Goalball UK has been consistently supportive of the UK Sport funding model and are proud to be ranked as a Band 4 sport (A Priority Band 4 Sport is defined by UK Sport as: Medal Result Stretch Target).
The existing funding approach has undoubtedly been successful on the established metrics. But we think now is an appropriate time to reflect upon the value of medal success as the dominant priority for UK Sport.
The dominant priority is the Olympics and Paralympics, but there are a number of sports where their elite level is Europeans or Worlds getting little to no support to reach their targets.
There is huge drive towards gold medals and the GB position on the medal table. Silver and bronze medals are seen as under achievements. Beneath this we have a system where the fine lines of investment are deciding if a sport can “probably” win a medal to Band 4 “possibly” a medal.
We question whether the cycle of seeking to beat the medal record of each successive Games is effective in fostering an ongoing legacy of participation – in particular in those communities that are not adequately represented in Team GB and ParalympicsGB.
If a sport loses its funding there is currently a direct impact on talent athletes that have been named to medal in a Games up to eight years away. There is the question of where these athletes land up in the system – their potential never allowed to be fulfilled.
For example, there are very few V.I. athletes competing at the Games – something which is naturally a concern to us as a V.I. sport supporting an under-represented and often marginalised group.
In addition, we believe that it is unhelpful, in practice, to separate grassroots and elite. Ideally, the two feed each other and support a self-sustaining cycle of increased participation, supportive talent development and inspiring elite teams.
By stepping off what the treadmill of what is widely named in the media as ‘medal farming’ and launching an inclusive program that supports a diverse range of athletes and sports, UK Sport has the opportunity to re-focus the UK approach to elite sport in a way that supports the sustained participation, well-being and health of the whole nation.
If the UK is to fulfil the ambition ‘Towards an Active Nation’ laid out by Sport England and endorsed by the Government, it is vital to provide a range of role models representing a wide range of inclusive sports that can be accessed by all.
As part of the UK Sport consultation into their funding model (which prioritises investment towards medal success at the Olympic and Paralympic Games) we have written a submission outlining our views and recommendations for how it might be revised and improved.
By way of a brief summary – we believe that the current funding structure results in many sports missing out, Goalball UK included.
With an almost exclusive focus on maximising medal success at the Olympics and Paralympics, the funding of elite sport has become stuck in a cycle whereby sports with funding achieve medals and so continue to be funded for elite performance.
Band 4 sports, such as ours, find ourselves locked out, despite being recognised as having medal potential and with the demonstrable benefits of the sports to individuals, communities and the perception of people with a visual impairment.
Anyone can respond to the consultation through the following link. We also have the questions in a word document if you would like to view them all before answering. We would encourage you to submit your response.
We are not directing any of our players or volunteers to take the same line as Goalball UK. Though if you want to advance the same arguments or reference our submission, then please do.
The priority is for UK Sport to hear as many voices as possible and for you to have the chance to share your personal experiences with a view to informing the funding policy of elite sport in the UK.
Here is our full response to the consultation: