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Non-Olympic Sports

Volume 790: debated on Thursday 19 April 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to provide resources and support structures for non-Olympic sports following the success of the home nations at the Commonwealth Games.

My Lords, the home nations have indeed had a successful Commonwealth Games, collectively amassing 228 medals. Home nations sports councils support talent pathways, which lead into this Commonwealth success. Over the period 2017-21, Sport England is investing nearly £50 million of core funding to support sports that do not feature in Olympic and Paralympic programmes. This will help national governing bodies to deliver talent pathways, projects to tackle inactivity and increasing participation in sports.

I thank the Minister for that Answer. Would he not accept that certain sports, and netball is the obvious example, are very unlikely to get into the Olympics any time soon, but have a tremendous capacity for improving not only elite-level sport but mass participation? Under those circumstances, why are they dependent for support on something that is designed for grass-roots activity as its primary concern? Should there not be some way to support these sports that do not yet have the Olympic symbol and also those that are missing in the medal total?

My Lords, it is crucial that funding is invested strategically in the right sports, the right athletes and the right support programmes. The noble Lord is right that England Netball is having great success at the national level, winning the gold medal, in its strengthened domestic superleague and in increasing participation at grass-roots level. Not only does it benefit from Sport England support but we will be welcoming to Liverpool the 2019 World Cup, where I wish it every success. This is a work in progress. Netball’s focus needs to be on looking ahead much further than just two or three years.

My Lords, following on from my noble friend’s Question, one problem that netball, squash and bowls face, because they are not Olympic sports, is that their performers are not eligible for athlete performance awards, which is a different issue to talent pathways. The APAs for swimming are £3.6 million, for hockey £4.4 million and for modern pentathlon over £600,000. All those sports were also played at the Commonwealth Games. Are we not setting back the three sports that are not played at Olympic level by not allowing them to be eligible for APAs?

We will certainly be looking at that, but UK Sport has a clear remit, agreed with government, to maximise medal performance at Olympic and Paralympic Games, which covers many of the things that the noble Baroness has mentioned. This allowed it to achieve unprecedented medal success at Rio, but I will take her point back.