It is, as always, about politics. UK Sport have confirmed they will re-visit their ‘no-compromise’ approach.

However when it comes to funding elite sport in this country, it is far from a confirmation that basketball will find itself brought back into the fold.

A public consultation over the approach, announced by the agency’s chief executive Liz Nicholl, comes in the wake of concerted pressure, both from within the politician ranks – including England’s Sports Minister Helen Grant – and from a legion of disenfranchised governing bodies whose very existence has been placed in doubt following the wave of Lottery cuts imposed since 2012.

The rationale was that basketball, like handball, volleyball and others, were no hopers when it came to winning Olympic medals in the foreseeable future, a black stain for a nation that finished third in the standings at the London Games.

But Nicholl, doubtless feeling some heat from her political masters, has signalled a willingness to listen ahead of the next round of funding calls in February 2015.

“One of the points raised by our board is a strong view that we should aim to drive more impact from what we do, and the impact isn’t just in creating the medals and the medallists,” she told the BBC.

“It is also through inspiring the next generation to participate in sport and promoting equality and diversity. Is it still about medals and medallists? Is it still about Olympic and Paralympic sports? Is it about non-Olympic sports?

“Do we dig deeper into 12-year pathways or do we stick with eight-year? Is there anything about the funding model and how we calculate how much it costs that needs to change?”

Those are questions which basketball has asked repeatedly over the last 18 months but had no firm reply, with team sports adjudged to have been harshly penalised under the present system.

“This review is a very welcome and timely development,” saidRoger Moreland, Performance Chairman for British Basketball. “It will hopefully lead to a more balanced funding approach that fills the gap for sports such as basketball that have a huge grass roots base, are showing potential at elite level but have yet to achieve Olympic medal success.”

With Sport England, over whom Grant has a much weightier influence, stepping in to give British Basketball some financial support, the always-unlikely threat that Great Britain’s women would have to withdraw from next summer’s EuroBasket has been removed.

But it is still small beers.

“Basketball is a sport that has genuine impact across a whole range of participation and social inclusion indicators,” Moreland added. “A refreshed approach to elite funding would help to close the funding gap and create a win-win, not just for basketball, but also for other team sports. We look forward to playing a full and constructive role in the UK Sport public consultation.”

But for now, all UK Sport has promised to do is listen. And if the public decide it is medals they value above all else, then they will have the latitude to remain on their current course.

Photo: Mansoor Ahmed/BB

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