Also announced this week is the funding provided by UK Sport for each of the Olympic sports for the Tokyo Olympiad. The headlines make good reading for GB Rowing’s Performance Director, Sir David Tanner. Rowing once again is the best funded of all the Olympic sports receiving a total of £32,111,157 for the four year cycle. But behind the headlines this is actually a reduction of £511K versus the Rio Olympiad.
This is despite rowing officially missing its medal target in Rio of 6 medals. Its fortunate for British Rowing that the quality of the medals were better than expected, 3 golds and 2 silvers beats 6 bronzes every day of the week. I don’t think it’s stretching the point to suggest that the silver medal won by Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley saved GB’s bacon. Theirs was an unexpected medal, whereas more “expected” medals (the M4X, M2- and lightweights) missed out.
Other “headline” sports have fared worse. Cycling, often seen as GB’s “Olympic Medal Factory”, has seen its funding cut by £4.2m (14%) v Rio. The argument put forward for the cut to Cycling is that the sport has significant opportunities to generate income itself from sponsorship so needs less from the public purse. It’s somewhat surprising that British Rowing is still hasn’t had a title sponsor since Siemens pulled out after the London Olympics. Given the success of British rowers at London and Rio it does seem odd that a major sponsor isn’t on board.
The biggest winner in the funding round is Shooting. They have seen their funding increased by 78% v Rio to just over £7m, given the Shooting team comprises 11 athletes that equates to nearly £640K per athlete (compared to Rowing with 100 funded athletes @£321K per athlete). The biggest loser is Badminton which loses all of its funding, despite meeting its medal target at Rio. The argument put forward is that the funding is based on medal potential at Tokyo, not performance at Rio. This is pretty soul-destroying to the Badminton squad as it basically says that UK Sport do not believe they can win any medals in Tokyo. The Rio medallists have taken to social media to express their shock and disgust at the cutting of funding and the fact this may mean the end of their careers. I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of this, an appeal will surely be winging its way to UK Sport.
Funding is always an emotive issue, and with sales of tickets for the National Lottery declining UK Sport have a smaller pot to play with, they will be looking to sports to generate their own sources of income. In this respect rowing may come under increasing scrutiny if it fails to deliver strong performances during the next four years.