UK Sport awards £30,500 Aspiration Fund grant to GB Baseball

Wed 13 Feb 2019

UK Sport, the government agency that funds Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic teams and athletes, has announced an award of £30,500 to GB Baseball to help the team with its Olympic qualification journey, starting with the European Baseball Championship this September.

Teams that finish in the top five places at the European Championship will move on to the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifying Tournament later that month.  The winner of that tournament will have a direct passage to the Games in Tokyo, while the runner-up will qualify for a global qualification tournament that will be played late in 2019 or early in 2020 and will determine the sixth and final country to qualify for the baseball competition at the Games.

The award earmarked for GB Baseball comes from a new pot of money called the Aspiration Fund, announced last autumn to help Olympic and Paralympic sports that do not receive performance funding from UK Sport.  Until this fund was initiated, almost half of Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic sports, including baseball and softball, received no performance funding from the agency, which has a policy of distributing funds only to those sports that are probable Olympic medal winners.

This policy has been increasingly challenged over the past couple of years, and the Aspiration Fund, with a total of £3 million available for around 20 unfunded sports, was UK Sport’s response to the argument that all Olympic and Paralympic sports should receive at least a baseline level of funding for their performance programmes.

Late award

When the initial round of Aspiration Fund awards was announced near the beginning of December, baseball was not one of the 14 sports to receive a grant, though an award of £62,500 was made to GB Softball.  

However, UK Sport had retained a sum of close to £120,000 that could be used for sports that did not receive an initial reward, and following additional representations by BaseballSoftballUK, UK Sport has now decided to give £30,500 of that money to GB Baseball to help the team prepare for the European Championship and hopefully earn a place in the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier that will follow shortly afterwards.

Six teams – five from Europe and one from Africa – will contest the Olympic Qualifier.

The funding has given a major boost to the GB Baseball programme in an important year.

Vital role

BaseballSoftballUK has been mandated by both the BBF and BSF to deal with Olympic matters on their behalf and was instrumental in preparing the Aspiration Fund applications for both sports. 

CEO John Boyd said: “I would like to thank UK Sport and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for a positive response to the mounting assertion that Every Sport Matters.  It is a vote of confidence in our baseball team’s chances of qualifying for the Olympics.  Endorsement by the governmental agency behind the UK’s incredible Olympic and Paralympic successes should not be underestimated, and with the grant will come a raft of additional support available as a UK Sport partner.

“The grant is also a prime example of the vital role that BaseballSoftballUK plays on behalf of British baseball and softball and would not have been possible without BaseballSoftballUK’s governance, financial and professional infrastructure.”

BaseballSoftballUK is empowered by a Memorandum of Understanding with its two Members, the British Baseball Federation and British Softball Federation, which delegates responsibility for representing the sports in the Olympic domain, and was asked by UK Sport to apply for and then administer the grant as “grant recipient”.  The BaseballSoftballUK Board decided last week to accept the grants for both baseball and softball and will now work with both Federations to put into place a Collaboration Agreement and implement the policies and practices required by UK Sport in order that the grants can be accessed.

“I look forward to working with the British Baseball Federation and GB Baseball,” John Boyd added, “to ensure that the necessary elements are in place, without which this grant will need to be returned.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but I’m confident that with the willing support of colleagues in the BBF, this can be achieved.”

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