British Basketball is celebrating today after its Senior Women qualified for a third consecutive EuroBasket Finals, but it has highlighted a need for a political solution to the funding situation it faces.
British Basketball calls on Sports Minister to act after EuroBasket qualification
Performance Chairman Roger Moreland has revealed he is to seek an urgent meeting with UK Sports Minister Helen Grant to seek a long term resolution to the issue, which threatens the participation of the GB women's team at EuroBasket Women.
Basketball was one of a number of Olympic and Paralympic sports to see their funding from UK Sport withdrawn earlier this year. Interest in the sport remains high and Sport England's Active People Survey results earlier this month reaffirmed its popularity as a participation sport, with hugely significant numbers of young people and people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities playing the sport.
After this week's success on the court, the Great Britain women's team can still claim a spot at the Rio Olympics through its performances at EuroBasket Women 2015.
But the success has come at a cost for the organisation, as Moreland explains. "The simple fact now is that we have used reserves to fund this campaign and now we need funds to field a team at next year's EuroBasket."
"Unless we find a solution to the funding crisis, a tragic situation will occur because this hard-working and talented team could have their chance of representing this country at Rio 2016 snatched from them through no fault of their own. The biggest barrier to overcome is not the challenge on the court from basketball superpowers - we can deal with that; it is the system of funding and systematic targets currently in place which penalises our players."
"Explain this to someone from abroad and they look at you in amazement. The irony is, we can do something about this if we want to."
"What sort of message does this send to the thousands of girls who play basketball and dream of representing their country on the world stage? This is certainly not the legacy I or many others envisaged from the London 2012 Games. This is particularly so for a team sport which is second in popularity to only football in terms of the 14-25 age group and the fourth-most popular team sport for women only."
"I will be writing to the Sport Minster, Helen Grant, to seek an urgent meeting with her. We have to find a solution to the funding issue facing team sports like basketball at elite level. For us, it has become even more pressing now following the fantastic achievements of our women in qualifying for the European Championship Finals. In the circumstances it is simply remarkable."
Moreland pointed to the growing depth within the British high performance programme, which was funded in the wake of the decision to award London the 2012 Olympic Games, but on which a solid system of developing talent has emerged. With four players making their senior international debut this summer, British Basketball's Performance Chairman suggests the GB team's progression is unquestioned.
"This team has 6 players that will still be under the age of 28 in 2020 and another 4 who will be younger than 32," Moreland said. "That doesn't begin to take account of the younger players coming through the system as a result of the work being done in England, Scotland and Wales and that will add to our growing strength in depth. What other country would cut a national sports team adrift just when they have qualified for a major championships for the third time in a row and are still on track to qualify for Rio?"
"Our situation surely points to a fundamental problem in elite team sports funding and the need to find an appropriate solution in the funding system. Perhaps we need to think about whether the targets are correct for sports like basketball that are on the up. I am immensely proud of this group's achievements and I know many, many people out there are too."
"Other nations simply do not understand the fact that a nation that invests so much in sport can seemingly say it's just too hard and you can't win a medal so we're going to cast adrift our national teams. A solution lies in the hands of the Sports Minister and that is why I look forward to discussing this with her as a matter of urgency."
While continuing to evolve and still enhancing their reputation around the world, Great Britain senior women face a tricky task in maintaining their dream of reaching the Olympic Games in Rio next year.