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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Winners and losers in sports funding re-think

WITH the announcement of changes to funding levels for sports, LEO CLARKE gets some local reaction

LONDON 2012’s pledge to create an Olympic legacy has come under scrutiny following UK Sport’s decision to cut funding for a number of sports in the build-up to the Rio Games.

The nation’s high performance sports agency announced earlier this week how a record pot of £347m would be distributed in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Cycling, rowing, boxing, athletics and gymnastics are among those given increases, but several sports are paying the price for failure at London 2012 with severe cuts to their income.

Basketball, handball, wrestling and table tennis miss out on funding altogether, while volleyball is down to £400,000 from £3.5m, with the new sum all going to women’s beach volleyball.

British Basketball described UK Sport’s decision to cut its funding totally ahead of Rio as “devastating” and a “waste” of previous investment.

Ian France, a top coach and founder of Barrow’s Hoops Basketball Centre, was also shocked by the news and yesterday branded the decision as ‘ludicrous’.

France, who is not in charge of Barrow Thorns national league teams now but is still manager of the centre, added: “I think it’s a totally ludicrous situation, a situation which is absolutely bordering on the farcical.”

“The most popular team games throughout the world outside football are basketball, and to a slightly lesser extent volleyball.

“There is more countries playing those sports and yet we are expected to start from square one and then, after one cycle, have the funding cut.

“How can they possibly hope to compete at the level of a medal after just four years, it’s ridiculous.

“And then some sports, which are having funding increased, have got such a small participation rate throughout the world that it’s far easier to get medals.

“When the kids see that there is no funding going into the sport in terms of the elite funding, they just think, ‘why are we bothering with this sport?’.

“I think it’s the second most played sport in the world, so how can they possibly expect to get to that level against the countries that are already up there?”

Swimming was another major casualty in the funding announcement after it returned just three medals at London 2012, resulting in a 15 per cent cut, from £25.1m to £21.4m. One of the sports to receive a boost is cycling – a massive success story at the Olympics – with their funding rising from £26m to £30.6m.

Former Olympic mountain biker Caroline Boyle, formerly Alexander, who competed in the Atlanta and Sydney Games, said: “It’s great news for the sports that have been successful, obviously other sports have lost the funding. I heard an interview with a volleyball coach, he wasn’t too happy.

“They are just being completely ruthless as other countries have been and have been successful with that policy.

“They are just totally ruthless, I guess that’s what it takes. It’s great that I have been involved in a sport where they are reaping the benefits, enjoying the fruits of their success, but it’s tough if you’re not in one of those sports, how do you come back?”

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