The UK Sport committee has announced a shake-up of its budget for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi 2014, with funding for snowboarding reduced to… zero.
Yep, that’s right, zero. Nothing. Nada.
Whilst obscure sports that did well in Vancouver, such as women’s bobsleigh and skeleton, can look forward to millions of extra pounds in funding, other more popular ones – including skiing, snowboarding and figure skating – will received no government backing whatsoever. It’s all part of a dubious policy known as medal targeting, in which cash is funnelled towards those events which have enjoyed recent success and in which there is less competition from other countries to get on the podium. As a spokesperson for UK Sport put it:
The Sochi 2014 investment decisions made for winter sports were taken as part of a comprehensive annual review process in which we assess medal potential for future Olympic and Paralympic Games. Whilst results in Vancouver were of course taken into account, it was decided that, at present, there was not enough evidence to suggest that British Ski and Snowboard would have the programme or athletes capable of reaching the podium in Sochi in four years time or at the Winter Games in 2018.
Whilst we appreciate this decision is of course disappointing for the sports and athletes affected, if the sports’ potential for medal success in 2014 and/or 2018 were to improve, we would of course consider them for investment under our funding criteria. Winning as many Olympic and Paralympic medals in future Games is a priority for UK Sport and that is why we continually review our investment and never close the door on any sport if they can show us they have the potential to succeed.
All of this means Britain’s number one halfpipe rider, Ben Kilner, and boardercross competitor Zoe Gillings (who placed 8th in Vancouver) face an uphill struggle to qualify for Sochi. What with slopestyle’s possible inclusion in 2014 – opening the door for the likes of Jenny Jones and Jamie Nicholls to compete – the decision appears to be even more short-sighted.
Of course, there is a chicken and egg argument to be had: do we fund sports in the hope of success, or reward current success with more funding? But for our money, this whole medal-driven approach asks deeper questions of what sport should be about. Is there really more value in seeing the UK podium in events which the average person will never get to try? Or are the grassroots better served by providing financial support to genuinely popular sports, even if we’re unlikely to win? I mean let’s face it, if all sports funding was based on success, the England football team would get naff all.
Let us know what you think in the comments below…
UK SPORT FUNDING REVIEW
Women’s bobsleigh – £2.4m, up £1.9m
Short-track skating – £2.8m, up £1.8m
Skeleton – £3.4m, up £1.3m
Curling – £2.1m, up £900,000
Figure skating – no funding, down from £496,000
Skiing – no funding, down from £372,000
Snowboarding – no funding, down from £248,000