By Gary Anderson

January 23 - The ASA is not doing enough to increase swimming participation at grassroots says Sport England ©Getty Images Sport England has announced details of funding for six sports - basketball, fencing, squash, swimming, table tennis and tennis - and claims it is taking a "tougher approach" to the distribution of money to help grow participation at the grassroots level of each.

The new funding announcement reflects the achievement of participation targets set out by Sport England in its Whole Sport Plan in December 2012, and sees a reduction in funding for swimming, tennis, squash and fencing.

Sport England had committed to provide £20 million ($33 million/€24 million) funding to swimming over the period of 2013-2017 in December 2012, but that was based on the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) initiating programmes to help increase participation and saw an initial £3.5 million ($5.8 million/€4.2 million) made available to the governing body to boost numbers.

While Sport England acknowledges the number of people swimming has increased slightly in the past 12 months, it says that there is little evidence this is as a result of ASA activities and has only committed to providing another £3.5 million to the ASA to help grow participation over the next 12 months.

The provision of the funding is based on the ASA providing a more focussed and comprehensive approach to increasing participation, according to Sport England.

Reacting to the announcement, the ASA's director of Get People Swimming, Paul Davies told insidethegames: "We have a strong three-year plan, in which we are confident.

"Results from Sport England's most recent Active People survey point to an upward trend in participation over the last two years, with a net gain of 125,000 participants in the sport, which suggests we are moving in the right direction.

"We will continue to work hard in partnership with the industry and our partners with the aim of achieving our objectives.

"We will also build on our continually improving insight into how to reach and attract more people into the water, and retain those already swimming."

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has also seen funding for its participation programmes cut after Sport England figures released last December showed the number of people playing tennis for at least 30 minutes a week dropped nine per cent to 406,000 from 445,000 in 2012.

Despite the success of Andy Murray at Wimbledon last year tennis participation numbers have dropped in 2013 ©AFP/Getty Images Despite the success of Andy Murray at Wimbledon, tennis participation numbers have dropped ©AFP/Getty Images

As a result, Sport England has reduced funding for LTA programmes targeting 16-25-year-olds and has instead decided to re-invest that money into a pilot project with a local authority focussing on park court usage.

A pot of £1.9 million ($3.1 million/€2.3 million) has been provided for participation for one year only, but Sport England did reveal they will support the LTA's education/satellite club programme for a further three years at a cost of £360,000 ($597,000/€440,000) per year as a result of the successful results seen through the scheme.

Basketball will also see funding going to a more diverse range of stakeholders after its governing body, England Basketball, was adjudged to have not met participation targets.

While Sport England announced an increase of £2.2 million ($3.7 million/€2.7 million) in investment in the sport, bringing the total up to £9 million ($15 million/€11 million) for the period 2013-2017, £1.9 million ($3.1 million/€2.3 million) of this will go to the British Basketball League (BBL) Foundation.

And £418,000 ($694,000/€511,000) is going to pilot projects in London run by Reach and Teach which targets participation at grassroots, particularly among Black and Minority Ethnic groups.

"There are some tough messages here for national governing bodies," said Sport England chief executive Jennie Price.

"If they don't grow participation we will reduce their funding, and we won't make long term investments until we have confidence in their ability to deliver.

"This is exemplified by our new approach to basketball: increasing our investment to over £9 million ($15 million/€11 million), but reducing our reliance on the national governing body and investing more in community organisations with a strong track record of local delivery."

Drew Sullivan says basketball participation is growing amongst young people especially from minority ethnic backgrounds ©AFP/Getty ImagesDrew Sullivan says basketball participation is growing among young people, especially from minority ethnic backgrounds ©AFP/Getty Images

BBL star and captain of the Great Britain side, Drew Sullivan, welcomed the investment in the grassroots schemes which he says are engaging more and more youngsters in physical activity.

"It is absolutely crucial there is more investment in grass roots basketball in the UK, and I welcome any further investment that might follow," said the Leicester Riders player.

"As a society we need to motivate our young people to see sport and physical activity as an essential element of their every day activity, and there is no better sport than basketball for appealing to our youth, particularly in the inner cities, and in particular in our ethnic communities." 

Squash has also failed to meet participation targets in the past year and has seen funding for its programmes reduced from £2.5 million ($4.1 million/€3.6 million) to £2.1 million ($3.5 million/€2.6 million).

Fencing has seen limited progress in increasing the numbers playing the sport according to Sport England but British Fencing has been handed a further £250,000 ($415,000/€306,000) to boost participation programmes.

Table tennis has bucked the trend and has seen its funding increased after the English Table Tennis Association (ETTA) implemented a number of structural and organisational changes.

Led by the late Andy Seward, who died last week after taking up the role of chairman at the ETTA last year, the governing body has implemented participation and talent programmes that were called for by Sport England in December 2012.

As a result it has seen funding increase from £2.2 million ($3.7 million/€2.7 million) last year to £2.3 million ($3.8 million/€2.8 million) for 2014.

In addition, Sport England has committed a further £1.2 million ($2 million/€1.5 million) for core funding up until 2017.

Former ETTA chairman Andy Seward (centre), who died last week, led the restructuring of the ETTA last year ©Getty Images Former ETTA chairman Andy Seward (centre), who died last week, led the restructuring of the governing body last year ©Getty Images

"This announcement gives us the security of being able to focus on longer term planning and not lurch from year to year in a financial vacuum," said chief executive of the ETTA, Sara Sutcliffe, who paid tribute to the work of Seward and said the organisation needs to build on the foundations he set.

"The past six months have been a major - and necessary - journey for the sport of table tennis.

"We reviewed every aspect of the way the sport was managed and operated.

"We knew that the future of table tennis in England depended on us getting it right - and getting it right first time.

"This announcement is a vote of confidence that we are on the right track.

"However, it is the start of a journey, not the end of it.

"Now we have some security to plan for the future and a clear mandate that we are on the right road.

"A tremendous amount of work and commitment from our staff, volunteers and Board members has taken place in the past six months.

"The foundation is in place for us to develop our sport at every level; from our top international players to our social players."

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