Anger over 'ruthless' funding plan for 2016 Rio Olympics

Dec 19, 2012

UK Sport cuts funding for London underachievers as it targets more medals in 2016

AFTER a glorious Olympics, UK Sport has taken a "ruthless" approach to funding in the run up to the 2016 Rio Games, with big cuts for sports that underachieved in London and a complete withdrawal of support for four disciplines.

Among the biggest casualties are swimming and indoor volleyball, while there will be no more money for basketball, handball, table tennis and wrestling.

UK Sport, which funds elite athletes, is to spend £347m on preparing British Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls in the next four years, and has set the team the challenge of winning even more medals in Rio than in London, even though no host nation has ever performed better in the following Games.

Explaining the decision, sports minister Hugh Robertson said that some of the funding ahead of the London Games was designed to drive ticket sales. "Going forward it is done on a performance basis and there is not a lot of point of funding a few sports which will not be there in medal contention," he said.

"Where all sports were given financial backing before this summer’s Olympics, UK Sport has adopted a far more ruthless approach this time around," explained the Daily Telegraph.

However, news of the cuts has not gone down well with those associated with the sports that lost out.

Table tennis coach, Stephen Baggaley told the Telegraph: "To stop funding a sport entirely is a statement, really. All sports should have been given something in the name of legacy."

British Basketball's performance chairman, Roger Moreland, said withdrawing support was a "waste" of the previous investment. "It doesn't seem much of a legacy from 2012 to dash the hopes and aspirations of a sport whose heartland is founded in Britain’s inner cities," he added.

Although swimming has had its funding cut by £3.7m after disappointing with just three medals in the pool in London, it will still get £21.4m. The sport is also on "probation" as it hunts for a new performance director.

"UK Sport's chief executive Liz Nichol insisted this was about Rio potential and not a punishment for failure to deliver on their London medal target. But it didn't feel like that," said BBC sports editor David Bond. "The challenge for swimming and all the other sports that have been brutally cut back is to learn from those sports that have excelled."

But, as The Guardian notes, some of the decisions "look arbitrary". Why, for example, has handball - "endlessly touted as one of the hits of the Games and a potential driver of the grassroots legacy" - lost out altogether, while water polo has seen an increase of more than 50 per cent?

"The answer lies in cold, hard numbers," says the paper. "The UK Sport approach is based on identifying medal hopes for Rio and beyond and remorselessly channelling funding towards those sports and athletes.

"The huge investment is justified by precious metal... and that means pouring money into those best placed to deliver."

Sign up for our daily newsletter