Sir Clive Woodward: Funding is the oxygen for British success in sports like basketball… don’t cut the pipeline
. Several sports – including basketball – have seen their funds slashed.
There is a growing furore over the Olympic sports which have missed out on funding from UK Sport’s 347m pot of gold for the so-called 'Road to Rio'.
Those sports which are deemed not to be ‘podium contenders’ have been left at the starting blocks and pondering their very future and even their existence.
Understandably, administrators, players and fans are angry and frustrated given the very noisy and public commitment to fulfil an Olympic and Paralympic legacy, which was at the core of our successful Bid in 2005 and to Inspire a Generation.
As someone who has worked at the very
heart of elite sport and performance, I have sympathy and support for
these sports, which include basketball, handball and volleyball, which
all attracted massive crowds last summer.
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In terms of potential medal winners at Rio in 2016, those who hold the purse strings probably got it right as judged by their own very strict criteria but we must not develop tunnel vision focused only on the podium.
We must adopt a broader and longer-term vision and aspiration rather than leave ourselves accused of developing an unhealthy lust for medals at all costs, and invest and develop other sports, especially team sports on the back of our Olympic and Paralympic triumph.
It is much more difficult to win medals in team sports compared to individual sports and, traditionally, they do not add many medals to the final medal table because they are not multi-discipline events like rowing, cycling boxing, swimming and athletics. In team sports like basketball you usually only have the men’s team and women’s team.
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Yet, if you analyse the low cost and highly accessible aspect of most team sports, compared to other sports and those which sit comfortably in our inner communities, it is completely baffling to me, why funding has been completely stopped in this area.
In the wake of London 2012 I had hope our cities would be crammed with courts for kids to play team sports, emulating their heroes and nurturing a love for team sport and the camaraderie and spirit, such sports inspire.
My solution to this currently unacceptable situation is to make a special case for these sports with a completely separate pool of funds made available through a new specially set up division of UK Sport called the 'Olympic Development Sports' providing specific support for sports where existing funds cannot be justified.
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These sports should sign up to a long term business plan, say over 12 years with the aim of qualifying for and winning medals not, just for the next Olympics in 2016 but in 2020 and 2024.
This is investing and building for the future and totally fulfils the Legacy aspiration albeit over a much longer period. These sports should be supported and helped to reach a level where funding can be justified in their own right, and at which stage they will be promoted from the 'Olympic Development Sports' category.
After such a momentous year for sport in Britain, it would be scandalous if these sports did not receive the extra funding they need to continue their exciting journeys and help realise the dreams of thousands of youngsters who simply want to throw a ball into a hoop or push a ball over a net on the sand.
Funding is their oxygen for success. Don’t cut the pipeline.