With today’s announcement from UK Sport that it will not reverse the original funding decisions for Goalball UK, the sport remains hopeful that other avenues of support will be made available to them on the road to Tokyo 2020.
Having stressed the potential of the sport led by national squads targeting success in Tokyo 2020 in representation meetings, Goalball UK anticipates that its value to ParalympicsGB will be acknowledged in the UK Sport board meeting on the 23rd March – where other options to support Band 4 and 5 sports will be discussed.
Despite its most successful two years to date, with both the Men and Women’s GB teams achieving promotion to the top tier of European competition, the sport was granted no funds in UK Sport’s initial allocation.
Without vital support for elite performance training and travel to competitions in the run-up to Tokyo 2020, the Goalball GB teams face a significant roadblock to their continued progress.
Mike Reilly, CEO of Goalball UK, said: “We were shocked by the original decision by UK Sport. However, we redoubled our efforts and produced a compelling case for the representations as we know what we are capable of.
“While the initial funding decision has not be reversed, we are never-the-less hopeful that there will be other opportunities to work with UK Sport in order to support our elite athletes.”
Goalball UK was recently awarded £1.3m by Sport England in recognition of their commitment to the Government’s ‘Towards an Active Nation’ strategy which emphasised the wider value of sport, especially when it comes to under-represented groups who are more likely to be inactive such as the disabled. This was followed by an additional £200,000 to support talent development.
However, without the funding to bridge the gap from grassroots to international competition, promising players could find themselves locked out of the Tokyo Paralympic Games and discouraged from continuing in the sport.
Reilly continued: “We were encouraged by UK Sports response to our representation meeting earlier in the month. There is certainly a sense of the board understanding the difficulties we face and an acknowledgement of our incredible success.
“As the pinnacle of sport, the Olympics and Paralympics inspire the next generation of athletes. The VI in particular find it challenging to find opportunities to participate in sport and in society more generally.
“With so few VI athletes representing ParalympicsGB at Rio, the appearance of the GB Goalball teams at Tokyo would be of tremendous importance to the VI community.
“Because of this, and the remarkable progress that our elite teams have made in the past four years, we are confident that, despite today’s announcement, UK Sport will find other ways to help us secure a clear and sustained talent pathway that will take us all the way to Tokyo.”