Olympic gold medallists Laura Trott and Chris Hoy tell PM: Hands off sport funding

Britain's medallists tell Cameron that we'll all regret it at Rio Games if he cuts elite sport funding

Britain's most decorated Olympian Sir Chris Hoy led a succession of medallists yesterday in warning David Cameron of the dire consequences of cutting funding for elite sport.

Hoy, who won his sixth gold medal in the velodrome on Tuesday, spoke out as ministers refused to guarantee that current levels of sports spending will be maintained. Funding for elite sport is set to be cut next year, leaving depleted resources when Team GB appears at Brazil in 2016 if it cannot make up the shortfall with lottery money.

The Prime Minister insisted money was not the only answer to promoting sporting excellence - and provoked a backlash from teachers when he suggested many of them were not committed to nurturing the next generation of medal-winners.

Hoy told The Independent: "Fifteen years ago the lottery funding came in and it was the whole catalyst for the team’s success, the starting-point. When [coach] Peter Allen came in and said he had this dream that we could be the best national team in the world, we thought he was mad.

"The heated hotpants we use, you know [to maintain muscle temperature], they're a great example of the importance of funding. That would never have happened were it not the opportunity to invest in finding these things out."

Pointing to fellow medallist Laura Trott, sitting beside him, Hoy added: "Laura, you know, she's 20, she's only known the team since after that happened. Me and Jason Quealy, and some of the others, remember when it was run on a shoestring budget. It was very different, and we weren't anywhere near as successful."

Trott, who picked up two cycling golds on her Olympics debut, said: "Funding is very important - it is the key to our sport, really. We would be lost without it."

Peter Wilson, who took Britain’s first shooting gold medal for more than a decade in the double trap event, said: "Without lottery funding I would not be here."

The British Olympic Association, which benefited from the £250m of lottery and public money used to support elite athletes since London was awarded the Olympics, warned that the funding was "absolutely critical" to Team GB’s victories and would be needed to achieve further success.

Darryl Seibel, its spokesman, said: "Without it we would not be where we are today. It is one element of a whole package, which includes the talent and determination of the individual athlete and everything that underpins securing the best performance.

"You have to have the funding to attract the best coaches, the best technology and the best team. So the money is not everything but it is an absolutely critical element."

The high jumper Robbie Grabarz, who won a bronze medal on Tuesday despite having his lottery support withdrawn, said: "Funding is fantastic and it helps a lot of people on their way. It would be a shame if it were to go. But it is not the be all and end all at the same time. If you really want something you can do it."

His coach, Fuzz Ahmed, said that sports funding "works out at 80p per person per month. It is an irrelevant amount of money compared with, say, a submarine. What would you rather have - Chris Hoy or a submarine? I know what I would like. We are 20 years ahead of the rest of the world, so if we give that away we are idiots. If there is a politician out there who thinks they are going to get elected by not giving sport a chance, dream on."

Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, said yesterday he could not promise to protect funding beyond 2013: "[Predicting] the outcome of the spending round...is obviously something I can’t do and we need to have this discussion across government."

The Government has also found itself under attack in recent days over sports provision in state schools, which Mr Hunt has conceded is patchy.

Ministers have ditched a target for pupils to take part in at least two hours of PE and sport a week. In addition, the Coalition has scrapped a £160m school sport partnership scheme and approved the sale of more than 20 schools playing-fields.

Mr Cameron said yesterday the biggest drawback to identifying and encouraging future champions was not cash, but attitudes among some teachers. "The problem has been too many schools not wanting to have competitive sport, some teachers not wanting to join in and play their part," he told LBC Radio. "We need a big cultural change - a cultural change in favour of competitive sports. That’s what I think really matters."

But Christine Blower, general-secretary of the National Union of Teachers, retorted: "It is ludicrous to suggest teachers are letting the side down. It is not because of teachers that funding for schools sport partnership has been drastically cut."

Sir John Major, who introduced the national lottery, said he bitterly regretted not using some its proceeds for paying for full-time sports teachers.

"I believe every child has the right to a physical education as well as an academic education, but over the last 40 years that has fallen away."

Dame Kelly Holmes, a double gold medal winner in the 2004 Athens Olympics, called for two hours' compulsory PE a week and, designated teachers in primary schools and for stronger links between schools, communities and sport clubs.

The British beach volleyball player Zara Dampney said the Government must protect funding for both elite athletes and sports facilities for children: "It’s really important. Obviously the Olympics has put loads of sports out there, not just beach volleyball but so many other minority sports as well. There are lots of sports that people didn’t know existed or know much about. So it’s a real chance for kids to get involved in other sports other than the ones that are offered the most regularly.

"It’s a crucial time now. The grassroots are ready and people want to get playing."

The captain of the Britain men’s volleyball team, Ben Pipes, added: "A lot of us were here on chance. Chance encounters with PE coaches who said ‘Hey you should try volleyball’. Chance encounters with a friend of a friend who said ‘We’re playing beach on holiday do you want to get involved?’ If we can eliminate that chance element to our sports, bring kids into the proper systems at the right ages, we’re going to be standing toe to toe with these teams the next time we come to a major event."

Yesterday GB Basketball said it would wait until December before appointing a new coach after the resignation of Chris Finch, because it would await a decision on future funding before signing any deal with a coach. Last time, basketball received £8.5m (part-lottery, part Treasury) from UK Sport.

The British Olympic Association has expressed hopes that schoolchildren will be allowed to attend a parade of athletes on the Mall by Buckingham Palace on 10 September.

Andy Hunt, its chief executive, said: "Let’s hope many schools are allowed an opportunity to come and celebrate. It is going to be broadcast live but we hope there will be millions on the streets."

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project