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Governing bodies plea for UK Sport funding system change dismissed

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Dame Katherine Grainger, the incoming chair of UK Sport, has dismissed calls to review the quango’s ‘no compromise’ approach despite 11 sports claiming that the system had “disenfranchised” a number of athletes.

A letter penned to Grainger ahead of her official appointment on 1 July stated that the current system was “two-class” and “countered Olympic ideals”.

UK Sport's no compromise approach results in funding being concentrated to sports that have the most opportunity to medal at Olympic Games.

According to the letter, only 48 per cent of Olympic sports (16 out of 33) were being funding in the Tokyo Olympic cycle, compared with 64 per cent for Rio 2016 and 70 per cent for London 2012.

“UK Sport has appointed a new chair, which presents an ideal opportunity for her to conduct an urgent, thorough review of the funding agency’s objectives for Tokyo 2020 and the Games that follow,” said the letter.

“At the heart of a revised purpose should be a celebration of Olympism and Paralympism as ends in themselves.”

However, Grainger said that while she “felt” for the sports that missed out on funding ahead of Tokyo 2020, UK Sport “simply cannot reach the sports who are furthest away from medal success”.

She also suggested that the “overwhelming message” from UK Sport’s partners and the public was that the organisation should “continue to focus on delivering medal success”.

Table Tennis England, Archery GB, BaseballSoftballUK, British Basketball, British Fencing, British Handball, British Volleyball, British Weightlifting, British Wrestling, Badminton England and GB Wheelchair Rugby all lost out on funding and joined forces to call for a rethink.

“We urge UK Sport to recognise that medal targets alone should not be the sole criteria for its funding, that it has a responsibility to ensure that all our Olympic and Paralympic athletes are encouraged to achieve their potential and that a system of development opportunities should be there for all of them,” they said.

The governing bodies added funding could be taken out of sport science, sports medicine and bidding for international competitions and redirected to sports missing out.

But Grainger said that doing so would “mean taking away funding or expertise from athletes with greater chances of medal success”.

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Dame Katherine Grainger, the incoming chair of UK Sport, has dismissed calls to review the quango’s ‘no compromise’ approach despite 11 sports claiming that the system had “disenfranchised” a number of athletes.
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Grainger officially becomes UK Sport chair on 1 July / Matt Crossick/PA Wire/PA Images
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