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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Underfunding debate rumbles on

Since UK Sport's funding announcement in January, Handball like the other sports who found out that they would receive considerably less funding, has got on with the job of preparing teams for the 2012 Olympics. Of course none of us have given up the fight to see that our sport is fairly represented at the games, and to maximise the long term benefit of this extraordinary opportunity provided by the London Olympics.

All of these sports are working hard to ensure they provide the best possible coaching and competitive opportunities for the athletes within their vastly reduced budgets, they are also having to focus their attention on seeking out commercial partners in the worst economic downturn many of us have known, in order to fill their funding gap.

Even when we think that there is a glimmer of hope in the shape of the BOA/UKS/LOCOG Team 2012 initiative, we are firmly told that there is no guarantee that the revenues generated by this fund will be used to replace the shortfall to the 8 Olympic and 4 Paralympic sports. Instead UK Sport will decide how it will be distributed, and this despite UK Sports 'nice' words in January that if the money had been there, they would have optimally funded all the sports.

But there are people who are prepared to speak out against the UK Sport 'no compromise' approach which was intended to deliver Britain's best ever medal haul, but is actually having the most destructive effect in British sport just 3 years out from the Olympics. Peter King, former CEO of British Cycling, speaking at the recent CCPR conference said UK Sport had created false expectations of funding among the country's minor Olympic sports and then "chopped them off at the knees" by slashing their budgets for 2012. Simon Hart, The Telegraph 6th May

Furthermore Hugh Robertson, the the Shadow Minister for Culture Media and Sport asked Andy Burnham the Minister for Culture,Media and Sport 'how the funds raised by Team 2012 will be allocated to each sporting discipline' to which he was given the reply 'Money received by UK Sport from Team 2012 will be allocated and distributed to Olympic and Paralympic sports according to their 'no compromise' investment strategy and against the 10 investment principles published in June 2008, with the aim of delivering the overall targets for London 2012 of Top 4 in the Olympics and 2nd in the Paralympics with more medals won in more sports'.

Given the 'the haves and have not' landscape that UK Sport have so successfully created, is it any wonder that UK Sport are struggling to win the trust of many people in sport? a matter recently highlighted when Peter Keen, Performance Director at UK Sport was recently reported as saying "One of the things we've found difficult as an organisation is to strive to gain real trust and mutual understanding with people and balance that with the inevitability of accountability and scrutiny." Cycling an Olympic example for others, says UK Sport performance chief.

Trust is mutual and has to be earned and all parties have to be accountable for their actions. I feel sure we have not heard the last of this debate.

Paul Goodwin
CEO British Handball

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