On the day that UK Sport’s cuts to some sports funding comes into effect, you can’t help thinking that we find ourselves in a bizarre situation.
Sport is a money-making behemoth. You only need to go to a Premier League match or a major tennis tournament to understand the scale of the financial operation. There are so many people and so many businesses who choose to tie their interests up with professional sport.
So how are we in a position where badminton, wheelchair rugby, archery, fencing and weightlifting will all lose the UK Sport funding they rely on?
The athletes who will be hit are all professionals. Most of them are very successful professionals. Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis won the men’s doubles bronze at the Rio Olympics, Britain’s first badminton medal in 12 years. They will have to fund themselves on tour, as badminton loses all its £5.7million UK Sport funding today.
Participation figures in badminton have been in steady decline since 2008. And if you look at the situation now, what reasons would there be to pick up a shuttlecock?
Even worse is the situation for wheelchair rugby. Their athletes performed valiantly in Rio, finishing fifth. And their thanks? The loss of £750,000 a year of vital UK Sport’s funding.
I was told by a source close to the top of the GB Wheelchair Rugby hierarchy that the GB team could be disbanded within the year if funds aren’t found sharp-ish. That is a shocking statement.
It goes without saying that the most visible sports are also the most monied. They perpetuate each other. So it’s easy to forget that, for the vast majority of professional athletes, it’s often a case of scraping by.
I can’t help thinking that it’d be nice to redistribute certain players’ Premier League wages…