Goalball UK, the governing body of the only Paralympic sport specifically designed for the blind and visually-impaired, has expressed its disappointment at a lack of support for the elite development of its athletes in today’s UK Sport funding announcements.
Despite its most successful two years to date, with both the Men and Women’s GB teams achieving promotion to the top league of European competition, the sport will receive no financial support for vital elite performance training and travel to competitions in the run-up to Tokyo 2020.
Mike Reilly, CEO of Goalball UK, said: “We are shocked by the decision by UK Sport not to support either our Men’s or Women’s team.
“As both teams recently won promotion to the Euro A division Goalball UK were confident that UK Sport would recognise the strong progress and further potential of both teams over the last 2 years.
“Once again, team sports have been dealt a poor hand by UK Sport whose priorities seem to be in direct conflict with the Government’s ‘Towards an Active Nation’ strategy. By its nature, team sports offer less certainty in terms of outcomes in tournaments.
“But if participation and improving lives are the central focus, then team sports should be at the very heart of funding decisions.
“However, it would appear that the approach of UK Sport is to maximise the potential for a higher medal count, with individual disciplines with multiple medal opportunities taking precedent over the likes of Goalball where it is only possible to achieve two medals.
“In this context, the ‘gamble’ on the Women’s Hockey team at Rio paid off but that opportunity is not being afforded to other team sports.”
Previously, Goalball UK has relied on private sponsorship and the fundraising efforts of the teams themselves. The Women’s team were only able to attend the 2015 IBSA World Games in Seoul (came 5th) thanks to player initiatives and individual financials support including from their families.
The Men and Women’s squads both achieved promotion to the A League in the IBSA European Championships in October. For the men, this was just one year after promotion to the B League. As a result, Goalball UK had hoped that UK Sport would recognise the remarkable progress of its elite athletes and seek to support them on their road to the podium in Tokyo.
Reilly continues: “This is a major blow to our plans to continue our progress through to Tokyo. These promotions were achieved despite the absence of funding from UK Sport.
“Goalball UK will urgently consider alternatives to support the athletes whose hard work over the last couple of years is now at risk. The European A Championships are only nine months away.
“Whilst this funding application was just for our elite athletes, this decision will hit the whole sport hard.
“The progress made by the GB teams provides inspiration to all Goalball players and that is lost to us now.
“Having incredibly quadrupled participation in the last four years, we will have to work exceptionally hard not to let this erode the momentum we have created.”