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UK Sport plays both Santa and Scrooge

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Gordon Farquhar | 18:39 UK time, Thursday, 9 December 2010

It is still a remarkable statistic that more of us tuned in to watch Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean's Winter Olympic bronze medal comeback performance in 1994 (23.95m), than saw David Beckham get sent off in St Etienne four years later at the World Cup in France when England crashed out on penalties to Argentina (23.78m).

The British public's love affair with ice dance began with John Curry, was nurtured by Robin Cousins, and peaked with Torville and Dean.

It has been on the slide (ahem) ever since and, to be honest, it is now properly on the skids. Ice dance will no longer receive any funding.

Its modest £100,000-a-year budget has been cut off by UK Sport which has played both the unexpected Santa Claus and miserable Mr Scrooge with their annual funding review.

Applying its long established "no compromise" Summer Olympic sport funding principles to winter sports for the first time has been painful for some, a cause for celebration for others.

Amy Williams won Britain's solitary gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in the skeleton. (Getty images)

Along with ice dance, skiing and snowboarding get nothing but bob skeleton, an event in which Amy Williams won gold in Vancouver earlier this year, gets £3.5m to spend up to the Sochi Games in 2014.

The women's bobsleigh team have a huge increase of £2m, curling gets almost another £1m, while speedskating picks up a big bonus, too.

Take away the emotion. Funding based on realistic expectations of medal success. That's how British winter olympic sport sits, for the next few years at any rate.

Overall, it is an increase of approximately £5m and will surely be welcomed in this current economic climate.

Being the bearer of good news is generally preferable to the alternatives, so it must have been a pleasant task for UK Sport's senior managers to "do the ring round", as they describe it, and call the individual sports to let them know what their funding numbers would look like for the next 12 months.

Increasing lottery revenues have compensated for falling exchequer funding, so, overall, the feared funding cliff-edge has not been tumbled over.

Only badminton and the Paralympic sport goalball have really disappointed this year and felt the impact in their pockets accordingly.

Others, notably hockey and gymnastics but also boxing, taekwondo, rowing and canoeing, have been rewarded for exceeding expectations.

Comparisons with the position 18 months out from Beijing are favourable.

Results in major championships suggest that British sport is in a better place than it was in 2006 and that the 47-medal haul in Beijing - 19 of them gold - can, and probably should, be surpassed.

As we know, there are lies, damn lies and statistics. As the 2018 World Cup bid team will tell you, sometimes you can misjudge your chances of success.

So let us not get carried away. Fourth place in the medals table will not be there for the taking, it will have to be earned. In this tough, results-based environment, for every gymnast turning hoops celebrating a funding boost, there is an athlete in a tutu and skates whose dreams have been shattered.


  • Comment number 1.

    So, how do medal hopes get a chance to develop in some of our currently weaker sports, if there is no funding there to support them?

  • Comment number 2.

    That's the conundrum - Do you support weaker sports in the hope of making them stronger, or concentrate on the stronger sports where there's more chance of success? Personally I think they've got it right. Nothing breeds success like success. Too much money has been spent on losers in the past. Show tangible signs of improvement and the support will follow. It has to be right that it's that way round.

  • Comment number 3.

    Gordon - firstly just to clarify Ice Dance is one branch of Figure Skating, John Curry & Robin Cousins were figure skaters and not ice dancers.

    I can understand the rationale of rewarding success. Ice Skating for me needs another star in this country to inspire others to success, in a way doing what Beth Tweddle has done for Gymnastics in recent years.

  • Comment number 4.

    I read the article on funding and I am confused by the content. Grants were given to the GB hockey and GB badminton, but the people noted as the heads of the recipients were Hockey England and Badminton England. Are these grants for the benefit UK playing teams or English playing teams? Please advise if anyone knows.

  • Comment number 5.

    Well it appears that this East German model of sports funding where only the position on the medal table matters seems to have official support so it is deemed better in winter sports to fund women's bobsleigh where all the worlds participants could be easily accomodated in one room rather than (womens) snowboarding which is a mass participation activity.
    Yes medals are nice but all events are not equal and history doesn't remember the old DDR approach that fondly

  • Comment number 6.

    I can understand people like Chemmy Alcott, having their funding withdrawn - she's peaked and won't get better but I'm not clear on why her not quite being in the top 10 means that younger skiers coming through now have less chance of cash. Or perhaps I've misunderstood how this works,

  • Comment number 7.

    The Wall Street Journal ran a good article on the difference between the British summer and winter Olympic funding and it is obvious that the British do not take the Winter sports seriously. The question is do the British really want to compete at the Winter Olympics? Funding always comes after the medals which is unprofessional and short sighted. Even a small country like Slovenia make us look amateurish!


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