Goalball UK, the governing body of the only Paralympic sport specifically designed for the visually-impaired, is to receive increased funding from Sport England. The sport has been awarded £1.3m to continue the remarkable progress being made in grassroots participation.
With the potential for an additional Talent Development Grant in the New Year, Goalball UK is set to double its total funding from Sport England. In four years, the sport has quadrupled participation – doubling the number of active clubs.
Mike Reilly, CEO of Goalball UK, said: “Since London 2012 and working with Sport England we have dramatically increased our reach to often isolated blind and visually-impaired people. Each new player is a life transformed for that individual. Now, having proven that getting involved in Goalball dramatically improves the life chances of the individual, we can look to do even more.”
The funding announcement comes after the launch of the Government’s ‘Towards an Active Nation’ strategy earlier this year which highlighted the wider value of sport including physical and mental well-being, personal development and recognising the community, social and economic contribution made when people are able to develop new skills.
One of the findings that impressed Sport England was that involvement in Goalball meant visually-impaired young people were 47% more likely to be in full-time education or employment.
Mike Reilly, CEO of Goalball UK, said: “At the heart of the Active Nation strategy is the wider value of sport, especially when it comes to under-represented groups who are more likely to be inactive such as the disabled. The visually-impaired in particular can find it challenging to find opportunities to participate in sport and society more generally.
“For this relatively small investment, every club will be able to act as a crucial social and support network for visually-impaired people and their families.”
Minister for sport, Tracey Crouch, said: “Grassroots sports develops the stars of the future which is why we are investing almost £90 million to help the governing bodies that run them.
“Participation levels in sports are rising and we want to maintain that momentum by allowing governing bodies to bid for extra investment from Sport England for specific projects that will encourage people to get involved and bring communities together.”
Unfortunately, grassroots investment is not being matched by elite funding from UK Sport to allow the GB teams to target medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Unlike many sports, Goalball allows for rapid progression to elite competition for those who show talent. Laura Perry became part of the GB Women’s team just 18 months after taking up Goalball and Matt Loftus, of the Men’s GB team, was recruited to the elite pathway after his very first tournament.
Reilly continued: “With the rapid progression of many of our current GB players to the national squad, it is entirely likely that future GB members are yet to pick up a Goalball.
“The lack of support from UK Sport means that despite having some incredible players developing through our talent pathway, we face a black hole of funding at an elite level. This is in spite of incredible performances from our Men and Women GB squads who both achieved promotion to the A League in the IBSA European Championships in October.
“With the help of Sport England, we are going to do everything we can to transform the lives of as many blind and visually-impaired people as possible. We will also work tirelessly to enable the progress of players who aspire to the podium at Tokyo 2020.”