Goalball UK has been shocked by the news that, even as first reserve, the women’s Great Britain goalball team has not been awarded a place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics following the withdrawal from Algeria.

The invitation has been sent to, and accepted by Egypt, despite the IBSA (International Blind Sports Federation) African Championships not meeting IBSA’s own regulations.

Last year at the IBSA Goalball African Championships only three teams participated – Algeria, Egypt and Morocco. While IBSA’s Goalball Rules and Regulations 2018-2021 clearly states: “Tournaments must have a minimum of four participating countries to qualify as a Regional Championship tournament”.

It continues to outline: “If a Pre-Paralympic Regional Championships is not held prior to the Paralympic Games, the Paralympic qualification slot for that region will be lost and a slot will be allotted to the IBSA Paralympic Goalball Ranking Tournament.” (point 47. Qualification Standards).

As only three countries participated, when it is in the regulations that there must be four competing nations to be an eligible qualifying tournament, Goalball UK firmly believes that this vacant place at the Paralympics should have been awarded to Great Britain as the first reserve and highest-ranking unqualified country.

On Thursday 6 February 2020, it was communicated directly to Goalball UK from IBSA that: “If [the] African Championships doesn’t fulfil the qualification criteria (regulation 47. four participating countries), GBR women team have the slot to Tokyo 2020.”

The IPC (International Paralympic Committee) qualification system for goalball states: “In the case that a Region does not host a Championships, any available slots will be redistributed via the 2019 IBSA Paralympic Qualification Ranking Tournament Allocation method regardless of region.” (IPC Goalball Qualification System, pg. 72).

Mark Winder, CEO of Goalball UK, said: “We understand and appreciate IBSA’s and the IPC’s desire for African participation in the goalball tournament at Paralympics, which is why we took a step back from a robust challenge following the IBSA Goalball African Championships last year.

“However, to now be overlooked again for a place at the Paralympics is a bitter disappointment for us as an organisation and a total injustice to our players and coaches.

“For almost two years, we have had assurances that as first reserve for a place at Tokyo 2020 it could realistically present an opportunity for our women’s Great Britain squad to compete at the Paralympics if there was a withdrawal from the tournament. Unfortunately, it has now become apparent that this was never the case despite Great Britain’s ranking.

“We have always been committed partners to IBSA and the IPC and will continue to do so, however, in this instance, this decision feels like a betrayal to our loyalty and the integrity of fair competition within the sport.

“We want to assure the women’s Great Britain squads, and the wider goalball family, that we will continue to do everything in our power to robustly challenge this decision.”