Show Me the Money
The winter olympics are done and it was memorable for many reasons. The tension of the GB curling teams, the success of 3 Skeleton medals and the speed skating heartache the imagination of the British public was once again grasped by the games. One of the main talking points away from the action was about funding. Bobsleigh may get the headlines after the self funding 2 woman bob out performed the centrally funded mens teams but across the board there are questions about were that lottery money goes.
Head of UK Sport the NGO that distributes the lottery money Helen Grainger spoke about the funding being used to inspire people in to the sport. I am sure many will be inspired and want to take up a winter sport like figure skating, curling, speed skating or ice hockey but may well be put off by the facilities in the UK. Curling was the second highest funded winter sport receiving over £5.6 million of funding but rinks that offer curling are few and far between. England’s only dedicated curling rink is in Tunbridge Wells in Kent whilst Welsh curling share the Deeside Leisure Centre with skaters. In Scotland there are 22 rinks but again many are not dedicated curling rinks where the ice is very different.
Figure skating for a long time was the UK’s top winter sport with John Curry, John Cousins and Torvill and Dean bring years of success. In the last olympic cycle though that sport received £1.2 million yet the Ryde Arena which had produced one of this country’s finest synchro ice dance squads remains closed.
Speed skating and more specifically short short received over £4.7 million of funding but realistically only had 1 medal prospect in Elise Christie.
Ice hockey meanwhile did not receive any central funding due to governance issues and the lack of medal prospects despite it being an accessable sport for those interested in a winter sport.
Due to weather and topography the UK will not easily be the place for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding but our ice rinks are a place where people can try those inspirations but despite some successes there are still many areas with out access to ice and where the rinks future is in danger. So the question is where is over £11 million of funding allocated to ice sports being spent?
Yes some of it is going on coaching, equipment, travel and wages of the top players. That is ok as they inspire the rest of us to take up a sport but what about the rest? The danger is that people get inspired by the shiny rinks on tv at the games but on seeing the distance to some of our rinks and the state of them they will be instantly put off.
Investment at the top is good and does inspire but UK Sport and the governing bodies it gives money to need to
remember that the bottom end of the scale is investment is needed. This is needed to keep our ice rinks going, build communities that enjoy their facilities and from that the next olympians will come. Who knows if that happens and ice hockey can sort out its governance then there is a chance that it too will be able to take advantage of this.