By David Owen

An appeal by British Basketball to have its funding restored for Rio 2016 has been thrown out by UK Sport ©Getty ImagesMarch 19 - UK Sport today confirmed the withdrawal of funding from six Olympic and Paralympic sports, shattering the dreams of scores of elite athletes in activities from basketball to visually impaired football.

Following an appeal process involving organisations opposed to the elite funding body's initial rulings, only weightlifting of the seven dropped sports, has secured a reprieve.

The effect of this will be to reinstate almost £900,000 ($1.5 million/€1.1 million) of investment in the sport, bringing total Rio cycle funding for weightlifting to £1.35 million ($2.2 million/€1.6 million).

Decisions, originally announced in February, to withdraw funding from six sports - basketball, synchronised swimming, water polo, visually impaired football, goalball and wheelchair fencing - will stand.

Rod Carr, UK Sport's chair, said the "starting point" for the body was "that we want to be able to invest in as many Olympic and Paralympic sports as possible but they must be able to credibly demonstrate medal winning potential within eight years.

"I accept that by its very nature 'No Compromise' is not universally popular but there's one thing we are sure of - it works."

Liz Nicholl, UK Sport's chief executive, said: "If the nation values sporting success we can deliver it, but only if we remain focused, as the Olympic and Paralympic environment is becoming increasingly competitive."

This is not quite the end of the line for the six affected sports: a further appeal to Sports Resolutions UK is still possible, with sports having until April 16 to adopt this course.

Both British Basketball and British Swimming indicated at once that they were considering this.

Roger Moreland, British Basketball's performance chairman, argued that the "vigorous debate on how we fund elite sport in this country has identified a gap in the funding system which can particularly affect team sports".

He went on: "Winning medals now and in the future should be celebrated, but we need to consider its impact.

"Basketball has a grassroots base bigger than any other British Olympic team sport.

"A funding system with nearly £350 million ($579 million/€419 million) available for elite sport cannot be working to the best of its ability if it can leave sports like basketball behind.

"If there is the political will and the leadership, a solution can be found.

"Other countries have done so."

Britain's synchronised swimming team, who competed at London 2012, face a financial struggle after having their appeal against cut in funding rejected ©Getty ImagesBritain's synchronised swimming team, who competed at London 2012, face a financial struggle after having their appeal against cut in funding rejected ©Getty Images

David Sparkes, chief executive of British Swimming, said it was "a very dark and sad day for British sport - especially for women's sport".

He continued: "How can an elite programme such as synchro, which has long been held by UK Sport as a model of world class athlete development and leadership, that has achieved all of its performance indicators since it first received funding have its funding removed just 12 months after it was enhanced?

"It is a sport that has never failed to deliver on its performance promises and this decision beggars belief - it clearly highlights a fundamental flaw in the UK Sport funding system.

"On behalf of water polo, synchro and other Olympic sports that face the real possibility of dying out as a result of today's announcement, we call on the Sports Minister to show leadership in this area by looking at the entire funding system for elite sport."

UK Sport has some £350 million ($585 million/€422 million) at its disposal to invest in Britain's Olympic and Paralympic teams in the build-up to Rio 2016.

The current aim for those Games is for Britain - which already exceeded expectations in its home Olympics by securing 65 medals and finishing third in the London 2012 medals table - to become the first nation in recent history to be more successful in both Olympic and Paralympic Games post hosting.

February's decision to cut off elite funding to so many sports ignited a passionate debate in UK sports circles.

This pitted advocates of a system that has served Britain well for a decade against those arguing that the collateral damage from striving to hit what is an exceptionally stiff Rio medals target for sports unlikely to reach the podium was unacceptable.

Some critics also believe strongly that the country's interests are not best served by simply amassing the biggest conceivable haul of medals.

Under UK Sport's "No Compromise" ethos, the more successful sports are granted essentially all the funding they can make a robust case for, while those whose chances of winning a medal are more remote risk being left with nothing once all available funds are allotted.

Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland were among the British rowers who enjoyed success at London 2012, a performance rewarded by UK Sport in increased funding for Rio 2016 ©Getty ImagesSophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland were among the British rowers who enjoyed success at London 2012, a performance rewarded by UK Sport in increased funding for Rio 2016
©Getty Images

For example, rowing, a sport which provided 28 of Britain's 114 London 2012 Olympic medallists, is currently earmarked to get £32.6 million ($54.5 million/€39.3 million) of the Rio cycle funding.

Many observers also believe that UK Sport's system inadvertently puts team sports at a disadvantage.

A report by a House of Lords Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic legacy, published last November, called for UK Sport to adopt "a more flexible approach", arguing that the "heavy focus on volume of medals" had "an inherent bias against team sports".

"This no-compromise approach to Rio 2016 will probably get us fourth in the medals table," Andy Reed, chairman of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, told the Committee.

"But at what cost?"

The way no-compromise works, an identified medal prospect in a particular sport can be used to justify funding for a larger number of athletes.

A targeted boxing medal, for example, may trigger investment in as many as nine athletes; a diving pair in as many as 12.

Athletes are divided into two categories: podium level and podium potential.

A podium level Olympic athlete attracts investment of £60,744 ($101,643/€73,419); a podium potential athlete £39,207 ($65,577/€47,368).

These should be interpreted as investments in the athlete's sport rather than salaries.

One of the problems faced by team sports under the no-compromise system is that they cannot benefit from this full multiplier effect just by getting one individual to podium level: the best basketball player in the world might be a British athlete, but, there being no individual Olympic basketball competition, it is hard to see how she can be considered podium level unless the whole team is.

Of the 20 Olympic sports now earmarked to receive Rio cycle performance funding, only one - hockey - is a pure team sport.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
March 2014: Exclusive - UK Sport move set to intensify high-performance debate as appeal dates approach
February 2014: Alan Hubbard - Winning-is-everything policy at UK Sport short sighted
February 2014: David Owen - It's been a thrilling ride, but is it time for UK sports policymakers to rein in their medal lust?
February 2014British Basketball to battle UK Sport funding axe decision
February 2014: Goalball UK chief "disappointed" by UK Sport funding snub