The government has announced a new £3m ‘Aspiration Fund’ to help sports which were left without funding by stark cuts following the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Any sport with the potential for athletes to qualify for the 2020 Games in Tokyo is eligible to apply to UK Sport for funding, including both Olympic and Paralympic disciplines, with a verdict on any bid to come in December.
The news is a major boost for badminton, basketball, wheelchair rugby and a host of other sports which were marginalised from the World Class Programme two years ago, which distributed funding based on perceived medal prospects at Tokyo. Those cuts left many athletes struggling to get together the money for qualifying competitions, including GB weightlifters who are having to crowdfund their way.
The move suggests a shift in attitude from the win-at-all-costs mentality which, while turning Britain into an Olympic medal powerhouse over the past two decades, has been blamed for creating an overly-pressured environment in which issues like bullying and discrimination have emerged, and which has contributed to a neglect of sport’s wider societal benefits.
Sports minister Tracey Crouch said: “This £3 million bridges a gap between grassroots and elite funding, and will help sports grow and develop future champions. There are sports, not on UK Sport’s world class programme, that do a huge amount of good in communities that we can help on their path to the podium.”
UK Sport’s CEO, Liz Nicholl, added: “Many of the sports we are currently unable to support, while further away from reaching the podium, have great potential not only to inspire through their performances on the field of play but also to have a genuine social impact in communities across the UK.”
Grants will run to the end of the Tokyo 2020 cycle and will be capped at £500k for team sports and £275k for individual sports.