FUNDING SNUB LEADS TO CALL FOR CHANGE

UK Sport has been accused of intransigence in its approach to funding high performance after basketball was denied Lottery support in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020.

Shooting and hockey emerged as the biggest winners in the agency’s investment plans as it unveiled how it will divide up its £345 million budget to back Summer Olympic and Paralympic medal hopes – while rowing continues to land the most money of any summer sport with £32m, followed by cycling and athletics.

But even with a number of sports newly-axed from the programme, the likes of basketball, handball and volleyball will continue to receive nothing despite assurances of closer correlation between participation and elite sport with the governing bodies of all three expressing their dismay and accusing UK Sport of wasting their time in applying for assistance, having “no interest in team sports” and refusing “to take responsibility for the need to fund their performance development, which was identified in its own review.”

“Given the widespread research which acknowledges that it takes longer to develop medals in team sports and the delight in Britain with the Women’s Hockey gold in Rio, surely a proportional funding allocation to Category 5 sports would provide the opportunity for team sports in particular to develop “performance pathways for future success”, as was intended when UK Sport added the category to its funding procedures,” a statement issued by British Basketball said.

“The improvements that British Basketball demonstrated on the world stage during the London 2012 Olympic cycle showed that it can develop medal opportunities in the longer term, but not without a reasonable level of long term funding.

“With approximately 200,000 weekly participants across the country from highly diverse backgrounds, basketball in Britain offers life chances to many people from backgrounds which are clearly under-represented within Team GB. It could be argued that they are more entitled to be inspired by future Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

With rowing and sailing among the top-three funded sports by volume, it will re-open the elitist nature of the current system which has an emphasis on a number of sports played by the few, both domestically and internationally.

British Basketball chiefs have called for up to ten per cent of UK Sport’s £274m budget for Summer Olympic sports to be reserved for team sports but it is a plea that will fall on deaf ears – with no mood to revisit the no-compromise formula that will see targets of 51-85 Olympic and 115-162 Paralympic medals in Tokyo after achieving record successes at Rio 2016 where Great Britain and Northern Ireland finished second overall in the Olympic medal table.

“We would like to invest in every sport but the reality is that we have to prioritise within agreed resources to protect and enhance the medal potential within the system,” said UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl. ‘If we underinvest across the board then the British teams will ultimately underperform at the Games and medal success will be put at risk.

“We know what it takes to win and what it costs to win and believe these investments will deliver medal winning success to inspire the nation once again in Tokyo.

“We have not taken these decisions lightly and we know that this impacts on the hopes and dreams of athletes, coaches and support teams that miss out. We are committed to managing this with appropriate care and will be working with those affected by these decisions to help them in their transition.”

With archery, badminton, fencing, weightlifting and wheelchair rugby all axed from the funding programme, there will be pressure to deliver more commercial revenues and reduce the reliance on public funds with expected drops in National Lottery spending likely to decrease the cash available.

“Ever since the fallow Atlanta Games, British NGBs have been supported by public funding that has produced an avalanche of medals but left many sports without the commercial expertise needed to generate independent revenue,” said Alistair Milner, performance and participation partner at search consultancy SRi. “

“With little public money available, governing bodies in the United States boast hugely sophisticated commercial departments that generate the significant funds needed to deliver gold medals. UK NGBs need to move quickly to create commercial capacity in their organisations or risk being left behind in a highly competitive marketplace.

“We’ve seen football clubs lead the way in the UK, and NGBs who take a leaf out of their books and succeed in boosting their commercial income will likely be the sports standing on top of the podium in Tokyo.”

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