Basketball could be brought inside the funding tent after 2021, it can be revealed.
UK Sport have unveiled plans to shake-up their system for supporting sports and to dilute its long-held focus on delivering Olympic and Paralympic medals at the expense of all else.

It follows the publication of a report revealing that while 60 per cent of the public still back that strategy and the huge successes it has brought, there is a discernible desire to see other returns on that investment, including social impacts and some assistance for non-Olympic disciplines.

On a scale of 1 to 10, a survey question that measured “ the importance of British athletes succeeding in sports that people play” rated 7.24 while one that quizzed on “sports with higher levels … of socio-economic impact” had a mark of 6.32, both above the average.

With political winds blowing away from a no-compromise policy that has elevated Team GB from also-rans to second in the medals table at the Rio 2016, a new tier of funding – Progression- will be added after the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

It will aim to provide long-term investment for sports, like basketball, that do not have strong immediate prospects of success while also providing a safety net for those dropping down the pecking order in what some describe as “boom or bust”.

“People still believe in our principal objective of success at Olympic and Paralympic Games,” UK Sport’s chair Katherine Grainger said. “”What we heard loud and clear is that they’ve not had enough yet. They want more. But they want an investment strategy from UK Sport with more social impact.”

That should make the whole system more equitable, she added, with lessons taken from UK Sport’s Aspiration Fund which has effectively served as a pilot for the revamped scheme, dishing out smaller amounts of money to sports – basketball included – and individuals who have been passed over in the main Podium and Podium Potential levels of finance.

“It would be a much longer pathway which would seem like a fairer system for people to access who have longer-term ambitions,” Grainger told MVP, with the caveat being that the exact sums on offer will likely not be determined until 2020 when there is a greater clarity over how much money will be provided by the Treasury to supplement what are dwindling receipts from the National Lottery.

“We don’t see the landscape shifting too far from what we’ve already done. This extra pot of funding will probably provide greater opportunity for more sports to access funding more than we ever had before. So the opportunity is there but the whole point is that funding is always in place where sports can prove they can progress through the system. So we’ll still be pushing every sport whether it’s team or individual to be as ambitious as they’ve always been.”

Theoretically, the strategy re-think will bring winners and losers with sports like sailing set to come under pressure so that the cake is sliced more evenly.

UK Sport, however, has previously signalled that British Basketball will need to satisfy demands for a sustainable plan for its long-term future to be eligible for regular funding with larger sports set to be asked to generate more of their own funding rather than relying on the public purse.

UK Minister for Sport Mims Davies MP said: “This new strategy will further support our phenomenal athletes to deliver world-class performances, while using their success to inspire more people and communities across the country.”

Pic: Mansoor Ahmed

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