Christmas Comes Early for British Rowing

£32.6M richer – The Priory, the headquarters of British Rowing on the Thames in Hammersmith, West London. The building was formerly the National Provincial Bank Rowing Club.

Tim Koch writes,

In my HTBS piece ‘….nobody expects you to win – you are bloody English’ on 15 August, I suggested some reasons for the current success of British international rowing. Top among these was the funding distributed by UK Sport. This body, established by an act of Parliament, is responsible for investing money from the National Lottery, from the Government and from private sponsorship in high performance sport. As I said in August:

‘UK Sport does not distribute Lottery money randomly; it is done with “tough love”. The more successful the sport, the more money it gets, less success may mean less money. Naturally rowing has benefited greatly, getting over £27M ($42M) for the Olympiad just past’.

I also quoted the BBC website:

‘No other sport exceeded their (2012) target by the distance rowing achieved, winning nine medals to the six demanded of them…. (rowing) will have few worries about sitting down with UK Sport for its performance review’.

Supporters of British Rowing are very happy.

The results of the performance reviews were announced on 18 December and, as expected, rowing kept its position as Britain’s best funded sport with £32.6M ($53.6M) guaranteed over the next four years, an increase of nearly 20%. In contrast, swimming missed its target of five to seven medals, taking just three and as a result its funding has been cut by almost 15% to £21.4M.

The BBC Sport website quotes UK Sport Chief Executive, Liz Nicholl:

‘Today will be good news for some and it will be painful for others who haven’t met the criteria… some of these sports have to improve their base, their competition structure, and drive up competition before they can really compete for medals at a world level…We have been guided by our no-compromise approach’.

The victorious British Four at the London 2012 Games, one of the winning teams that earned British Rowing its increase in funding in the run up to the 2016 Olympics.

While British Rowing, the sports national governing body, is presumably delighted by these developments, Greg Searle put forward an interesting suggestion on how it should spend its money in an article by Simon Briggs in the Daily Telegraph on 20 December.

Briggs quotes Searle as saying:

‘I don’t have any quibble with (the men’s chief coach, Jürgen Grobler’s) coaching record… But [his] consistency cuts both ways: we are still doing what we did 20 years ago. On the men’s side, we won two golds at Barcelona and at Sydney. This summer we won one, whereas New Zealand picked up three men’s golds from a far smaller population…Then you look at cycling and think how adventurous and different they are: how much these guys learn and take risks and do different things. (British) Men’s rowing doesn’t take risks and do different things.’

Searle further suggests that British men’s rowing could not only learn from the Team GB’s cyclists but also from its women rowers who were more successful than the men at Dorney Lake, winning three gold medals. It is worth reading Briggs’s article in full, also scrolling down and looking at the online comments and social media reactions.

Searle’s ideas are very thought provoking, especially as UK Sport’s plan is for Britain to be the first host nation to win more medals at the following Olympics than at the ‘home’ Games. To achieve this very ambitious aim, rowing and the rest of ‘Team GB’ must certainly raise their game for Rio 2016.

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