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Why we all lose in the 2012 funding lottery

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Matt Slater | 20:21 UK time, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The men and women who represent Team GB at London 2012 will be the best equipped, funded and trained athletes this country has ever sent to an Olympics or Paralympics.

Having scaled the heights in Beijing on the back of lavish public funding, Britain's finest have an additional £39m to spend on their preparations and home advantage to exploit.

So why am I disappointed? Let me number the ways.

First, £304m over four years is very generous, particularly in the current climate, but it's not nearly as generous as the £354m that was promised by our Prime Minister in his final budget as Chancellor, when the economic going was considerably better.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Second, those Olympic and Paralympic competitors are likely to be missing a hundred or so team-mates from sports that have just seen their funding slashed.

Third, the vast majority of those "missing" competitors have done everything asked of them and deserve better than the shabby treatment they were given when UK Sport, the agency that funds elite sport, announced its spending plans for 2012.

And finally, while I enjoy watching Britons winning things on the world stage as much as the next bloke draped in red, white and blue, there is more at stake for us in London than just medals.

So how did we get to a situation that sees most of Team GB looking forward to new kit, great coaches and warm-weather training, but a sizeable minority regretting swapping those tracksuits at the last European championships and wondering if it's possible to become a world-class athlete in your lunch hour?

In the immediate fallout of Wednesday's announcement, the temptation for those who found themselves "below the line" will be to blame UK Sport.

But holding the funding agency responsible for their straitened circumstances is a bit like blaming a shark for biting a surfer. You can quibble with why it was your leg that got bit but you cannot get too shirty with a fish doing what it is designed to do.

UK Sport has always said it pursues a "no compromise" approach to funding: now we know it means it. You take £50m from its budget at your peril.

Faced with an annual shortfall of 14%, UK Sport did not do the mealy-mouthed thing and knock a sixth off everybody's allocation. No, it stuck to its principles and moved the bar up until enough sports were below it - and therefore not worth funding - to make good its revised budget.

Hard on those below the line? Absolutely, it's almost brutal.

Where do the likes of handball and volleyball - two programmes that started from scratch after London won the right to host the Games - go from here? Not back to their overseas training camps, they can't afford them anymore.

What about an emerging sport like table tennis? Its boss told me a funding cut would signal the end of Britain's international ambitions in the sport. At least he won't have to worry about his carbon footprint anymore.

GB fencer Richard Kruse reacts to defeat in Beijing

And how do traditional Olympic sports like fencing and shooting recover from what is likely to be at least a few years in mothballs? Our best young fencers already work part-time at B&Q and our shooters will struggle to find the £3,000 they need for ammunition every year.

These sports, and seven others from the Olympic and Paralympic families, have £11.5m to share over the next four years.

Rowing, on the other hand, is getting £27.5m and basketball - a sport we are unlikely to win a medal in any time soon - has seen its funding go up 137% to nearly £9m.

But the UK Sport way is accountable and transparent. It also works, as our best performance at an Olympics in a century would suggest.

But the game is different when you're at home. Having been given this unique opportunity, we should be trying to do more than win as many golds as possible.

I have every confidence in cycling, rowing and sailing maintaining their sides of the bargain by delivering a lorry load of medals in London. I'm not sure we can actually win more medals in the velodrome without prompting the French to change the rules but we can probably use that £27m to win more medals on the road, at the BMX track and in the mountains of Essex. I also think athletics will do much better than it did in Beijing, despite seeing 5% snipped from its budget, and swimming will go from strength to strength.

Rebecca Adlington and Chris Hoy show off their medals during Team GB's homecoming parade in London

But can we think about what happens after the five-ringed circus leaves town? Can we contemplate making good on our promise to change the sporting landscape forever? Can we properly cost a plan to get our bored and increasingly obese youngsters off the sofa and back into sport?

None of that is UK Sport's job and it should never have been placed in this emperor-at-the-coliseum position. It just isn't cut out for that kind of thing.

It is also not built for fundraising. But that is exactly what it was asked to do when Gordon Brown said the following in March 2006:

"We will invest now in our 2012 Olympic champions. For training and facilities for world-class athletes of the future, I can announce £200 million of public money to be matched by raising £100 million in sponsorship, and, with another £300 million from the lottery, over £600 million will be available in total as world-class funding for world-class athletes in our country."

He "announced" it, so it's got to happen, right? Apparently not, because while it was nice of him to give our athletes £100m of somebody else's money (and yes, I know, strictly speaking, it's all somebody else's money) he and his advisors failed to grasp a golden rule of sponsorship: the sponsors want something in return.

For most of the last two and a half years almost nothing was done to find the cash. It was only when UK Sport started making nervous noises about the hole in its budget that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) called in the cavalry in the shape of sports marketing firm Fast Track.

Six months later and they are no nearer the £100m but they do at least have a neat tagline for this Grail-like quest, "Medal Hopes". Still haven't got anything tangible to sell, though, not that anybody would be buying at the moment, what with the economy going south. As plans go, it's up there with Baldrick's finest.

Oh, and to make matters worse, UK Sport has just been given this hospital pass one more time - DCMS has cleaned its hands of Medal Hopes and told UK Sport to get back out there with the collection bucket.

It should never have come to this. A modest sum of public money should have been set aside in 2006 for Team GB's "development" sports. That money should have been ring-fenced to get those sports to London. They should also have been encouraged to pool resources and given practical advice on how to raise additional funds themselves.

Giving them access to UK Sport money only to then expose them to UK Sport logic when the money became tight was cruel. It has also possibly caused more damage to their long-term prospects than if they had just been left alone - what leading international coach will believe their promises next time they come calling with offers of four-year contracts?

The best that can be said of Government's involvement in this mess is it had the decency to feel ashamed enough of breaking its word to squeeze an extra £21m out of the lottery and find £29m down the back of the Treasury's sofas. Basketball and hockey should feel especially grateful as it was the £29m that lifted them over the "no compromise" bar.

In some ways the real culprit here is not too much politics, it's not enough politics.

What this smacks of is complacency and an arrogant belief the corporate sector will come to the rescue because the corporate sector likes sport, doesn't it?

But what do we expect when sport's voice at Government's top table is a junior partner in the easiest-to-ignore department?

Bodge jobs, broken promises and missed opportunities will be British sport's lot until we as a society take it - and its potential - more seriously. And that means a sports minister, in the cabinet, with access to health, community and development budgets.

If we are going to take on billion-pound projects like the Olympics we should stop trying to do them on the cheap.


  • Comment number 1.

    A very good blog although i feel that we have to accept that the current ecomomical climate has to affect the funding. If volley and handball have to suffer to help those hard pressed families then i think we should look at the big picture. Yes sport is important and the most successful sports (beside basketball) have had their funding mainitained or increased. It is a realistic response from the government and crticising after the funding has been realeased pointless

  • Comment number 2.

    Gutted. I'm a table tennis enthusiast and have had genuine optimism that we might produce a world class player. Looks like that's under severe threat now.

    Paul Drinkhall winning the Junior Worlds next week would highlight quite how harsh this is.

  • Comment number 3.

    There are some vaguely interesting points in here but not many. We can all say 'Give us more money'. If there was an Olympics for articles this wouldn't make it out of the heats.

  • Comment number 4.

    Most of the budget changes make sense. But athletics is the heart of the Olympic games and our poor showing in Beijing should have led to more concerted efforts to improve not a budget cut.

  • Comment number 5.

    Firstly I disagree with escobesco and think this is a blog with many good points, although the whole funding issue is a can of worms and in reality can't be covered in one blog - not that Matt has tried to do this really.

    I'm here to bang the drum for Handball - as Matt said, this is a programme that has been started from scratch and is now at the point where the international teams are beginning to compete on the world stage, and (let's be optimistic here) are poised to kick on to the next level. The investment has been £3 over the last 3 years and a similar amount would not seem an unreasonable request over the next 3 years.

    In my view, we either go for it and make a proper investment in this sport (NB voted the Sport of the Olympics in 2000) or don't bother at all. No point in doing this half heartedly. After all, not only is this a sport that is fast, physical, tactical and skillful, its a sport that could easily be translated into the school system with ease - it doesnt need a huge field to play on or lots of expensive equipment - childhood obesity anyone?

    Rant over!

  • Comment number 6.

    "Paul Drinkhall winning the Junior Worlds next week would highlight quite how harsh this is."

    Is this guy going to be a junior his entire life? You cannot justify the amount of money that table tennis was getting by winning a junior championship! The real test was Beijing and they failed miserably, GB players may be the best for a few years, but they are light years away from the Chinese.

  • Comment number 7.

    Some very good points made, and yes for those that have worked so hard to have their funding cut is not pleasant... But, lets get real shall we... Billions of taxpayers money has been thrown into the financial markets to prop up the economy. People are losing jobs, their homes and much more.

    So a few less athletes running around a track, or swimming in a pool for personal glory is pretty cheap price to pay in the current climate.

  • Comment number 8.

    The government should definitely be utilising the 2012 olympics as much as possible

    to be honest with you this is one area I would be happy to throw money at (sod it, it's all part of a trillion's worth of debt, what's a couple of extra million) - this is our olympics and we only get one shot at seriously building a sporting legacy, I don't want it all to die down after 2012 - "well ceremony's over, let's go watch tv"

    This is a great opportunity to put sport right back in the centre of the british mindset (I know we're obsessed with sport, but I mean actually doing it) - build us new pools and tracks and replace all the playing fields that were sold off and drill 2012 into every kid's head for 4 years

    like Matt said - there's no point doing this on the cheap

    also, I agree with the decision on athletics - some would say (and my immediate reaction was also this) that a failing in such a major area would demand more funding, and giving more cash to our successful sports seems pointless when we're already top, but athletics did not perform as it should have, effectively wasting money for 2008 - there should be a punishment, as this was (in pure business terms) wasteful

  • Comment number 9.

    There are millions of people in this country suffering due to the credit crunch. Somebody in the world outside sport loosing their job is just as bad as somebody inside sport loosing their funding.

    I suppose it is in the naure of the beast that many of those involved in high level sport seem to think the world revolves around them. I do not think Gordon Brown has behave in an underhand way. We have been hit with a financial whirlwind, money has been spent saving banks that have the savings and pensions of millions.

    Given that it seems reasonable for the government to set out its priorities, and I am afraid that sports that under-performed in Bejing handball/fencing/tabnle tennis etc will just have to take it on the chin like the rest of us.

  • Comment number 10.

    Can someone please explain this sudden obsession with basketball? This is a sport that very few people in the UK watch, play or care about! Why is getting so much funding? We might not even qualify for 2012 and if we do we'll get thrashed anyway. Even if we improved a lot there are too many countries that play it at a high level so we've no chance of medaling in the forseeable future!

  • Comment number 11.

    Rowing gets the most money. Tax payers money given to the posh kids...that's very New Labour.

  • Comment number 12.

    Synchronized sodding Swimming? Good Grief! I guess those sequins and nose plugs are very expensive. What a waste! If we want to hit medal "paydirt" surely shooting and weightlifting would be a better pound for pound investment!

  • Comment number 13.

    matt- you say we are unlikely to win any time soon. with bronze medals in the commonwealth games with a squad significantly weaker than the one we have now, that isnt necassarily true. basketball is hugely expanding in this country, talent is comnig through- not in the future, but now.

    'and joblesswonder- this 'sudden obsession' is the fourth most played sprot in the uk, as well as one of the fastest growing.

    i have no idea where you're getting your information from. we've just been promoted to the A division, and are getting stronger and stronger. maybe we won't win in 2012, maybe we will, but the presence of that team will open up huge doors for our young ballers, therefore 2016 is a legitimate possibility.

  • Comment number 14.

    It's very easy to say that it's unfair to withdraw funding from the non-Medal Hopers and that everyone should be given a fair chance to succed, but the Olympics is all about medals and a country like Great Britain should be aiming to finish in the top 3 in 2012.
    I know that when I watch the Olympics on TV, I don't recognise the names of the vast majority of the Olympians, I just support them because of the GB flag next to their name and it's always a massive let-down when you watch some person you have never heard of getting thumped despite you hoping that they were in with a chance of a medal.

  • Comment number 15.

    Matt - good article, would be interested to hear your thoughts on 7s. Given the huge success of Dubai and HK, and the fact that most of the competitors aren't the top level rugby players (as opposed to the shambles surrounding the 'Dream Team' and basketball in general in the Olympics) what are the prospects of getting 7s into the Olympics any time soon?

  • Comment number 16.

    Why does "levdavidovich" think that rowing is for "posh kids"?

    To be described as posh would surprise a good proportion of the GB rowing team - many of whom just learnt to row at local clubs with volunteer coaches. It would also surprise many of the 550 rowing clubs in England alone, most of which operate on a shoestring.

    Rowing is a traditional working men's sport. Yes, independent schools do it (because they value the work ethic it requires), but most rowers do so in self-funded clubs.

    In any case, what matters isn't whether the participants are "posh', it's whether they're successful, and GB have been consistently successful in what is one of the most competitive international sports for many years now (just look at them number of different countries that have won rowing medals). If only those "non posh" but very rich footballers had worked as hard, perhaps the England team would have won something.

  • Comment number 17.

    In reply to post #6

    I think you're a junior so long as you start the year U18. I'm not sure Paul Drinkhall can help how old he is.

    Given that the funding's only been there for a short period of time it's completely unreasonable to expect it to have resulted in a top class senior player already. You've got to be able to back an athlete from an early stage all the way through. Four years just isn't long enough to do that.

    A junior world champion would be a huge indication that the funding has been working. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that the top junior might be towards the top of the senior game in four years time.

    Where was Andy Murray four years ago?

  • Comment number 18.

    I find it sad to read that a sport like basket ball is going to suffer in the Olympic funding - but living in Spain, one realises the intensity of the following of this sport here. Also Handball. Cricket and rugby are minority sports. Each culture has its own priorities regarding their sport. To support so called minority sports needs a VERY long-term investment, not only in participation, but also national interest.

  • Comment number 19.

    Excellent article, couldn't agree more about the anguish this is inflicting on the 'below the line' sports. Shame on the government for reneging on their committment.

    And to DERedcoat (Sodding Synchronised Swimming) - when will the likes of you finally accept that synchro is a bona fide sport requiring enormous aerobic fitness, flexibility and strength? And it has far more spectator appeal than shooting and weightlifting - not that I am in any way disparaging 2 perfectly legitimate and commendable sports who deserve to have their funding pledges honoured. And can I also point out that gymnasts (eg Beth Tweddle - world championship medallist) have been known to sport the odd sequin on their leotards, and as for Torville and Dean...! You don't hear anybody questioning their sporting credentials!

  • Comment number 20.

    Sadly, the cuts were inevitable, unfortunately I doubt Sport UK has taken a serious and financially forensic approach to were the cuts have been made. Far too many administrators right across all sports which have received improved financial help, have been running around the World on one Junket or another and having a wonderful time. Indeed the money wasted on trips to China has been profligate and a disgrace. Money our kids should have received.

    Whilst at the same time hundreds of kids some barely out of their teens, have packed their bags, left home to join training camps, slept on floors and are suffering inadequate diets. Worse still and because of training regimes being almost a full time job, many have then been forced to work late nights in pubs and bars to provide the very basics.

    There has been NO equality, the elite have had mortgages covered by the size of their funding whilst those working their socks off and sacrificing earnings and comfort in an attempt to emulate the elite are expected to survive on money which is barely at subsistence level.

    In so many cases, those running individual sports are to say the least barely capable of running a corner shop and far too many totally unqualified people have jumped on the gravy train since London 2012 was announced.

    My advice to all the boys and girls who have now after two or more years, been literally sent home. Get your CV together, send it to the governing bodies of all your competitors OVERSEAS and politely ask them for help, especially the smaller nations who need more quality in their squads. Don't be Patriotic, if this country does not appreciate you, go to one who will. It is Your life, don't waste it on people riding the 2012 Gravy Train, go enjoy yourselves.

  • Comment number 21.

    I feel sorry for the teams that have had their money cut but very pleased for GB basketball. A just reward for their success. Well done to coach Chris Finch and the lads.

    For those that don't know - British Basketball has been successful. Team GB (Men) have qualified for the next year's European Championships in Poland unlike Sydney 2000 silver medallists France and Athens 2004 silver medallists Italy.

    No chance of winning a medal? By 2012 we may well have a chance of a medal. Matt Slater - do a little research! GB's star player is Luol Deng who is only 23 and recently signed a new 6 year $71 million deal with the Chicago Bulls. The rest of the GB team play in leagues across Europe including the world's 2nd best league in Spain - the league in which most of the World Champion and Olympic silver medallists Spanish team play in. The players we have in that league are on 6 figure salaries and play for some of the best teams in it - Joel Freeland at Gran Canaria, Pops Mensah-Bonsu at Joventut Badalona and the Scot Robert Archibald at Malaga.

    Plus by 2012 Deng may have persuaded his British born team-mate Ben Gordon to play for GB and other younger players will have made the team like Ryan Richards (who was invited to play in the 2008 Nike Hoop Summit with some of the best young players from around the world).

    As for basketball being a sport no one cares about in this country - 7,000 for GB v Czech Rep and 20,000 for an NBA friendly both at London's O2 Arena. There aren't many other Olympic sports that get those sort of crowds outside Olympics. (I also followed the GB team to Belgium and Sardinia for friendly games too!....)

    (7,000 was very good for the GB game considering there was little or no marketing of the game and it wasn't even on tv. I would have thought that "The Olympic Broadcaster" BBC would have been interested in it but no...)

  • Comment number 22.

    This Olympics is going to cripple this country.

  • Comment number 23.

    Unimpressed by the clear political agenda of this article. Yes, it is a blog, but the politics of this article are not quite transparent and the BBC gives no clear indication of the political nature of this blog.

    Berating Gordon Brown for a lack of funding in this financial climate is not only quite ridiculous, but extremely irresponsible. There are bigger problems in this country than a fencer having to hold down a part-time job, and Gordon Brown has more to worry about in this country than the frankly trivial matter of amateur sport.

  • Comment number 24.


    These Olympics will contribute little to the demise of this country. The damage to our country and our economy is due solely to Nu Labour and their unforgivable incompetence and arrogance during the last eleven years.

    Another very important point which should be made with regard to the current funding cuts concerns Team Sports, albeit that Basketball has gained. We need more funding for sports which involve the greater number of children and young people, sports like Volleyball, inexpensive to play, squads of up to 15, boys and girls and a high fitness game. Women's Volleyball is the largest women's team game in the world, for goodness sake, in a nation of 60 million surely we can find 20 young ladies to compete. Here again I suspect that we have pathetic administration, poor coaching and even worse selection with little or no effort to get schools and colleges involved.

    If Volleyball have lost funding I imagine it as a lot to do with poor management and the doubling of expenses by having indoor and beach camps two hundred miles apart in different towns with no crossover of the best players. Not to mention a doubling of both coaching and management staff.

    We should be funding sports where the participation is greater and spending less on the individuals, irrespective of the Olympics or Medals.

    Finally, our young athletes need national independent representation and protection, there have no one to speak for them and are being shunted from pillar to post and in general treated like cattle for the glory of the few.

  • Comment number 25.

    The funding system that sport UK uses is completely crazy. They fund sports based on how well they did at the last Olympics - so for smaller sports it's a huge catch 22. They wont win medals without more funding - but they can't get more funding unless they win medals... who made that system up?!

  • Comment number 26.

    Re comment 13 and others

    The UK is not good at basketball, can everyone please stop saying we are. Follow this link if you think we are in the top 74 in the world and see if you can find us:

  • Comment number 27.

    The UK is getting better at basketball. A programme that effectively started from scratch in 2006 has just reached the finals of the European Championships in 2009 (anyone remember the football teams doing that in the summer?) having beaten teams ranked 25th (Israel), 38 (Bosnia) and 56 (Czech Republic) to get there. A sign of how far we have come is that there is genuine confidence that we can get through our pool (containing #3 Spain, #5 Serbia and #20 Slovenia) and get to the quarter finals as a minimum. That still gives a further three years for the team to gel and work together to become a medal contender in 2012. Basketball has done all that has been asked of it by UK Sport, so it has been funded accordingly. We are not currently in the world top 74 BTW due to the programme being still in its infancy.

  • Comment number 28.

    I can't understand why people in our country have no sense of pride in ourselves. What better way to spend an evening than watching a successful British team or individual who have dedicated their lives to their craft, competing with the best of the world. I know first hand how much effort goes into these 'minor' sports for very little reward. I was lucky enough to be one of a small group of volleyball players awarded an APA of £6,000 to go towards covering my living expenses for one year. I would like to challenge anyone who says the Olympics are wasteful to try and live for one year on £6,000. It simply cannot be done. We put in 6 hours of physically exhausting daily to try and represent the 50m people in this country in the game we love. Sure, some of the top athletes in the 'glamour' sports might end up with high paying jobs in the media as a result of their career, but the majority of the athletes who have dedicated their lives to be able to proudly stand there for the national anthem with the Flag on their chest will finish their sport in debt, and most will have had little or nothing to work wise to add to their CV.

    We are not asking to be showered with fame and fortune. We only humbly ask enough money to allow us to continue to improve. The GB Volleyball team started from nothing 3 years ago. Since then, with the generous money provided to us at the time, we have beaten top 40 teams in the world and have competed well when coming up against the elite teams of world volleyball. We now have some 10 players plying their trade in the top leagues in Europe and have been lucky enough to operate a full time, year round development program for the younger players in the UK. If they cut our funding, it will be the next generation of players that will suffer most. Wasn't this Olympics supposed to be about Legacy?

    50m people, 8p a person. This is how much the British Volleyball Federation has been operating on for the past 3 years. They have yet to confirm any money for the future. What a sad day. 8p a person...

    Andrew Pink
    GB Volleyball

  • Comment number 29.

    RE: Comment 26:
    "The UK is not good at basketball, can everyone please stop saying we are."

    If I were to say that about the GB men's team I would be lying!

    16 teams qualify for the European Championships and GB (not UK) are one of them.

    joblesswonder - only FIBA tournaments (qualifiers and finals tournaments) are used in the world ranking calculations. The GB team was only reformed in 2006. We hadn't had a unified GB team since the 70s but separate Home Nations teams so of course GB are low in the world rankings as no team from GB has qualified for the Euros since England did in 1981. The world rankings do not show the GB team's current strength.

  • Comment number 30.

    If the government saw sence before the initial olyimpic bid this would not even be an issue. The UK or England should've had a joint bid hense gaining more public interest, sponsorship and revenue. Less money would needed to be spent on the infostructure, as there are many world class venues across the country. This would free up more money for investment in young and developing olympians. If the board discussing the money allocation was more diverce and from a lager area maybe the smaller traditional sports would have better funding and the mickey mouse sports would've not made off like kings. Whats next, baseball becoming an olympic sport?

  • Comment number 31.

    Morning all, thanks for commenting/posting.

    I've just spent 30 minutes replying to all your comments only to press the wrong button and lose the lot. It happens to us too.

    Can't face doing that again so I'll just make some general points to the main themes that have emerged. Apologies for not directing my replies to you in person.

    So, in no particular order:

    I'm well aware of the current economic situation but let's get a few things clear and in perspective.

    What we're looking is a series of broken promises AND a depressing lack of vision/imagination. That £100m was pledged (unwisely) in March 2006 when the economic scene was very different. It was a typically cute piece of public/private trickery and the fact that it hasn't worked is no surprise at all. What is annoying is that nothing was done about it until it was too late. That didn't stop the promises coming, on no! (Sorry lasagnelasagnelasagne, forgot to flag up that might stray into politics).

    So, then we get to where we are now with a £50m hole in the budget. £50m is the statistical error on HM Gov's weekly's peanuts. That £50m is over four years, and it's for Olympic and Paralympic sport.

    Now let's think about what sport can do/achieve. We have chronic health and fitness problems (obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc) as well as issues with social cohesion and finding things for our bored youth to do. Sport can help here in a way any other policy tool cannot. We have under-invested in sport as a nation for decades and decades. Our facilities are a disgrace for a country of our size and wealth. It will cost billions, not millions, to fix that. What we can do, though, is inspire kids to pick up sports (or adults to return to them) by showcasing new ones and creating role models. Ask any sportsperson what got them into sport and they will not say it was the amazing pool up the road or excellent pitch at the park. That helps. But the spark will almost always have been a sporting hero from their youth. That is why I am so disappointed by our failure to grasp the opportunity the Games provide.

    Now, that's my big picture view. In terms of where UKS drew its line and which sports got cut I don't have time to answer each point. But I'll the the following:

    Table tennis - very harsh, haven't been to a Games since 2000, definitely on right track, loads of potential in pipeline (particularly for Drinkhall or a men's team medal).

    Handball/volleyball/beach - likewise, started from scratch after we got the Games in '05, can't have done anymore, met every target, unlikely to medal before 2016 but you miracles have happened before and there was no shortage of belief. Cuts to their budgets mean considerable personal sacrifices of team and staff have been for nothing. Oh, antiblazer, you're wrong, by the way.

    Fencing/shooting - Reasonable fencers coming through but Beijing showing was poor and participation levels aren't great which means pool of talent is low. Shooting has issues with training but we won medals as recently in 2000 and took a relatively inexperienced team (Faulds aside) to Beijing, where they underperformed. Shame as they had good interim results in World Cup comps. Difficult to see how either prog can continue on subsistence funding.

    Water polo, weightlifting, wrestling - again a tough call on individuals involved (again, athletes and hard-pressed staff) but UKS didn't have much choice here as progress has been slow, numbers don't really stack up and it's difficult to see massive legacy benefits.

    Cut paralympic sports - not my area of expertise but same sentiments apply.

    As a general point for all of the above, I think we need to remember that this isn't just about a "few less athletes running around a track" for their own "personal glory". You know my feelings on what elite sport can achieve so I don't need to repeat them but let's be clear what happens when a programme like table tennis or volleyball sees its annual budget quartered. People lose their jobs. People who have moved families, sometimes from abroad, to take those jobs. There is a human angle to this too.

    And as basketball has cropped up a few times, I will just add that I made that comment about basketball being unlikely to medal anytime soon precisely because I had done some research. In fact, basketball is probably the Olympic sport I know best. Nobody is more impressed with the rapid strides the programme has made in the last two years but I think some people are getting a bit carried away.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted hoops got some decent wedge and I'm looking forward to seeing us make a decent challenge for the last eight in 2016 and beyond. But we're a very one-man team at the moment and as good as that man is he is only good enough to make us a top 25-30 type nation. Ben Gordon would help but last time I exchanged emails with him his commitment to the cause was very uncertain. But perhaps Luol can now go back and tell him we're truly serious. It's just a shame that other team sports can't do the same.

    Thanks for reading

  • Comment number 32.

    Matt's blog puts into words some of the feelings I have about the funding announcement and the effects on less well known sports.
    My concern is with water polo, a sport with an established pedigree. GB won golds in the 1900, 1908, 1912 and 1920 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, there has been a slow decline since then but lottery funding has enabled a resurgence in recent years. Many youngsters have made significant personal sacrifices in striving to meet their 2012 dream but the future in now uncertain.
    Naturally, representatives of all the sports affected by the funding decision have a right to voice their concerns. My complaint is that I would like to hear more from the water polo community. This blog and the BBC website contain plenty of comments from other sports and the Amateur Swimming Association appear to be happy that swimming, diving and synchronise swimming have secured funding.

  • Comment number 33.

    It is a shame that major UK companies; BP, Shell, Tesco & ASDA etc., have not come forward to sponsor some of the minority sports. For a relatively small outlay (which they can probably offset against their Capital Tax dues) and with robust marketing they could both support these sports and gain consumer popularity and support - thereby adding shareholder value. I would, for one, be more than happly to change to a different forecourt in order to purchase fuel if I knew that 0.5p per litre was going to help otherwise disadvantaged sportsfolk.

    More effort should have been expended in getting these companies to assist, we are, after all, still supposedly a rich nation!

  • Comment number 34.

    Andrew Pink,

    The points you make are absolutely correct and totally confirms my opinion that it is you and those like you who are the real losers.

    This government made a commitment to you which everyone believed was to be carried forward to the London Olympics. Your commitment along with hundreds of other athletes was to say the least, a daunting task. To survive for up to four years on a hundred pounds per week, for accommodation, food, travel and the necessities we all take for granted was a monumental commitment, one which I greatly admire.

    Much was made of the long term benefit of holding the Olympics here, unfortunately that long term benefit is now in tatters as far as many athletes are concerned, it was a false dawn which as a result of these cuts as placed many young people into debt and seriously questioning their commitment.

    statmanASH states that Basketball has done all that was asked of them, hence the continuation of their funding. I suggest that as with other minor sports you take a long hard look at those who have managed your funding and the expectations of Sport UK. Have they shown the same commitment as those they govern ?, have they been prudent and transparent ? and have they, despite results promoted the sport in a business like manner. Most importantly what other funding and sponsorship have they attracted in support of YOUR efforts.

    As I have stated previously I feel strongly that Sport UK should have administered the current funding reductions forensically, looking into individual governing organisations more deeply, eradicating waste and profligacy before penalising those who have without question committed themselves to a meagre existence for the four years running up to 2012.

  • Comment number 35.

    Swim Simon

    Forgive many of the rest of us for not sharing your belief in the athleticism of the Synchro Ladies. Sure they are skillful and athletic but I just don't get it. I guess is why they make different flavours of ice cream. Whatever, my point is more towards the strategy employed in making the decisions. The Chinese topped the medal tables with (among other things) a focus on high yield sports: weightlifting with its high number of classes in both men's and women's competition for example. The US and the Australians do the same with swimming. We have the example of our own cycling rowing and sailing teams, where laser focus on training methods, identification of talent and facilities yielded "Great Success".

    Why then are we axing funding for many of these types of sports and jacking up the funding for a sport that will at best yield 3-4 medals and participation in which has been rather limited to a few countries? As for basketball, it at least has some audience appeal outside the ranks of the cognoscenti.

  • Comment number 36.

    £304m over four years, good grief!

    Here in Australia funding has all but dried up since Sydney. In fact, the British swimming team will now receive FOUR TIMES the amount that the Australian swimming team will receive over the next four years. Astonishing really when you consider the respective countries success in the sport to date.

    The tide is certainly changing.

    London medal tally prediction:

    1. China
    2. USA
    3. Britain
    4. Russia
    10. Australia

  • Comment number 37.


    You're perfectly entitled not to be a fan of synchronised swimming, but it would be nice if you would refrain from being so nastily insulting about its athletes (though I was pleased to see that you do recognise that they ARE athletes).

    To answer your points:
    1)Synchro participation is 'rather limited to a few countries': The FINA website features a recent article in which it said that 83 countries are developing the sport and 48 compete at a World level. I wouldn't call this 'a few'.

    2)Why are we axing sports with high medal yields and keeping the likes of synchro?: one of UKSport's key criteria for funding is progress made. The GB synchro duet went from 21st in the 2007 World Championships to 14th in Beijing - not bad in 17 months, and I'm sure this is what pushed the sport into the gainers category. I get the impression it's a similar scenario for basketball. I may be wrong, but I doubt that eg. weightlifting can demonstrate such spectacular progress. Even if a sport does offer a lot of medal opportunities it's a moot point if we're highly unlikely to win any.

    Anyway, surely the main point at issue is that we shouldn't be in the invidious position of having to debate the funding-worthiness of one sport against another. A funding committment was made in 2006 and it hasn't been honoured. One hopes that by January, when the sports still in limbo will finally learn their fate, UKSport will have been able to twist the government's arm a bit more.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm surprised a company like Tesco or one of the other big supermarkets haven't stepped in to put the money up as it would have been good PR and publicty. It's a shame the government is not keeping it's promise to the athletes. I just hope that they don't end up trying to cut costs in the facilities and Olympic village as that will just be embarassing come 2012 if the athletes start to complain.

    Our facilities are simply not good enough for a country of our stature. I've been to Sweden many a time and they have indoor tracks and outdoor tracks of excellent quality. Sadly, facilities like them will never be built here.

  • Comment number 39.

    36 kloppy25

    That just further highlights the problems of the 'olympic legacy' - having the olympics gave a directive for the australian government, in the same way it is for the british - we mustn't allow that to decline once we don't need to be scared of failing in our own back yards (and remember ozzies seem to be naturally more inclined to be sporty)

    also take a look at france (who use state funds to fund their football) - haven't built a stadium since they had a world cup - there's no incentive for the government to improve that situation

    13. trustavo

    hang on, commonwealth? lets have a look - third to the ozzies and kiwis, other teams include those basketball powerhouses India, Nigeria and Barbados

    now at a guess the best team at basketball would be the US, it's also popular in the far east and europe - none of them in the commonwealth, we didn't even have a team qualified in beijing

    not doubting it's on the up, but commonwealth bronze doesn't appear to be much of an accolade

  • Comment number 40.

    Hello again, just thought I should answer some of the late posters' points/questions and clear up a few I missed before.

    akamimosa (32) - Your comment about the lack of reaction from the water polo community is revealing. I've been looking at the funding story for months and I've heard nothing about water polo.

    I've taken this to mean the sport is struggling to kick on in terms of performance, which is a shame as it was given over £3m in development money in 2006. It's also disappointing, as its governing body, British Swimming/Amateur Swimming Assoc, has made great progress with its "other" Olympic disciplines, swimming, synchro and diving....and that was reflected in Brit Swimming's response to the UKS announcement (widespread delight at the money its 3 growing sports got and brief/ resigned platitudes about water polo).

    Why has water polo not prospered? A shocking lack of facilities (pools without shallow ends) and a low level of participation can't help. Perhaps the sport should have tried what handball/volleyball did and move the programme abroad to where the best players/coaches/facilities are. British Swimming has been doing something similar with a talent academy in Queensland. Water polo could also have tried what GB basketball has been doing...the old 'have you got a British granny' trick. They could also have initiated a "talent transfer" scheme for swimmers with ball skills or rugby players that could swim a bit. To be honest, they could have been trying all of this but I just don't know about it.

    That said, these proactive ideas didn't do much for handball/volleyball in the end, did they?

    supercharybdis (33) - I completely agree...and it should have been tried back in 2005/06. Each of our developing sports should have been encouraged/helped to form close partnerships with companies. And "High net worth individuals", rich blokes to you and me, should have been begged and nagged to get on board right from the outset. It would have been a tricky sell but for relatively little cash those sponsors would have got growing returns in terms of publicity/prestige as the Games get closer.

    It's probably too late now but if there is any hope for these sports it will be that UKS is going to look at "Medal Hopes" again and come up with something new/more realistic. They're going to be helped in this by Locog, London 2012's organisers, who own the marketing rights to the Games and would probably admit to being in good financial health right now.

    DREdcoat (35) - You're right to mention China's decision to target money at medal-rich sports it could improve in quickly. They already had sports like diving and gymnastics in the bag but it was their dramatic improvement in shooting and weightlifting that got them past the US (who did brilliantly in the medal-poor team sports) in the medal table. What they've done is hardly rocket science and you could point to our targetting of track cycling and other technical sports like rowing and sailing as examples of this.

    Now, UKS has clearly looked at our shooting/weightlifting programmes and decided there is less chance of a medal there than there is with synchro. They're probably right, they've got pretty good at this focused-funding lark.

    There's one other thing worth saying about synchro. I don't want to get into the "is it sport or drowning to music with a smile on your face" debate because it's a bit boring. But it is a sport for young women/girls and increasing participation/take-up rates for women's sport is a big issue for our country.

    kloppy25 (36) - Yep, we've been watching and learning. The money you poured into elite sport in the run-up to Sydney dwarfed what we were doing here at the time and it brought you great rewards in 2000 and 2004. In fact, you were probably still getting the benefits from that investment in 2008. But that funding gap has been closing ever since lottery funding and UKS got started and we've now probably moved very clearly ahead.

    I say probably because one of the strengths of the UKS model is its transparency. No other country is as open and straightforward about the levels of public funding it gives to elite sport. You Aussies are up there in terms of the AIS but there are other revenue streams (at state level) going in there too and that makes finding an overall sum a bit tricky.

    UKS did some research on what our "rivals" were doing when they took their case for a funding bump to Government in 2006. At that time we were spending about the same in total as Australia, France and Italy, and a little less than the US (which has a very complicated funding picture) - although the Europeans were spending more of their money on winter sports. Trying to work out what the Chinese spend is almost impossible, although guesswork would suggest it is a huge sum. The South Koreans have just OKed a big boost in funding and I've read bits and bobs about the AOC calling on your Gov to dig deep again. You do still have a few advantages over us, though, facilities and weather. I think your coaching is probably still better than ours, although I think that is closing now too.

    Time will tell, I guess, but my prediction for London 2012 is for us to probably stay in 4th and for you to be top eight.

  • Comment number 41.

    Whilst I accept UKS decision to focus on Medal potential --that decision was made in times when there was no world recession. The world is different now and UKS should be FORCED to change their philosophy. Whilst i am a sportsman and sports lover through and through I fully accept the earlier comment that while we have people losing their homes and jobs the govt has other priorities than funding athletes and for that reason alone UKS has to face up to its responsibilities and change its philosophy. 2012 is not just any Olympics it is OUR Olympics and has a damn sight more at stake than just medals. We should be represented at every sport we can be --where we can compete not just win a medal. We have to show a sense of national pride just like the Chinese people did --right across the board and not just in a few sports that few people in this country can afford to do Does swimming REALLY need £27 million ? Could it not survive on £22 and £5million go to water polo. Would that really make a difference to a sport that we won just a couple of golds for the first time in about 50 years and that only beacause our heroine did most of her crucial training in the states ! Instead of the millions and millions poured into athletics just to watch our relay team drop the baton --couldnt just a few million be syphoned off to handball or whatever.
    I am a waterpolo man but I am sure what I say goes for handball volleyball etc too. There has been HUGE amounts of work going on in waterpolo over the last 5 or 6 years. The comments about low level of participation and insinuating that the sport has done little to help itself shows a total lack of knowledge of what has been going on. . Or maybe --like the swimming hierarchy they don't want to know. Matt --maybe you should have been watching mens National league div 1 this weekend and seen a GB under 18 and a GB U20 team playing and winning against the country's best senior club teams. This kick in the teeth from the funders could not only wreck olympic hopes but also set the sport back years ---what a great legacy we are leaving to a sport that kids from ANY background can get involved in --not by spending thousands of pounds on a track bike or a yacht --but by buying a pair of trunks and working damned hard !! And one last point --read any of the history and documentation about the Olympic movement. To this day it is not called a championship. It is a festival of sport. It is about far far more than winning medals and is why competitors and spectators alike put more emphasis on it than the world championships. By effectively destroying the hopes of these 8 sports we are guilty of destroying the very ethos of the Olympic movement --we are destroying the hopes and dreams of thousands of young people --many of whom put their lives on hold when we won the Olympic bid --for what -- a couple more medal in sports only the better off can participate in. SHAME ON YOU

  • Comment number 42.

    Good on you vintage polo man. I too have followed the funding malarky of the last week.It is possible to make a very strong case for and against funding of any of the Olympic disciplines. It seems that the sacred cows of British sport have continued to get what they need, with eights sports getting the sharp stick.
    My financial advisor tells me that past performance is no guide to future returns, most Gold medallists fail to repeat the performance four years later, however thats the basis UK Sport hands out the cash. Could we do it another way. A recent documentary on the beeb examined the nature vrs nurture argument , using our own sporting superstar Colin Jackson as its focus. A startling fact emerged that 90% of Jamaicans have a 'sprint gene'. Why then compete in the Olympic sprints unless a British athlete has a sprint gene. I have also noticed that the megastars of swimming are 2 metres tall , have an Albatross wingspan, hands like shovels and size 15 feet, how many of them do we have in Britain.
    Any money invested in sport is generally good and brings its own reward in society. In team sports , the idea of a group of people working together for a common goal has more to offer than just a medal tally. I am encouraged by the fact that British sport is the most culturally diverse and inclusive of any of the countries likely to compete in 2012.
    The ability to get funding is an Olympic discipline in itself. You need a strong political lobby with good relationships with the press , have sacred cow status, can play the numbers game ( 70% of the population can ride a bike and 72% can swim ) . In addition have a recognisable celebrity who has won a gold within the last twenty years.It also helps if you have a seat at the negotiating table.
    Finally persevere, remember track cycling was in the same position as the eight discarded sports as recently as twenty years ago.
    Lets hear it for the unfunded eight, would it not be wonderful if they put the rest to shame in 2012. As it stands they will not get there.


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