Basketball Olympic funding blow shows ‘they don’t care’ – Ipswich Basketball head coach Nick Drane

Ipswich Basketball

Ipswich Basketball - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Basketball head coach Nick Drane has criticised the decision to deny the sport any funding for the Tokyo Olympics, saying it feels like “no-one cares”.

Ipswich Basketball club

Ipswich Basketball club - Credit: Archant

UK Sport announced today a £345million National Lottery and government-funded investment in Olympic and Paralympic sports for the next four years – a £2m fall from the Rio Games.

But British Basketball, the second-most popular team sport in the country credited with turning around the lives of youngsters, will not receive a penny of the latest cash.

It joins badminton, which is appealing the decision, fencing, archery, weightlifting and wheelchair rugby in being snubbed. In contrast, rowing received £32m, cycling £25m, equestrian £15m, canoeing £19m, and judo £7m.

Drane has overseen a remarkable basketball revolution in Ipswich, spearheading back-to-back promotions in recent years and on the verge of the country’s top flight. In front of hundreds of spectators at Copleston High School’s sports centre, they regularly defeat sides which pay players and boast world-class facilities.

Ipswich coach Nick Drane

Ipswich coach Nick Drane - Credit: Archant

“(The funding cut) isn’t a great surprise, sadly,” he said. “A lot of good people in this country are working to get basketball in this country to a comparable level and we are not as far away as people think.

“But without the funding, how are we supposed to compete? But the funding people want us to demonstrate that we can compete before they will fund us. That is the Catch 22 situation we are in.

“Our frustration is that, some of the sports that do get funded, and funded significantly, are sports that are not as accessible to the general public or kids in mainstream education.

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“I can use Ipswich as an example. Copleston (Sports Centre) is absolutely thriving as a basketball venue at the weekends with 300 or 400 people playing, watching or coaching basketball. There are very few other sports in this town doing that, and we need help to inspire other children and people.

“The message is to the young people, sadly, to be successful (in basketball) you need to go overseas and access their system, whether it is through college or playing professionally.

“To the likes of myself, it is very disheartening. I have worked very hard for a very long time, feel like I have made an impact on the sport, made a difference to a lot of people’s lives, and that does get recognised locally, but basketball as a sport doesn’t seem to get recognised nationally.

“So the message feels a little bit like no-one cares. That’s how I take it. But that is not going to stop me caring. I am standing in a sports hall as we speak and I can tell you a dozen different stories about basketball changing the lives of a dozen different kids.”

Nationally, basketball is the second most popular team sport played by teenagers. Almost 218,000 people play the sport every week nationwide.

Mr Drane added: “I think that their agenda is to fund the sports in which we have the best chance of winning, which is all well and good, but we know that the Olympic Games is sold to us as the greatest sporting spectacle in the world and that’s not necessarily the case.

“Ultimately, UK Sport will be looking at British basketball and thinking do we have a realistic chance in medalling? We would have if you funded it. That’s how I look at it.

“We have an opportunity here with a sport which is reaching out to so many kids to change a generation.

“I just don’t believe that, no matter how many medals we win in horse riding, fencing and shooting, that they are sports that are ever going to catch a generation’s attention. That’s not to knock those sports. I just don’t think those sports have that type of reach.”

In 2014, British Basketball’s £7m funding was scrapped due to an apparent slim chance of winning an Olympic medal in 2016. The decision triggered a heated debate over funding priorities and whether the funding system disadvantages team sports.

In November that year, Sport England granted a last-ditch reprieve of pouring £1.2m into the sport over the next two-and-a-half years.

Team GB finished ninth at London 2012, winning one match. It has only ever competed at the London Games in 1948 and 2012.

A British Basketball statement, in conjunction with volleyball and handball, said: “It appears that UK Sport has no interest in team sports and in particular refuses to take responsibility for the need to fund their performance development, which was identified in its own review.

“With UK Sport’s investment budget approaching £350m, it borders on intransigence to pass responsibility to government and other funding bodies who are not set up to fund the development of high-performance sport.”

UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl said: “With each of the sports affected we have a commitment to see their transition out of funding is supported.

“They have got medal potential they have progressed as sports, but we cannot reach to funding them for Tokyo. Conversations are going on with those sports.”

UK Sport confirmed its aggregate medal potential for Tokyo is between 51-85 Olympic and 115-162 Paralympic medals.

In Rio Team GB won 67 Olympic medals, and ParalympicsGB took home 147.

UK Sport chairman Rod Carr said: “These are critical funding decisions for sports to take them on their journey to Tokyo 2020 and beyond so the historic success at Rio can be maintained.”