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SportsFinegold wants to create youth sports panel | Local News | #sports | #elderly | #seniors

Finegold wants to create youth sports panel | Local News | #sports | #elderly | #seniors

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BOSTON — The collapse of one of the nation’s largest youth sports enterprises is fueling calls on Beacon Hill for more oversight of the industry.

A proposal filed by Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, would create a nine-member commission to study whether Massachusetts kids are being sidelined from football, soccer, basketball or other youth sports by an increasingly profit-driven, pay-to-play industry.

Finegold said he filed the proposal — which was heard by the Legislature’s Public Health Committee on Monday — in response to the bankruptcy of Boston-based Legacy Global Sports, which abruptly went out of business last year and caused “hundreds of families to lose money.”

“Much like the NCAA regulates college athletics and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association regulates high school sports, we may want to consider stronger oversight and accountability in the youth sports sector,” Finegold said. “We need to prevent what happened with Legacy from reoccurring, especially given the financial strains that many youth sports operators are facing because of the ongoing pandemic.”

Families are spending “sizable portions” of their income on youth sports programs to give their kids a competitive edge, he said, but it’s not clear how much young people benefit.

Under Finegold’s proposal, the panel would be asked to develop guidelines for oversight while looking into the cost to families for participating in youth sports and the financial strains that youth organizations have faced during the pandemic.

A report would be due within a year of the bill’s passage.

The commission would include nine members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. There would be representatives from the NCAA, MIAA and National Council of Youth Sports, and at least three commissioners who “operate youth sports organizations or venues.”

“It is important that we bring together key stakeholders and make sure that families are actually benefiting from these programs,” Finegold said.

Legacy Global Sports, one of the nation’s largest youth sports operations, was forced into bankruptcy last year amid criminal investigations into fraud and mismanagement by top executives.

The company’s insolvency left a long list of creditors, including hundreds of youth sports groups and families, holding the bag for more than $30 million on facility rentals, expenses for tournaments in faraway places and charges for programs that no longer exist, according to court filings.

Mike Borislow, executive director of the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association, said state oversight of the industry is lacking. He pushed a plan to create a youth sports commission a few years ago but it failed to gain traction.

Borislow said he hopes any new panel would also look at other pressing issues in youth sports.

“There’s always going to be pay-to-play issues cropping up, from time to time,” he said. “But the bigger issue is the overall health, safety and welfare of our children.”

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhinews.com

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