No Olympic funding for baseball and softball for now, but door remains open
Fri 9 Dec 2016
Friday 9 December -- UK Sport, the agency that funds Olympic sports and athletes in Britain, announced today that no money has been allocated to baseball or softball national team programmes for the Tokyo Olympic cycle – but the door has been left open to review that decision in a year’s time.
Funding decisions for all Olympic sports were publicly announced on Friday afternoon, and a number of sports are facing disappointment after what UK Sport described as their “toughest decisions yet”.
Because the government has recently promised increased funding to make up for a shortfall in Lottery income, UK Sport will be preparing sports for Tokyo with the same amount of money it had for Rio. But due to the success of Team GB in the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio, there will be more medal winners to fund for Tokyo than the agency had expected, against a background of rising costs.
As a result, only those sports and athletes with proven medal success or the greatest medal potential have received funds in today’s allocations.
Hope for new sports
However, because baseball and softball, along with karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing, will all be new sports in Tokyo, UK Sport has accepted that there has not been time to make a definitive judgment on their medal potential.
As a result, final funding decisions for these sports will be made in December 2017, based on results next year and the strategies these sports can put in place to help them achieve Olympic qualification and an Olympic medal.
In other words, the door is still open for funding for the last three years of the Tokyo cycle if the GB Women’s Softball Team and the GB Senior Baseball Team can show sufficient progress during 2017.
UK Sport message
In an email this morning to BSUK, who has been managing the funding submission process for baseball and softball, UK Sport CEO Liz Nicholl said: “We have to continue to prioritise our investment to support our best medal potential. So the same amount [of money that we had for Rio] can no longer reach every athlete and every sport with medal potential. This means we cannot fund all the sports that have submitted investment proposals to us….
“However, in discussing the ‘new’ Olympic and Paralympic sports for Tokyo,” Liz added, “our Board agreed that … investment should be formally considered as part of the 2017 Annual Investment Review, when there should be greater clarity on the competition format and qualification process for each sport … [and whether] significant progress has been made by either team.”
Both GB Softball and GB Baseball reacted to today’s announcement with cautious optimism.
Bob Fromer, who prepared softball’s funding submission to UK Sport on behalf of the BSF and the GB Management Committee, said, “Today’s decision was not unexpected, but at least there is the chance for our case to be considered again next year. In discussions with UK Sport, they have accepted that GB Softball may well have a chance to qualify for Tokyo and possibly win a medal, but they just don’t have enough evidence at this point. If our Senior and Junior teams can do well next summer, and improve their European and World rankings, I think we will have a very strong case to take back to UK Sport next December.”
Liam Carroll, GB Baseball Head Coach and BBF National Teams Programme Official, who helped prepare the baseball funding submission, said: “Qualification for Tokyo 2020 is outlined in our vision, and the key to unlocking our potential is investment. I’m pleased that UK Sport has left the door open, and building on our success in 2016, we look forward to the opportunity to impress upon them that getting behind Great Britain Baseball can extend their tremendous track record of investing in Olympic medal contenders."
BaseballSoftballUK Joint CEO John Boyd said: “We will focus our attention over the next year on demonstrating further that our sports have a chance to medal in Tokyo. The opportunity for Great Britain to compete in what is likely to be a pinnacle event hosted by the most enthusiastic baseball and softball nation in the world is one that should not be missed. This week, the 30,000 seater stadium in Yokohama was announced as the venue for baseball/softball in 2020 – a venue that we expect to be filled with very excited and knowledgeable fans. We believe that Great Britain has a shot at the podium, and we hope to capture UK Sport’s and this country’s imagination about that incredible possibility!”
A meeting between UK Sport officials and BSUK will be held in January, at which further clarification will be sought on the timetable for re-examining our cases next year, and on what help and support UK Sport can offer to baseball and softball in the meantime, including sports science support from the English Institute of Sport and help in developing strategic plans for Olympic qualification.