Funding boost for growing sports as fears grow over Olympic legacy

Powered by article titled “Funding boost for growing sports as fears grow over Olympic legacy” was written by Owen Gibson, for The Guardian on Tuesday 4th October 2011 10.52 UTC

Sports including cycling and netball have been awarded seven-figure sums for their success in boosting grassroots participation, against a backdrop of falling numbers in others sports. Amid growing concern over the legacy for sports participation from the London 2012 Olympics, the public funding body Sport England has found £3.5m to reward sports that are bucking the trend.

It is the first example of a more ruthless approach that will see more sports docked funding if they fail to meet targets set in 2008 when £450m was distributed among governing bodies to try to increase by one million the number of people playing sport three or more times a week.

But the former sports minister Richard Caborn recently articulated widespread concern that the strategy had been wrongly implemented and Britain was “in danger of failing completely on the long-term sporting legacy of the Games”.

The latest Sport England figures from April 2011 show that 17 sports have recorded a decline in the number of people playing once a week since 2007-08 and only four – mountaineering, athletics, netball and table tennis – have recorded a statistically significant increase.

“Cycling, running and netball are three success stories for community sport. They show how it can be done. We are recognising their success through this extra investment,” said the Sport England chief executive, Jennie Price.

The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said that the next round of “Whole Sport Plan” funding from 2013 will be distributed on a payment-by-results basis, with more of a focus on young people. Earlier this year he wrote to all governing bodies to warn them that they had to deliver.

The sports minister, Hugh Robertson, said: “These sports bodies have delivered on our key objective of driving up participation. The £3.5m of additional funding for these sports is so that they can continue this work, capitalise on the added interest that comes with hosting the Olympic Games and help create a real sporting legacy.”

The additional money largely comes from cash withdrawn from other governing bodies deemed not to be hitting the targets they have been set. Basketball, rugby union and rugby league are among the sports that have had their funding cut.

British Cycling received an additional £1.058m with the aim of recruiting a further 12,000 weekly cyclists by expanding its Sky Ride local scheme. “I am delighted that British Cycling has been granted additional funding to develop its participation programmes,” said the Olympic team pursuit champion Ed Clancy. “London 2012 is not only about athletes contesting Olympic and Paralympic medals, it is also about getting the nation active and leaving a lasting sport legacy for future generations.”

England Netball, long held up by Sport England as a positive example for the way it has encouraged lapsed players to return to the sport, also received over £1m to achieve an increase of 8,500 extra players a week.

Another £1m will go to England Athletics to recruit 30,000 regular informal runners a week. The move will be seen as an attempt to boost numbers among the most popular sports ahead of the 2013 target date. Smaller awards will go to lacrosse and canoeing. The canoeist Tim Brabants, who won gold at the Beijing Games in 2008, said: “This additional investment demonstrates the confidence and health of canoeing in this country. The funding will help us continue to grow the sport and get more people enjoying canoeing on a regular basis, with the many positive benefits that brings.

“Go Canoeing is an exciting project; the tours, trails and series of events, delivered in a consumer-focused way, will broaden the appeal of canoeing to a wider market.”

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