CRAIG NELSON: Lottery money has turned UK Sport into glory hunters

The Bolton News: Craig Nelson Craig Nelson

SOMEWHERE along the lines, I believe Olympic sport in this country has taken a wrong turn.

As with many of life’s problems, it seems money is at the heart of it.

Competitors in what was once a proudly amateur event are now dependent on lottery funding.

The money provided for our now professional sportsmen and women has no doubt increased their chances of Olympic glory, but, increasingly, the way it is awarded is providing a cause for concern.

UK sport announced this week that it had withdrawn funding to four sports – basketball, synchronised swimming, water polo and weightlifting – thus effectively pulling the rug from underneath them.

The problem, as I see it, is that UK Sport determines which sports get a slice of the pie and just how big that slice is based upon their potential of winning medals.

In effect, the lottery money has turned UK Sport into a glory hunter.

Rather than focusing on the pinnacle of a sport, I believe the majority of money invested should focus first on building foundations and infrastructure.

If we have the appropriate facilities and coaching in this country to allow youngsters to take up any sport of their choosing then you will have a wider base of competitors and, thus, a better chance of success in the long term.

I agree our next generation of Olympians will no doubt be inspired by watching their role models winning medals at the Olympics, but if our youngsters do not have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps then what is the point?

This dangled carrot of lottery handouts has created indecision and uncertainty.

British basketball, for example, after failing to reach its agreed goal of qualifying for the world championships, went from having a £4.5million handout to nothing.

So, presumably, all of the infrastructure that had been put in place to try and build up our basketball team into a world power will now have to be dismantled and they will effectively have to start again from scratch.

That just seems a waste to me.

Now I don’t agree with throwing good money after bad, and sports must be run properly to warrant funding, but I believe the answer is for UK Sport to work more closely with the sports it administers and then stick by the decisions it makes.

Anyone who follows sport knows there are never any certainties – no matter how hard you work, you don’t always reach your goals.

Now all of that time and effort, not to mention the money, already pumped into basketball has been written off, which I believe is criminal and must be re-examined before more of our lottery money is wasted.

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