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British Basketball gets Olympic funding reprieve after UK Sport appeal
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British Basketball gets Olympic funding reprieve after UK Sport appeal

British Basketball has received a funding reprieve in the wake of a high-profile campaign against UK Sport's decision to axe its Olympic programme.

In January the funding agency said the sport had not done enough to prove it could win a medal at the 2016 or 2020 Olympics and would lose its £8.5m backing, prompting a rearguard action that included public petitions and a letter to David Cameron from the British NBA player Luol Deng.

Six governing bodies made informal presentations to the UK Sport board on Wednesday in an effort to overturn funding decisions announced in December.

But only basketball and wheelchair fencing have proved successful after presenting "new and compelling performance information" that impressed the board members. Table tennis and wrestling will receive no money, while volleyball will get only modest funding to continue to run a beach volleyball team. Indoor volleyball and sitting volleyball will get nothing. Representatives of weightlifting and powerlifting failed to win an increase to the £2.64m their sport was awarded.

Basketball and wheelchair fencing will receive one year's funding, with the rest conditional on the fulfilment of "strict performance criteria". The British Basketball chairman, Roger Moreland, said the International Basketball Federation, FIBA, had played a key role in demonstrating to the UK Sport board how much progress had been made over the past seven years.

"We will now enter into a dialogue with UK Sport about the actual details and level of funding, as well the support services required," he said. "This is a momentous day for British basketball."

British Basketball had argued that the sport would fall off a cliff if it failed in its bid to have its funding reinstated. UK Sport would not comment on how much money the sport would receive, but it is likely to be a seven-figure sum given its team nature.

UK Sport's chief executive, Liz Nicholl, said the very public campaign had made no difference to its decision-making, which was based on performance criteria. She said that, based on the EuroBasket draw that had taken place since the original funding decision was made, the sport had been able to show a credible route to qualification and a possible top-eight finish in Rio. "This information was presented much more clearly to us, with the addition of the draw being confirmed. It was much more compelling than it was as originally presented. The conclusion was that they were closer than we originally assessed."

British Volleyball has already indicated it will launch an appeal, which must be lodged within 20 days of written reasons being received, while table tennis will consider its options. The English Table Tennis Association's chief executive, Richard Yule, said he was "very disappointed but it was not unexpected".

The sport asked for £369,000 in funding and Yule said the procedure raised questions about the "no compromise" ethos. In one of only six sports with more than 200 competing countries, he said proving medal potential was harder but British athletes could still compete. "You're not comparing apples with apples," he said."I am thrilled for British basketball and UK Sport's recognition and appreciation of the very strong case we presented," said Patrick Baumann, secretary general of FIBA. "The new funding will allow the sport to build on the progress and growth it has already made in a very short time and aim for a podium place in 2020."

Baroness Sue Campbell, who chairs UK Sport, said: "We want to make it clear that we do not consider any of the non-funded sports to have failed. In fact most have made significant progress within this unique period whereby they were funded exceptionally given it was a home Games. Our decisions have been made on the detailed assessment of a sport's future potential for medal success in Rio 2016 or 2020."

Those sports that failed in their bids now have the option of submitting a formal appeal. UK Sport's "no compromise" attitude to funding, that lifted Team GB to third place in the London 2012 medal table, has been criticised by some for being insufficiently flexible.

The U-turn over basketball's future risks being embarrassing for the sports minister, Hugh Robertson, after he defended the decision to axe it in December.

"Basketball teams are expensive. If they have no chance of qualifying then would you want to fund them and take the money away from a cyclist or a rower that has more chance of getting a medal?" he said then.

Nicholl said there could still be hope for sports without funding, as long as they can demonstrate they have a credible medal chance in 2016 or 2020.

"The door is not closed to any sport that has had their funding reduced or stopped," she said. "Every sport has the opportunity to come back to us at the annual review stage to make a case for future funding – if they can demonstrate sufficient progress to evidence a credible medal opportunity within the next eight years."

Source: The Gurdian,

Owen Gibson

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