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Sports governing bodies - a quarter of boards should be women by 2017, or face funding cuts

British Cycling has NO female board members

Sports governing bodies that fail to appoint at least one in four women to their boards should face funding cuts, according to a leading sports figure.

Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the Women's Sports and Fitness Foundation, has said that sports funding agencies have promised to ask "hard questions" if targets are not met - and that includes British Cycling, which has no female board members.

"There have been exhortations for years and years and very little has changed, so we know that appealing to the better judgment of these sports on its own doesn't get us to where we need to be," she told The Guardian.

"This is public money that everyone in the community is contributing to. Those sports have to serve and represent the whole community and at the moment their governance structures aren't, so our very strong view is that if they do not comply they should not be funded.

"Sport England have started to take money away, not around governance, but if sports haven't been meeting the targets, so there is precedence in withdrawing funds and we would strongly urge them to keep that up and take it further."

British Cycling receives £24.7m from Sport England annually.

UK Sport's chair, Sue Campbell said: "Twenty per cent are already doing it, 60% are open to being coached to do it and 20% it will take a different kind of effort.

"Progress on equality and diversity will continue to inform our ongoing funding decisions – if it's stagnant we will ask some hard questions. But that's slightly different than sanctioning."

Sport England's chief operating officer, Rona Chester said that it would be an improvement for sport. "We know there is a correlation between well balanced boards and better NGOs. Gender equality is just one part of that, but open recruitment and independence are essential for better governance," she said.

More women on boards of sports governing bodies could lead to better conditions for women in pro cycling, an issue that has been circulating for some time.

Olympic star Lizzie Armistead raised the issue of sexism in the sport this summer, as did Sarah Storey, Britain's most successful Paralympian (and gold-medal cyclist). Then Dave Brailsford toyed with the idea of a women's Sky team - but any progress seems to have stalled under the weight of the post-Armstrong doping scandals.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on

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