I've just heard the news that UK Sport has turned down an appeal against its decision to award no funding at all to badminton in the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
A number of sports have lost funding, but in pure cash terms, badminton is the biggest loser, having previously been awarded £5.7m. The original decision was difficult enough to understand, as Team GB returned from Rio with the one medal from the badminton court, which had been their pre-Games target.
This reaction came in a statement from GB Badminton: “We are staggered by this decision. Given the strength of evidence we were able to present to justify investment, we cannot believe UK Sport has concluded they should stand by their decision and award zero funding to our GB programme. We have players who are on track to win medals for the nation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and our belief in those players remains as great as it's ever been. We will now take some time to consider our next steps."
I suppose when you represent a sport’s governing body, you have to register your disappointment with an element of pragmatic restraint—I don’t… therefore I don’t…!
In connection with the decision, the BBC website quoted Rod Carr, UK sport chair’s response to the simple question: why?
“They didn’t bring any evidence at the board that would convince us to move them from a possible medal in Tokyo to a probable medal in Tokyo. Unfortunately with the resources (i.e. money) that we have we are not able to invest in possible medalling sport, only those that are probable and they didn’t fulfil that criteria, in our opinion.”
So when exactly does meeting a target become “over-achieving”?
Through the efforts of Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis, Team GB did nothing worse than fulfilling their target. If the “powers that be” deemed that their medal chances were just “possible”, then the only two scenarios are that a) they don’t know what they’re talking about, or b) Team GB exceeded expectations—i.e. over-achieved.
And to suggest GB Badminton “didn’t bring any evidence” is, frankly, ludicrous. Exactly what more evidence do you need to bring than a great big lump of bronze with a ribbon on it?
I accept there are budgetary constraints, and that if UK Sport doesn’t feel it can invest in a sport that only has a “possible” chance of a medal in Tokyo, then fine—even though that’s clearly what they did with badminton in Rio. All of which begs another question; when does “possible” turn into “probable”?
Clearly not when you can demonstrate “actual”?
More from Mr Carr: “Every cycle is new, with new athletes and new competition and so on. I think the reality is that yes they did meet their targets but our view of their performance over the whole cycle last time and looking forward to whom they regularly beat and lost to doesn’t convince us that they’ll probably win a medal in Tokyo.”
Or alternatively, you could argue that you have a group of talented committed athletes, who gave everything over a four-year cycle and in the case of Messrs Langridge and Ellis peaked at exactly the right time–and only four athletes from right around the globe performed better when it really mattered.
Actually, I’m pretty certain we didn’t sweep the proverbial board in rowing and cycling between London and Rio, but cometh the hour….
I’m far too polite to criticise Mr Carr as a person; suffice to say his comments demonstrate a lack of knowledge and insight that should be a given for a man in his position. UK Sport has clearly moved the goalposts on little more than whim–those goalposts are worth almost £6 in cash terms, and more than that, they represent years of dedication, determination, drive and desire for those affected.
Not a good day.