Without the agreement of all the schools in the four areas of the county, there will be no more North Yorkshire teams and by definition, no exit routes for the most gifted and talented sports people to excel at the highest levels, and all for the sake of 40p per pupil.”

According to NYYSSA, scores of talented youngsters have progressed through the county system to a career in sport or to represent their country.

Former Premier League player and now manager of Preston North End, Simon Grayson, is one of those who played for the county.

He said: “My playing career at Leeds United, Aston Villa, Leicester and Blackburn Rovers and my managerial career at Blackpool, Leeds United, Huddersfield and now Preston North End was developed on the school playing fields at Bedale High School, whilst representing the Hambleton and Richmondshire Area and playing for North Yorkshire, the pinnacle of sport for any schoolboy.

“The thought that county sport may not be available to youngsters in the future doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Other future, current and former sports stars who came through the county system in North Yorkshire include: footballers Darren Wood, John Scales, Steve McLaren, Andy Dawson and Craig Short; cricketers Paul Grayson and Matthew Fisher and athletes Richard Buck, Tim Burn, Bronwyn Owen, Katie Wood and Tom Somers.