Sharon Hodgson: Basketball deserves to be funded because it reaches parts of the community other sports can't

Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Sharon Hodgson MPAside from my Shadow Children and Families role, I also do a lot to champion the sport of basketball inside Parliament; a sport which plays a big role in the region of Tyne and Wear, whilst facing continual pressure and cutbacks from the powers that be.

Basketball is important because it reaches a demographic that few sports can. It is dynamic, accessible and its natural ties to urban culture give it a street credibility others sorely lack. It is no wonder that between the ages of 10 and 16, no other sport besides football is as popular.

Being such an inclusive and accessible sport, basketball is often found at the heart of some of the best community projects up and down the country. The Newcastle Eagles run a fantastic project called Hoops For Health, with professional players entering into some of the most deprived schools in the region encouraging young people to make positive lifestyle choices.

During the Olympics and Paralympics, basketball was consistently one of the most viewed events with hundreds of thousands of British people tuning in. Last week, the NBA was in London with the Detroit Pistons playing the New York Knicks in front of 17,000 people packed out at the O2 Arena including stars from film, music and football.

Detroit Pistons at O2A sold-out crowd of 17,000 at the O2 to watch the NBA match between the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks again demonstrated the popularity of basketball in the UK

Yet despite all of its attributes, basketball in the UK remains ignored and undervalued by those at the top.

That's why I set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Basketball, to win the argument for basketball within circles that only believe in "traditional" English sports.

Fresh faced from the successes promised to "inspire a generation" during London 2012, UK Sport recently announced that it had ruthlessly cut all elite funding for basketball, a week after Sport England also cut millions from basketball's grassroots budget.

Why does this matter?

Hoops for HealthHoops for Health, a programme run by the Newcastle Eagles, helps spread basketball's messages at the grassroots level

I believe it matters, because how we distribute money amongst our sports says a lot about what sort of society we want to be. UK Sport's "no compromise" policy inadvertently, yet knowingly, punishes sports for being accessible, as they are more globally competitive therefore wield less medal hopes.

I applaud the successes of sports such as sailing and equestrian, but UK Sport need to find a balance between rewarding success, and taking into consideration the wider societal positives that accessible team sports such as basketball provide to our local communities.

I think the decision is desperately unfair and potentially very damaging to the aspirations of young sporting people inspired by 2012. That's why as an All Party Group we have secured an Adjournment debate scheduled for 10pm in Parliament next Monday (January 28) to raise this issue with the Minister of Sport.

A petition calling on the Government to urge UK Sport to reconsider their cut to British Basketball's funding and make basketball a funded sport again has been set up. To sign it click here

Sharon Hodgson is the MP for Washington and Sunderland West and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Basketball
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