UK Sport’s consultation on its approach to elite sport funding will close on December 10 and British Cycling is asking cyclists to have their say. Funding criteria is currently based purely on performance, but there are suggestions that this favours many so-called ‘elitist’ sports and that participation levels should also be a consideration.
UK Sport’s targeted approach to investment currently sees resources being channelled towards those athletes and sports which offer the greatest chances of winning medals. This philosophy has helped move Great Britain from 36th in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games medal table to third at London 2012.
British Cycling describes the funding it has received over the last 16 years as ‘transformational’ and says continued support will be necessary to maintain a position as the world’s number one cycling nation. However, a number of other sports have been critical of the current means of allocating funding.
Speaking to the BBC, UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl said:
“We're hearing quite a few comments from team sports, particularly basketball – sports that are not funded by us in this cycle because they are more than eight years away from developing medal potential.”
In February, seven sports lost their funding, including basketball, water polo and synchronised swimming. This was because there was little chance of winning medals at Rio or at the Tokyo Games in 2020. Handball and volleyball also lost their funding for the same reasons in late 2012.
Meanwhile, sports such as rowing, sailing, equestrianism and modern pentathlon have had their funding increased for the 2013-2017 period. Former Great Britain basketball player, John Amaechi, feels that while these events may offer better medal hopes, there are other factors worthy of consideration.
“There is legitimacy to all the sports in question, but are canoeing, shooting, archery, fencing, modern pentathlon and rowing the answer to our obesity problem? Are these the sports that can permeate our urban communities and inspire a generation of youth who are dramatically less well off than the previous?”
Nicholl says that this is likely to be one of the main things considered when reviewing the consultation.
“One of the points raised by our board is a strong view that we should aim to drive more impact from what we do. And the impact isn't just in creating the medals and the medallists. It is also through inspiring the next generation to participate in sport and promoting equality and diversity.”
Cycling has certainly profited from the current funding approach, but the sport surely scores highly in terms of participation as well. British Cycling is keen to emphasise its support for the notion that elite success is not an end in itself, but something to make use of when attempting to increase participation.
“Our membership has doubled since London 2012 and there are now over two million people cycling once a week.
“We also have research which demonstrates the direct link between medals and mass participation. Since 2009, well over a million people have been inspired to take up cycling or to cycle more often as a result of the British Cycling-Sky partnership.
“However, to get lots of people active you need to fund a structure or system, whereas winning medals is about supporting exceptional individuals and teams. The two ought to be joined up but the funding has to be used in very different ways.”
To have your say on how British Sport allocates funding in the future, you can respond to the consultation here. UK sport is asking six main questions.