Goalball UK has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Sport and will bid for investment to help the sports elite athletes go to the Tokyo 2020 games.

Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport, announced a £3million new Aspiration Fund on Friday 12 October. A limited number of qualifying sports, including goalball, can apply for up to £500,000 for team sports. This sits outside of the regular funding cycle.

Goalball, rated as a Band 4 sport* for the Tokyo 2020 cycle, does not currently receive any Government funding for its GB teams – meaning the national governing body must find other revenue streams in order to support elite athletes.

Mark Winder, CEO of Goalball UK, said: “A successful funding bid from Goalball UK would have a significant impact for the sport moving towards Tokyo 2020.

“The number of visually impaired people competing at the Games remains disproportionately low – with team sports notably absent with the exception of Blind Football. This is an exceptional opportunity to make competing at the highest level a realistic target for people with a visual impairment.

“Participation in goalball throughout the UK has been growing phenomenally at the grassroots level – in the past four years alone, involvement has increased 425%. This is because of Sport England funding and a true legacy that participating in London 2012 had on our sport. We are in danger of this being forgotten by young people and the competition not being within living memory of children. Therefore, as a governing body, we will ensure qualification and participation in Tokyo will have that same impact for a new generation of blind and partially sighted people.

“For Goalball UK to take the next step, we need to create opportunities for our elite athletes – all aspiring Paralympians. It is not just about getting to international competitions, but also supporting sufficient training camps in the UK.

“We have endeavoured to sustain our elite performance programme. To do so we have diversified and introduced new revenue streams to give our top athletes the opportunity to compete at across the world. Although, receiving an award from the Aspiration Fund would give us the resource to focus our attention on getting to Tokyo 2020.

“For Goalball UK to become sustainable as an elite international force and build a legacy it is important that there is Team GB representation at the Paralympics. Our women’s squad is currently in a position where qualification for Tokyo 2020 is achievable but to seize the opportunity support from Aspiration Fund is essential.

“The men’s GB team recently returned from the European B Championships in Poland. They gave a performance that we are incredibly proud of that showed tremendous courage. But it also put into perspective we are and on the international stage.

“The level of support that countries such as Ukraine, who won the tournament, give their athletes is paying dividends. Our athletes are just as talented, but we do not currently have the means to unlock their potential.”