MASSIVE cuts to the funding of a number of sports has sparked a heated debate on how Olympic sports are funded in this country.
Last month it was announced that four Olympic sports would have their funding completely withdrawn: Basketball, synchronised swimming, water polo and weightlifting.
UK Sport has, instead, decided to put money into sports it considers Britain has a better chance of succeeding in at the Rio Games in 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
In an interview at the weekend, Olympic medallist Brendan Foster said it was time the nation had a debate about how sport is funding saying ‘if it is all about gold medals we should all go home’.
Of all the sports that have suffered cuts, basketball appears to be one of the most controversial.
According to Sports England, basketball is played by more people than rugby, cricket and tennis and yet it now recieves no funding.
Meanwhile, sports considered minority ones, such as fencing, modern pentathlon and shooting have millions of pounds ploughed into them.
We spoke to one south Essex family who have basketball in their blood, the Harts.
Paul Hart, the former, head of the Southend Sports Council, and his son Joe who currently plays for Great Britain’s under-20 side.
'A SLAP IN THE FACE FOR OUR SPORT'
FORMER head of PE at Alleyn Court School Paul Hart says losing funding is “a slap in the face for basketball”.
“Participation at basketball is massive – it looks to me as if the targets that they were set were unrealistic.
“Money is being thrown at sports where we get medals. For example, in the Winter Games at the curling and skeleton, but participation at these sports is tiny.
“If you don’t get funding you don’t get to run national squads because the coaches have to be paid.”
He said he did not begrude some sports getting funding, but questioned whether large participation sports like basketball should be dropped so suddenly.
Hart’s own children have been involved with high level basketball over the years, first at Southend Swifts and then through to national and even international competition.
His son Joe, 20, currently plays in Spain as a professional for the Benidorm Basketball Club.
But he cut his teeth in the sport in South Essex before playing England Under 14s, playing on scholarships in Canada and Great Britain’s Under 20s.
The experienced former teacher said that he was very disappointed that a sport that had such a big following among members of ethnic minority groups was being undermined and this would trickle down to grassroots level.
He said: “To do well at sport you need to have both good ‘opportunity’ – including the support of parents to take you to events and championships – as well as a ‘good level of expectation’.
“These things tend to come naturally in the richer sports, but are not always there in other sports.
"And that’s why we should give sports like basketball the backing they need to grow and do well.
“Of course, you’ve got to put in the 10,000 hours training. But it seems to me that part of the function of sport is to help develop a healthy and active nation and this means supporting mass participation sports.
“The sport ran a ‘Back to basketball’ campaign recently. Removing this funding has been a kick in the teeth to those who have worked really hard in recent years,” he added.
'DECISION IS KILLING MY DREAM OF BEING AN OLYMPIAN
My view: Joe Hart, Great Britain under 20 captain
I THINK that it is absolutely crazy to cut funding now.
GB has been receiving funding for the last eight years and in those eight years they have moved from not even being on the basketball map to being in the top 25 in the world in both men and women.
On top of that the funding is getting cut at the time when British basketball is just entering the highest tier.
The England under18 men are playing in the A division in Europe and the under 20 men are playing in the A division in Europe.
The core players of those teams will be entering the mens’ British team for the 2016 and the 2020 Games so the best players that the country is producing will have no opportunity to play.
The irony of it all is that those players have the best chance of reaching the incredibly high goals set by the funding committee.
Obviously from an economic point of view it hurts a lot.
No international competition is possible without money, it simply cannot happen.
But one thing that the funding cut has shown is the basketball community of Britain and how strong it is.
The outrage that has been shown from everyone involved in the community is incredible.
For me growing up it was always a dream to play for Great Britain and represent my country.
But now kids can’t even have those aspirations any more as there is no team for them to even dream to play on.
I would love to see the decision over turned as I am still hoping that one day I will get to play in an Olympic games.
Basketball is growing at a dramatic rate all over Britain which is awesome to see.
The BBL has come an incredibly long way too and I see pictures of packed gyms on a regular basis.
There is even a TV deal now with BT Sport, I think, which is only doing great things for the game.
People always say that any publicity is good publicity and there has been a lot of publicity with regards to this decision so even people just reading about it and starting to think about basketball is a good thing.
GB has always been thought of by the basketball world as a joke really, but I think that people’s opinions have slowly been changing.
However, cutting the funding will surely leave people changing their minds again.