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Inside Lines: Volley from volleyball as bid for funding reprieve fails


Slam dunkers reprieved, but is volleyball now a basket case? A reprieve for basketball, whose funding has been restored by UK Sport, but its sporting cousin volleyball now faces a possible death sentence after its own appeal was turned down.

British Volleyball's president, Richard Callicott, suggests this could cause the "utter obliteration" of the sport at the top level here. He is seeking legal advice following last week's confirmation that neither indoor nor sitting volleyball – the Para-lympic sport which 2005 London bombing victim Martine Wright says "helped bring me back to life" – will be given funding towards preparations for the Rio Olympics.

"We have produced a generation of players from nowhere who should be entering the most crucial phase of their development and starting work towards making an impact on the world scene," says Callicott. "They are now going to be denied that." He adds that they were given a fair hearing during their 45-minute appeal but remains intensely aggrieved with the outcome, which instead of restoring all or part of their £3.5 million funding, save for £400,000 already allotted to beach volleyball, offers a one-day workshop "to explore challenges you face" and an annual review.

The restoration of funding for basketball, previously given £8.6m, coincides with a strongly worded letter to the Prime Minister from Britain's Chicago Bulls superstar Luol Deng demanding Government intervention. But UK Sport's chief executive, Liz Nicholl, denies they were influenced by this. "It doesn't affect us. All our decisions are based on performance potential."

Like table tennis, another sport whose funding (£1.2m) has been slashed, volleyball will seek an independent review, but admits it does not have the resources to challenge the decision in court. The performance director, Kenny Barton, said the body would now be forced to withdraw teams from the World Championships, for which they face a fine. "As things stand I'm the last man in the office and will probably have to turn the lights out."

Legal eagle who dares

The Winter Olympics in Sochi are one year away this week, which also marks exactly 25 years since Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, 49, soared into our consciousness as a truly abominable snowman.

Looking somewhere between Mr Magoo and Benny Hill's Fred Scuttle, the squinting ski jumper from Stroud won hearts, though nothing else, in Calgary. He was once the most lampooned figure in British sport, but he's always had bottle.

Last night he was soaring again, plunging off the high board to win the final of ITV's diving-for-dilettantes show, Splash! Olympic blazers may still shudder, but his 15 minutes of fame turned into a lifetime's celebrity. The once-bankrupt plasterer, now with a law degree, is having the last laugh on those who continue to see him as a national joke when actually he's more of a national treasure.

Fond farewell to Frank

Frank Keating, who died nine days ago, was the gentlest of souls and the most amusingly entertaining of sportswriters. Those who read his elegantly spun words surely believed he had great passion for all things sporting, but there was one for which the man whose parting phrase was "much love" had no love at all: Wimbledon. He detested it, believing it a bastion of middle-class privilege and snobbery.

While covering it for The Guardian back in the early Seventies he nipped out from the Centre Court press box for a cup of tea, handing his media pass temporarily to a youngster queuing for an outside court. The intruder was soon ejected and Keating hauled up before the All England Club Committee, and told he would be banned for a week. "Can't you make it life?" he pleaded.

Frank's funeral will be on Thursday (12.45pm) at Belmont Abbey, Ruckhall Lane, Hereford, where no doubt there will be much love.