Sorry to bang on about this subject again but there’s been some real nonsense written about the recent award of £1.8 million by Sport England for angling development work. Disappointingly so in some cases as anyone who works in our sport should have realised by now that mass participation alone, in what many regard as a pastime, doesn’t automatically qualify us for lots of wonga from the public purse. Having one million members didn’t deliver a penny for bird-watching and neither does competitive sporting success outside of the Olympic Games. I wish it wasn’t so but it is and we have to dance the funders tune if we are to win anything for angling.
Whether we like it not the focus of sports funding is increasingly geared to winning those Olympic medals or to participation strategies for sports likely to produce Team GB medal winners in the future. In this context the increase achieved by the Angling Trust in Sport England funding from £1.5 to £1.8m is commendable and making comparisons with Olympic sports like netball and badminton is frankly spurious.
Angling is never going to be an Olympic Sport and while I would love to see our national teams receive direct support from the authorities it ain’t going happen anytime soon. That’s why the Angling Trust is looking at schemes to try and raise income for our elite teams from within its own competition structure to compliment the generous sponsorship from some parts of the tackle trade.
It’s worth reminding ourselves exactly what these various funding bodies are set up to do before we go sounding off as to why angling should be getting a larger share of their funds.
Sport England is a non-departmental public body under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Its role is to “build the foundations of a community sport system by working with national governing bodies of sport, and other funded partners, to grow the number of people doing sport; sustain participation levels; and help more talented people from all diverse backgrounds excel by identifying them early, nurturing them, and helping them move up to the elite level.”
Essentially, UK Sport’s responsibilities are to “ underpin and unlock the nation’s Olympic and Paralympic performance potential by investing a significant majority of its income into the World Class Performance Programme, working with partners to develop the people and systems that support our leading athletes, principally in the areas of coaching, talent identification and sports science and medicine practitioners and Performance Lifestyle, to ensure a continuing legacy for our investment.”
To put it simply UK Sport is about elite sport and its athletes and Sports England is about participation and sport in the community. Both are focussed on Rio 2016 and beyond. This is hardly surprising when the UK medal placing has risen from 36th in Atlanta to 10th in Athens to 4th in Bejing and now to an incredible 3rd in London. Both organisations have been going since 1997 and their track record of success means they are not likely to be altering course when it comes to funding criteria in the near future. Personally I don’t like it and I think there’s more to sport than just winning medals but I suspect I’m in a minority.
Funding Winners and losers
UK Sport’s funding for elite Olympic sports is set to rise by 11% and for Paralympics by 43% over next four years to £347m with aim of exceeding Team GB’s Olympic medal haul. Sports that are unlikely to produce medal winners in Rio 2016 have seen their funding cut to zero include handball, table tennis, basketball and wrestling. Significant cuts were also made to the funding for archery, badminton, judo, swimming and volleyball.
There is high level political backing for this approach with Sports minister Hugh Robertson saying: “When people look at it, they know that is done on a performance basis. There is not a lot of point at this level, funding teams that are not going to qualify for the Olympics.”
Sport England has just announced; “ a £493 million four-year investment to keep the inspiration of London 2012 alive and help fulfil Lord Coe’s pledge that the Games would get more people – young and old, women and men – playing sport, a feat that no other host nation has ever managed to achieve.”
Unlike angling some sports saw their funding cut including fencing, swimming and tennis. Like I said, some acknowledgement of the professionalism and hard work of the Angling Trust that went into successfully securing an increase in the development funding for angling would be more appropriate than lazy and ill informed criticism.
But there’s more to come..
The good news is that the Sports England dosh, targeted as it is at participation and boosting numbers, is by no means the only funding that the Angling Trust is winning for fishing. Last month we launched our national angling strategy, Fishing for Life, with the endorsement of both the Environment Agency and Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon. There’s a cool £150,000 in there already for getting kids fishing with more to follow. We want to move away from a box ticking mentality which pretends that if a youngster has caught a fish once at a taster session we have somehow turned them into an angler. Our sport needs a proper infrastructure that enables new entrants to know where to go for support, guidance and, if necessary, coaching. There are a great deal more competing attractions out there nowadays and if angling is to thrive and prosper in the way we all want it to then we need the type of professional organisation, political leadership and access to funding that the Angling Trust is determined to provide.