UK Sport doubles funding for Winter Olympic and Paralympic athletes to £31 million… while Deaflympic athletes get nothing

Posted on July 2, 2014

The news last week that UK Sport are doubling the funding that Winter Olympic and Paralympic athletes get to £31 million has come as a bitter blow to Deaflympic athletes who still receive no funding at all.

The governing body doubled the funding ahead of the 2018 games in South Korea following what they say was a “landmark performance” at the Sochi games earlier this year.

According to UK Sport, the funding for Winter Paralympic games athletes has increased five-fold.

The funding to support Deaflympic athletes was withdrawn by UK Sport in 2008, as they diverted all their funding to athletes competing in the Olympics and Paralympics at London 2012.

That decision put the Great Britain Deaflympic team’s participation in the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics in jeopardy. The sum they used to give our Deaf athletes? Just £42,000.

Last summer, Deaflympics athletes were reduced to raising thousands of pounds each – at a time when they were supposed to be training for the games – just to get to the 2013 Summer Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria.

UK Sport is responsible for investing a total of £100 million of public funds each year in high performance sport, money which comes from the National Lottery and the Exchequer.

Yet British athletes competing at the Deaflympics do not form part of their strategy.

A UK Sport spokesperson told us that Deaf athletes can be supported by their funding – but only if they are competing in the Olympics or Paralympics. He said:

“UK Sport has a clear remit to invest in Olympic and Paralympic sport and is determined to support all sports and athletes deemed to have realistic medal potential over an eight year cycle. Therefore UK Sport is not in a position to provide financial support to a Great Britain team for the Deaflympics. However, all deaf athletes who meet the performance standard for UK Sport’s World Class Programme, and are nominated by their National Governing Body for funding to enable them to compete at the Olympic or Paralympic Games would, of course, be funded.”

We asked UK Deaf Sport to comment. The Chair, Philip Gerrard, expressed his disappointment, while saying that he hoped UK Deaf Sport would be able to work with UK Sport in the future. He said:

“Whilst UK Deaf Sport understands that the remit of UK Sport is focused on supporting athletes with the potential to win Olympic and Paralympic medals, we are disappointed that the Deaflympics still has not received equal recognition to other Olympic/Paralympic level events. We will continue to lobby the Government for support for the significant number of athletes who are deaf and hard of hearing and pledge to work hard with UK Sport and Sport England to identify how we can work in partnership. Deafness can prevent participation in sport and can be a barrier to performance sport and UK Deaf Sport will continue to seek funding for increasing participation, developing talent and supporting the GB Team for the Deaflympics.”

No-one can deny that the Deaflympics has a lower profile than the Olympics or the Paralympics, but it remains shocking that UK Sport doesn’t give a single penny towards the development of Deaf athletes aiming to compete at the Deaflympics.

By Charlie Swinbourne

Read Charlie’s previous articles on how Britain’s Deaf athletes missed out on the 2012 Games in London (for the Guardian) and about how last summer’s medal-winners at the 2013 Deaflympics deserved more recognition (Huffington Post).

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