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British Swimming responds to UK Sport funding announcement

4 February 2014

British Swimming is considering all available options including a formal appeal following today’s announcement by UK Sport that funding will no longer be awarded to the women’s Olympic sports of Water Polo and Synchronised Swimming.

Responding to UK Sport’s Mission 2016 and Annual Investment Review announcement, British Swimming Chief Executive David Sparkes said: “We are deeply disappointed and shocked at the decision to remove funding from the sports of Women’s Water Polo and Synchronised Swimming.

"This will have a devastating effect on two very important women's sports" - David Sparkes, Chief Executive While British Swimming welcomes UK Sport’s on-going support for Diving and Para-swimming, as well as recognising the massive turn around in the direction of the Swimming programme, it is an extremely dark day for women’s sport in this country as today’s announcement could well signal the death of these historic Olympic sports in Britain.

“The decision flies in the face of the massive legacy impact afforded by the investment previously and successfully made in these sports within the London cycle and beyond.

“We will now carefully look at our options and, in due course, may well consider a more formal appeal over these devastating decisions.”

Twelve months ago both sports were awarded increased funding for the Rio Olympic cycle (2013-17) over the previous four-year term. These equated to £4.54m for women’s Water Polo and £4.34m for Synchro.

Strong representations ahead of today’s announcement were made to UK Sport as part of the review process. These were based on performance over the past 12 months as well as strategic plans to Rio and beyond to Tokyo.

“A year ago Synchronised Swimming was a sport that had a realistic medal chance for Rio,” explained Sparkes. “It has one of the strongest Olympic High Performance Programmes in Great Britain which has driven progress over the past four-year cycle. This was reflected with an investment increase to Rio of close to £1m.

“Last summer seven of the athletes on the programme decided to retire after the World Championships and at that point we decided to rebuild the sport and the programme. This process was well under way.

“We were extremely confident of the programme becoming stronger than ever for Tokyo and this makes today’s decision so unreasonable.”

Women’s Water Polo saw a sizeable £1.6m investment increase from the 2012 to 2016 cycle in recognition of the progress made by the sport but with only eight teams qualifying for Rio, and five of those achieving qualification through continental success, representing Great Britain in Rio was always going to be a challenge.

Sparkes commented: “UK Sport has acknowledged that massive progress had been made in women’s Water Polo so we are obviously extremely saddened. Our focus has always been on Tokyo and beyond and we were confident that with support we would have been a credible medal contender.

“The decision taken by UK Sport appears to be short term and will not build on the great work and investment already undertaken and achieved as both of these sports strived for success in Tokyo.

“This will have a devastating effect on two very important women’s sports and has come as a massive shock to everyone involved.”

Commenting on today’s announcement, Synchronised Swimming National Performance Director Biz Price said: “As a sport we have set competitive targets and achieved them since funding of Synchronised Swimming began in 2007. 

“We have gained domestic and international credibility for the training programme and we have achieved a rapid rise in international results since 2008. We have been in the finals at the World level since 2010.   

“I am personally devastated by this news and it is difficult to tell athletes and staff that all their hard work has been for naught."

Water Polo National Performance Director Graeme Thompson commented:  “This is devastating news for the entire sport of Water Polo - none more so than for the athletes who are dedicated to their sport and achieving their performance goals.

“UK Sport has acknowledged that we have made good progress in the journey since the new investment received in April 2013. It is hugely disappointing, especially when you consider less than 10 months has passed since our funding post London was confirmed and then a decision taken to reverse this commitment.”

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