British Cycling performance director, Dave Brailsford has attacked the decision by UK Sport to cut the funding for top Olympic sports in the run-up to London 2012, including a £500,000 cut in funding for cycling.
Speaking to the Guardian Brailsford said that London 2012 that the Sport UK's emphasis on using funding to increase participation in smaller sports was in danger of turning London 2012 in to the “Have a go games” and by inference endangering it's target of finishing fourth in the medal table. British Cycling is tasked with providing a significant proportion of those medal – the cycling team that competed in Beijing was the most success part of the most successful British Olympic team ever contributing 7 of the 19 gold medals won – indeed only one member of the cycling team returned without a medal of any sort – Mark Cavendish.
This week British Cycling saw the the already tall order of emulating its winning feats in Beijing made significantly harder with two strong gold medal chances disappearing in the IOC's shake-up of the track cycling events for London 2012 with the loss of the men's and women's individual pursuit, events won in Beijing by Rebecca Romero and Bradley Wiggins.
British Cycling along with a number of other sports governing bodies based it's spending plans for the run-up to 2012 on the outline budgets put forward by UK Sport last year, however a spokesman for UK Sport told the Guardian that the figures announced last year were based on an expectation that inflation would be higher, the fact that it has proved to be substantially lower combined with a commitment to spending £13m on increasing participation in smaller sports meant that there was less money allocated to the bigger sports such as cycling, rowing, swimming and sailing all of which have been allocated around £500,000 less than they were expecting. The UK Sport spokesman said the organisation would still be sticking to its medal targests and pointed out that the £13m would help meet its target of having British participants in every Olympic event at 2012.
While £500,000 is undoubtedly a lot of money, the total budget allocated by UK Sport to British Cycling's elite programme is still £26.39m (down from £26.92m) spread over the four years from 2009 – 2013. What irks Brailsford is the seeming shift in the funding strategy, "A reduction like this two and a half years prior to the Olympics is a real disappointment. I was always led to believe funding was meritocratic."
UK Sport's funding strategy had clearly been to reward success and punish failure, however it is the two most successful sports at Beijing: cycling and rowing which take the biggest funding hits in the new budget while athletics which was originally penalised for its relative failure has managed to claw some of the money it originally lost back.
While making his point, Brailsford was not going to dwell on the disappointment saying, “if we're moving to a have a go Olympics we'll just have to get on with it”.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.