This week it has been announced by Sport England that many sports will be receiving cuts in their funding, most notably our national sport Football. Also among the list of funding cuts are; Rowing, Cricket, Netball, Golf and Hockey all sports we as a nation are traditionally ‘good’ at. Funding in large is being cut due to a decrease in participation at grassroots level. in a country steeped in sporting history how can participation in sports be decreasing?
One potential cause for the drop in numbers may be due to the Olympics. There is no doubt that the spectacle that was the 2012 London Olympics led to a sharp increase in participation amongst all sports in England as thousands of aspiring Jess Ennis’, Mo Farah’s and Greg Rutherford’s tried their hand at a plethora of different sports. It has now been nearly two years since that incredible fortnight and it is only natural that there is some level of attrition, the Olympics were always going to increase interest, the task of keeping those interested would always be a tough one therefore to me it seems inevitable that there would be a drop in participation at some point during the future. According to figures found on the Sport England website, 1.5 million more people over the age of 16 were involved in at least 30 minutes of sport per week in 2013 compared to 2006, this is a significant rise and one that should be celebrated by all those involved. This shows that the work done by sport England and other sporting governing bodies has not counted for nothing and that more are getting involved. If this is so then why has funding been taken from sports that we tend to associate with Britain and success?
This is largely due to the diversity shown in British sport. Unlike many countries in the world, England is competitive in most worldwide sports. To use a few examples, England currently sit 4th in Rugby Union and test Cricket standing’s, 12th in Football, the Women’s England hockey team are 3rd and the list continues, almost any sport there is England are near the top. There are not many, if any other countries in the world that can boast such universal success in sport and while this is a huge achievement alternatively, this can be seen as a downfall. If we are to take Football as an example, the current top ranking team* is Spain. Spain as a footballing nation is nothing short of fantastic however, there is not any other sport that springs to mind when the Spaniards are concerned. England on the other hand is fighting on almost all sporting fronts, allowing far more choice amongst youngsters than other countries and this is could be seen as the reason why funding to these sports has been cut. Participation in sport is not dropping on the whole, figures show the opposite, in actual fact it could be that as England and Britain become bigger powers in all sports levels of participation in other areas must, therefore, fall. As stated earlier this can be seen in two different lights, one good and one bad. The good would suggest that more choice means children have more chance of finding the right sport for them in turn leading to more sustained participation and in the long run a better sport. Alternately it could also be said that the more diversity there is the less chance we have of winning. Countries that focus on one sport tend to win at that sport, while the UK for a nation of its size could be seen to over achieve our national sport has brought us nothing but agony. It is common knowledge that England has not won any international tournament since 1966, could this be due to energy being used elsewhere.
While there are sports that have received cuts in their funding the money has not gone to waste. There are many sports that have benefited from these cuts, Boxing for example has received much more funding than before. This is due to an increase in participation largely due to the crop of fine British competitors we have staking claims to International success. Karl Froch and Anthony Joshua being two notable poster boys of the sport as of late, with Joshua gaining huge publicity off of the back of his Olympic gold medal, a certain reason as to why participation has increased.
Britain, England in particular, is known as a sporting superpower and it shows no sign of slowing down. These cuts to major sports are natural as funding from corporations such as Sport England or the Lottery will always fluctuate depending on current successes. There is no need for any kind of morale panic as to the end of English football, although numbers of grass root participators has dropped it is likely that they will return as no matter how many other sports we compete in England is all about football. Football still receives by far the largest amount of funding per sport in the UK and will continue to do so for a lot longer. Sport England came out to say that the cuts to Football were a warning to the F.A. to buck there ideas up and this is no bad thing, I know I speak for the rest of the country when I say I’d like to see some English success at last. The question of whether English sport is too diverse is a complicated but if I were to be pressed into an opinion I would have to say that choice is always good and a child being spoilt for choice when it comes to playing sport is no bad thing. As a country being a jack of all trades too is no dilemma at all.
* as of 28th March 2014