Unfunded sports 'still have a role to play' insists Katherine Grainger
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Unfunded sports 'still have a role to play' insists Katherine Grainger

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I have huge empathy for the sports that are struggling without financial support and are still being asked to deliver on performance – the fact is, there isn’t an open-ended chequebook

Chair of UK Sport Katherine Grainger says unfunded sports still have a role in the system but will have to look elsewhere for investment as “there isn’t an open-ended chequebook”.

In an interview with Sports Management magazine, Grainger admitted her first three months in post had been “challenging”, with one of her first tasks to placate 11 national governing bodies who lost out in the past two funding cycles.

“It’s important to emphasise that even if a sport is unfunded, it still has a role in our system,” she said.

“I have huge empathy for the sports that are struggling without financial support and are still being asked to deliver on performance. The fact is that, unfortunately, there isn’t an open-ended chequebook we can draw from.”

The former Olympic rower joined UK Sport in July, just as cuts were announced. Together with CEO Liz Nicholl, Grainger granted an audience with the bodies for archery, badminton, baseball/softball, basketball, fencing, handball, table tennis, volleyball, weightlifting, wrestling and wheelchair rugby.

The group demanded a review of UK Sport’s decision to strip archery, badminton, fencing, weightlifting and wheelchair rugby of millions of pounds of public money following Rio 2016 and its refusal to reinstate funding for other sports which suffered the same fate after London 2012.

“During the talks, we heard from each sport individually, and also had everyone come together as a collective group to try and identify a way forward – including areas where efficiencies could be made and even ways to find some funding,” Grainger said.

She added that criticism of UK Sport’s ‘no compromise’ motto is misguided, with its true meaning lost since the body was founded in 1997.

“Back then it meant there would be no compromise in providing us, the athletes, with the best opportunity to perform – whether that meant hiring enough staff, appointing the best coaches or investing in facilities, training camps or equipment.

“‘No compromise’ stood for no corners being cut on what was being made available to us in order for us to achieve our goals.

“Over time, that has been twisted – I’ve never met anyone here who believed UK Sport was a ‘medal-at-any-cost’ organisation.”

Read the full interview to hear Grainger’s views on bullying in sport and the UK’s ambitions for a decade of sporting ‘mega-events’.

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Chair of UK Sport Katherine Grainger says unfunded sports still have a role in the system but will have to look elsewhere for investment as “there isn’t an open-ended chequebook”.
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