Centralisation strategy: why it creates sports funding holes

IT IS a myth that success is all it takes to be successful.

Tight government sports funding pots put pressure on distributors, the governing bodies, to form select and economical strategies for achieving the best possible results.

No country can evenly fund all sports and thus some disciplines must build a minefield of qualifications that athletes must wade through to claim a share of its sports funding. Chiefly, the governing body must be able to account for their spending in more ways than just results. Many do this by creating their own centres where athletes must report to and train at.

However, because this is a new initiative in some sports, doing this means established athletes may need to leave their trusted coaches, support network and employment just to get funding for sports.

On we have supported many British judo players due to this, most notably present campaigner and British National Champion Gary Hall and Tom Reed, who won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow for England.

mugshotReed raised in excess of £3,500 last year via his PledgeSports project and, with that and his other support streams, he has been able to plan the first quarter of this season, taking him well into judo’s two-year Olympic qualification period – ending in May 2016.

That’s it though. Due to British Judo’s centralisation of its funded players, and Reed’s decision not to relocate to join them, he remains entirely self-funded.

He explains: “The only funded players in British judo are those training at the National Centre of Excellence in the Midlands. The other athletes based in their home environments do not get funded. They have made that choice though. They have decided, like me, not to uproot to train there.

“It’s still possible for us to get funded, but it’s tough. The way they see it is, ‘if we don’t see you regularly you have to prove your worth by performing exceptionally well at competitions.

“I’m not there. I’m ranked around 43 in the world so I’ve accepted the fact that if I’m going to qualify I’ll do it myself.”

Reed trains at Bath University with a team of 20 players, five close to his U81kg weight category. He has begun this year positively, gaining a bronze medal at an Olympic qualification competition in Tunisia.

Rome is next on the agenda and then he is bound for South America, home of Rio 2016, for three weeks. He cannot look beyond there due to the possibility he may run out of funds at that point, but he is already considering another PledgeSports campaign with confidence having grown his network substantially thanks to that experience.

He says: “I was genuinely shocked at the support I got. I never really thought that I would raise £3,000, but I got well over that.

“It adds a bit of pressure, I owe a lot of people a lot of favours now, but it’s so nice to know that many people are behind you.

“You can feel really lonely as an athlete, especially if it’s not going well; it’s hard to know sometimes whether anyone understands what that feels like.”

Of his schedule, he adds: “Things are going well. I’m feeling pretty positive after Tunisia. It was a good confidence booster and put me in the frame to be selected for the European Championships.

“I have planned my first block of tournaments, starting with Rome on Valentine’s weekend and I’m then hoping to go to South America for a three competition tour in March. After that, I don’t know [what funds will be available]. It’s a looming pressure.”

Gary Hall is set to begin his season in February, fighting in Bulgaria on February 8 and in Germany on February 22. You can support his campaign for Olympic qualification on and follow Reed’s on Twitter. Be part of their #SportStory.


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