Britain's amateurs lose out to glamour sports

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Tony Banks, the sports minister, is facing a rebellion from Britain's amateur sports who say they are in dire financial straits because public funding is being diverted to the more televisual "glamour" sports.

They said Britain's chances of winning future Olympic medals in minor events were being seriously undermined by a new ethos which discriminated against sports played for enjoyment not money.

Cuts in funding and bureaucratic demands on sports with little administrative back-up have led to the laying-off of national coaches and the loss of vital training and facilities for British competitors.

Jim Fox, the former Olympic pentathlon gold medallist, said: "The powers that be are only interested in the Murdoch-televised sports. You have to ask whether there is a deliberate policy to let the minor sports go the wall."

Kevin Hickey, technical director of the British Olympic Association, said it was an "enormous problem" and cited more than a dozen Olympic sports that were undergoing significant funding problems.

They include weightlifting, wrestling, volleyball, handball, basketball, modern pentathlon, triathlon, judo, bobsleigh, curling and speed-skating.

Many amateur sports governing bodies are concerned that Britain's "sport for all" traditions are being lost amid the search for new sporting superstars.

Mr Fox, chairman of the Modern Pentathlon Association of Great Britain, said: "We don't all want to watch or play football. People need a sport that suits their own temperament. If we just leave ourselves with a handful of major sports it will be a major disservice to the country."

The Sports Council has designated a dozen elite sports, including football, cricket, rugby, athletics and hockey for priority treatment as part of a new culture of excellence.

But Lord Howell, the former Labour sports minister, warned that it was a foolish policy to ignore the potential of minor sports. "This policy of picking out elite sports in the belief that they will win medals is misguided. Medals come from unusual sources, often from the minor sports."

Gillian Harrison, chief executive of the English Volleyball Association, said the sport's grant had been slashed from pounds 100,000 to pounds 50,000, meaning it could no longer employ Ralph Hippolyte, the national coach of the Great Britain team. The future of the British beach volleyball team is also under threat.

Nigel Hook, technical services director of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, the national association for the governing bodies of sport and recreation, said: "It will require a major feat from the new minister of sport to sort out this mess. With the previous administration the focus was sharply on the elite sports. The consequence was that the Cinderella sports have been left to sink or swim."

Because the Sports Council has been split into five separate entities (United Kingdom, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), many amateur sports are unable to cope with the bureaucracy involved in making applications for funding.

The Department of National Heritage said that Mr Banks was looking for opportunities to streamline the system but defended the amount of bureaucracy on the grounds that the pounds 11m in grant aid for sports governing bodies was public money and must be accounted for.

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