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Threat to minority sports after 2012 medal failures

By Robin Scott-Elliot

The cheers of the crowd have barely died away but already minority sports that revelled in their moment in the Olympic sun are facing the realities of a tough future.

Britain fielded a handball team for the first time in the Olympics, while water polo returned for the first time in more than half a century. Neither is likely to feature as part of Team GB for the Rio Games in 2016, losing the funding they received to allow them to compete in London.

UK Sport, the body that distributes elite funding to Olympic sports, is in the process of determining how much each governing body should receive towards Rio – it has a pot of £508m to divide. Sports have to demonstrate that their teams or athletes are capable of winning medals in four years' time or, failing that, are able to qualify and finish in the top eight.

As the host nation Britain was able to enter every event in London, but for Rio sports like handball will have to qualify. Having lost every men's and women's match in London there is practically no chance of that. Under UK Sport's determined "no compromise" approach that means handball will not be funded again.

It is not only the "lesser" sports that face cuts. Swimming failed to meet its medal target and so will be given less public funding. It is a system that rewards success and it is one that has worked spectacularly well, helping deliver Britain's best Games result for more than a century.

Liz Nicholl, the chief executive of UK Sport, said: "Our aim is to make sure that when we make our Rio investments we invest in every sport that has medal potential. That for us is an absolute minimum. The starting point for handball and other sports that have been given host nation places is that they can qualify by right for the Olympics. If they can't be there they can't be supported to achieve a medal. That's what our no-compromise approach is about, that's the approach that works and we are not going to waver from that."

It is up to the governing bodies of handball, volleyball and water polo themselves to build on the publicity they garnered in London. UK Sport insists its role is to ensure Britain wins as many medals as possible – in other words it is entirely focused on elite sport. It is for each governing body to look to boost its profile, with the support of organisations like Sport England, which deals with grassroots sport and raising participation.

Ms Nicholl said: "Handball has had a fantastic opportunity to showcase its sport like never before. It has raised its profile and should attract a lot more participants – it should therefore generate more interest from the public and commercial sector. Every sport has to take responsibility itself for driving its own development to a point at which we can identify that it has a future medal opportunity. "We'd love to see in the future handball come through to where it can qualify by right. If they can show they can be on an upward trajectory to potential medals then we will be very happy to fund them. We will not be able to fund every sport."

Game over: The biggest losers


2012 funding £2,924,721

2012 performance Both the men's and women's team lost every game

2016 prospects Unlikely to receive any central funding towards the Rio Games

Water polo

2012 funding £2,928,039

2012 performance Men's and women's teams both finished last

2016 prospects Unlikely to receive any central funding towards Rio


2012 funding £25,144,600

2012 performance One silver and two bronze medals left them short of their target of five to seven medals

2016 prospects Will still receive sizeable funding for Rio but not at the same level as for London

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