FROZEN OUT 11 CALL FOR FUNDING REVIEW

British Basketball is among eleven sports calling for an overhaul of the way the UK targets Olympic and Paralympic medals.

The group have joined forces to demand government agency UK Sport re-thinks its current approach to elite performance and its use of Lottery money to solely back sports which are expected to deliver medals.

All 11 were left out in the cold when UK Sport unveiled the distribution of its £345 million pot of cash last December for the cycle leading up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, most notably badminton which met its targets at Rio 2016.

And with rowing legend Dame Katherine Grainger taking office on Saturday, the rebel grouping have sensed an opportunity to shift the agency away from its successful but controversial ‘no-compromise’ approach to find the money to give every sport a minimum amount of assistance.

In a discussion paper they argue:

• “The existing approach to National Lottery funding of Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic sports has been conspicuously successful in winning medals, but has disenfranchised many of the country’s elite sportsmen and women, creating a two-class system that runs counter to Olympic ideals.

• “At London 2012, UK Sport initially funded 18 of out of a total of 26 Olympic sports (70%). In 2016, out of 28 Olympic sports, UK Sport funded 18 (64%). For Tokyo, they will fund 16 sports out of 33 (48%). Where will this approach end?

• “UK Sport has appointed a new Chair, which presents an ideal opportunity for her to conduct an urgent, thorough review of the funding agency’s objectives for Tokyo 2020 and the Games that follow. At the heart of a revised purpose should be a celebration of Olympism and Paralympism as ends in themselves.

• “Providing opportunities for elite British athletes in all relevant sports to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics need not run counter to the pursuit of medals, and will make the nation even prouder of TeamGB’s and ParaGB’s triumphs.”

Basketball has not received funding from UK Sport since 2013, deemed incapable of winning a medal in Rio or Tokyo but with prominent backers arguing that the decision deprives a sport which has a wide grassroots following the opportunity to grow and develop.

It has had some support from other bodies including Sport England and the Sportscotland Institute of Sport but has been forced to drastically cut its international preparations at Under-20 level.

“Whilst we welcome the current support we receive for our British programmes from our funding partners, we need a longer term commitment and greater investment for us to deliver sustainable British programmes,” Ian Curryer, interim chair of British Basketball, said. “With the recent addition of 3×3 Basketball to the Olympic programme we now have two Olympic disciplines for basketball giving greater opportunity for British teams to compete at the Olympics.

“A change in the process for the distribution of National Lottery funding by UK Sport would give us much greater scope to allow our British teams to reach their full potential.”

Using the slogan ‘Every Sport Matters’, the group – also comprising Archery GB, BaseballSoftballUK, British Fencing, British Handball, British Volleyball, British Weightlifting, British Wrestling, GB Badminton, GB Wheelchair Rugby and Table Tennis England – want a tiered structure for funding that would see a basic investment in coaches, programme managers and a competition programme.

And it is claimed just four per cent of the existing budget, in tandem with economies of scale in other areas, would be enough to bring the 11 up to speed.

Their manifesto argues for:

Gold sports to receive full investment where medal success is very likely.
Silver sports to receive support if there is a recognised medal opportunity.
Bronze sports to receive a baseline investment to enable a reasonable level of programme management.

Grainger admitted she was unsurprised by calls for a review but hinted that it – or change – would not come instantly.

“I will of course listen to these sports’ concerns, and UK Sport will go out to consultation again on its investment strategy for the 2024 cycle, but as things currently stand, as ever with finite investment, we simply cannot reach the sports who are furthest away from medal success,” she said.

“UK Sport runs a lean operation with 88% of its investment benefitting sports and athletes, either directly via the World Class Programme, or to fund their support services via the Institutes, so to take the approach these sports are suggesting would mean taking away funding or expertise from athletes with greater chances of medal success.”

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