Badminton’s loss of all UK Sport funding for Tokyo 2020 is a decision that I really cannot understand at all.
I appreciate there are many sports vying for a share of the pot and I have total admiration for the ability, dedication and determination of every elite athlete who sacrifices so much to achieve their full potential and strives (often for many years) for the chance to represent their country at the world’s greatest sporting celebration….
A total withdrawal of funding should be a clear sign of “failure”—and I use the term in the sense of not achieving the medal target set prior to Rio. There were no medals for Team GB competitors in four of the five sports affected, however Marcus Ellis and Chis Langridge (pictured above) won a fantastic bronze in the men’s doubles—and the target? To win a medal...
And I would add that the medal we won was one of only fifteen available in the sport and as Badminton England tweeted, there were no repechages and no multiple events. To bring home a bronze medal from Brazil (along with some other outstanding British performances) was not only a notable achievement; it was the fulfilment of a target that UK Sport set, and now seem to have summarily ignored.
Judo achieved its target of one medal has had its funding increased. It’s a fair assumption therefore that the medal must have been a gold? Or maybe a silver?
In fact, Sally Conway won a bronze medal.
A superb accomplishment, but no better in metallic terms than the badminton squad, but financially, a difference of over seven and a half million pounds.
Oh and by the way, there were forty-two judo medals available.
I have been lucky enough to visit the National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes, and even more privileged to have faced England international Rhys Walker on one of the courts at this amazing complex. Rhys is just one of the athletes whose efforts to reach his absolute best in 2020 have surely been at best compromised, at worst ruined by this week’s announcement.
These athletes give everything to badminton. And being successful isn’t just about personal achievement, nor is it necessarily simply about winning medals (UK Sport please take note); it is also the fact that these men and women become role models in what is a sizeable, and therefore by definition important, participation sport. They are people who can inspire the younger generation; as well as earning the admiration of those of us who have swung a very average racket, but just love to see top level action and competition.
The short-term consequences of this decision will have a devastating impact on these fine athletes and role models; but there may also be an arguably worse longer-term effect if a lack of subsequent success (as defined by UK Sport) leads to a reduction in publicity and a lessening in interest—especially from those wide-eyed children who want to be just like the heroes they see on television.
From my perspective, there was a simple solution. Proportionally reduce the money given to other sports to create the funds for badminton. Thirty-one drops in the proverbial ocean to guarantee the development of a sport that did everything that was asked of it (and arguably more) in Rio, but which has seemingly and inexplicably been hung out to dry.
Shame on you UK Sport.