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British Swimming statement on UK Sport funding

19 March 2014

British Swimming is to consider a formal appeal following UK Sport’s disappointing announcement that Water Polo and Synchronised Swimming have been unsuccessful after additional representations were made against a loss of funding for the women’s Olympic sports.

The decision follows last month’s announcement that UK Sport was to withdraw funding from the two aquatic sports. British Swimming challenged the decision by presenting strong cases for continued funding to UK Sport last week but the original decisions have now been upheld.

"This is a very dark and sad day for British sport – especially for women’s sport," - David Sparkes“This is a very dark and sad day for British sport – especially for women’s sport,” said British Swimming Chief Executive David Sparkes.

“How can an elite programme such as Synchro, which has long been held by UK Sport as a model of world class athlete development and leadership, that has achieved all of its performance indicators since it first received funding have its funding removed just 12 months after it was enhanced? It is a sport that has never failed to deliver on its performance promises and this decision beggars belief – it clearly highlights a fundamental flaw in the UK Sport funding system.

“On behalf of Water Polo, Synchro and other Olympic sports that face the real possibility of dying out as a result of today’s announcement, we call on the Sports Minister to show leadership in this area by looking at the entire funding system for elite sport.”

British Swimming Chairman Maurice Watkins has also expressed disappointment while echoing the view that today’s announcement could well signal the end of these sports within Britain.

“The suggestion by UK Sport that women’s Synchro and Water Polo teams should use the annual review process to re-apply for funding shows how little UK Sport understands about elite sports particularly team sports.  Once funding is lost, coaches and staff lose their jobs and athletes and teams disband. There is no way back,” said Watkins

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 appeal process. These reinforced the fact Synchro is ranked top 10 in the world and Water Polo top 12 and laid out strategic plans to Rio 2016 and beyond to Tokyo 2020.

Alongside performance aims, British Swimming also demonstrated the impressive legacy both sports have created since the London Olympics.

“We have seen the number of young women participating in Water Polo and Synchronised Swimming double since the London Games,” said Sparkes. “If we are to maintain this momentum it is critical to have the funding needed to drive the programmes on to Olympic medal success and inspire more women to participate.

“This influx of talent and interest has been achieved through a number of ways but one of the key motivators has been being able to see and follow the sports on television and within the media. To continue this trend will become increasingly difficult now as there will be no route to an elite programme for these young, superb, female athletes to represent their nation.”

"If we are to maintain this momentum it is critical to have the funding needed to drive the programmes on to Olympic medal success and inspire more women to participate," - David SparkesLondon 2012 Olympian Asha Randall believes today’s announcement will undo seven years’ worth of tireless work that has gone into transforming Synchro in Great Britain.

“I am totally devastated for the squad and the entire programme,” said Randall. “It is such a strong group of young girls with so much potential for the future than we had for London 2012.

“The gains we made as well as their future potential should have been recognised and I think it’s really disappointing that these girls won’t have the opportunity to continue the development of the programme all the way to the Olympic podium.”

Water Polo player Angie Winstanley-Smith, fresh from competing in Russia for the Great Britain team, commented: “It’s a sad day for Great Britain team sports and especially women’s sports. We are absolutely devastated to hear UK Sport is standing by last month’s decision and withdrawing all funding.

“We did our best to get our story heard and have had overwhelming support around Britain and the rest of the World. At this point in time we don’t know the full impact this decision will have on elite Water Polo but it is fair to assume that times will be hard.

“We can be proud of how far we have come although my initial feelings are that our legacy from London will soon be forgotten. I know a lot of the girls have some very difficult decisions to make about their futures.”

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