Eleven British sports bodies call for funding changes

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[June 29, 2017]  LONDON (Reuters) - The national governing bodies of 11 Olympic and Paralympic sports issued a joint statement on Thursday calling for Britain to abandon a "two-class system" of funding fixated on medal success.

The sports, which include archery, badminton, fencing and weightlifting, have been left without National Lottery and government funding ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"We've been thrown under a bus," Adrian Christy, the Badminton England chief executive whose sport came home from last year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics with a bronze medal, told the BBC.

The "Every Sport Matters" joint manifesto said the existing approach had reaped plenty of medals but disenfranchised elite athletes with a system that "runs counter to Olympic ideals".

"Currently, athletes in sports deprived of Lottery funding will find it almost impossible to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics," it added.

"Even athletes with recognized medal potential created by Lottery funding have now been completely abandoned by the system."

UK Sport's focus on medal potential has produced record returns, with Britain second in the Rio Olympic standings with 27 gold medals and 67 in total. In 1996, Britain was 36th in the medals table with just one gold among 15 medals.

However there has also been criticism of the win-at-all-cost approach.

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"There is too much of a culture of medal winners and non-medal winners which is unhealthy and doesn’t speak well for us as a sporting society," UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner told reporters in May.

Thursday's manifesto urged Katherine Grainger, the five times Olympic rowing medalist who takes over as chair of UK Sport next week, to instigate a thorough review.

"We urge UK Sport to recognize that medal targets alone should not be the sole criteria for its funding," it said.

Grainger acknowledged the call but indicated there could be no quick fix.

"I will of course listen to these sports’ concerns, and UK Sport will go out to consultation again on its investment strategy for the 2024 cycle," she said in a UK Sport statement.

"But as things currently stand, as ever with finite investment, we simply cannot reach the sports who are furthest away from medal success.

"UK Sport runs a lean operation ... so to take the approach these sports are suggesting would mean taking away funding or expertise from athletes with greater chances of medal success."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Alison Williams)

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