altBy David Sparkes - 20 March 2009

Recent cutbacks at UK Sport have meant there is a massive financial hole to fill if Britain is to qualify two teams for the water polo tournament at the London 2012 Olympics.


We are working on it all the time and are speaking to the parents of the players who have offered to try to raise money, which is fantastically helpful. We are also liasing with the British Olympic Association, London 2012 and UK Sport on their Team 2012 project which we hope will yield something.


Then there is our recent sponsorship deal with British Gas - we will put some of that money into water polo. We are looking at other ways of bridging the gap and British Swimming is determined that we will do everything we can to get enough money to get the two teams to London.


But, I’m going to say this, categorically, our piroirity is the women’s water polo team. That is because the women are closer to the medal zone. On that basis we want to support them. They are doing well. There are only eight teams that will compete in London and, frankly, the women are more likely to succeed. The men, because it is a professional game in Mediterranean Europe and standards are so high, they are not so far advanced. I think they could have been there and it would have been close if they had had the opportunity to have the full funding.


But when your funding has been cut by 75 per cent the reality is that you have to make some tough decisions. We will do our best for the men but what I am saying is that when the chips are down it is the women that are getting the priority. The men know that and they understand that.


I think if we could raise around £3 million between now and 2012 we might stand a fighting chance of getting both teams to London. The hole is currently £4 million but I think with a bit of smart work we can do it. The task to deliver two teams to London is enornmous, it really is on a 75 per cent in budget. It is a really tough ask, I know that.


We are going to take some of the money we are due to get from UK Sport early and we are going to put some money of our own into the programme. But we have to be careful because what I do not want to happen is to get to 2010 and fall off the edge of a cliff. So what I am going to try to do is eke out the money a little bit and, as more hopefully flows into the system, we will do everything we can to move it along.


I think water polo is a great game. It is perhaps not as well known in Britain as some of the other team games but we invented the sport and we won the Olympic gold medals in 1900, 1908, 1912 and 1920 - the first four occasions the sport was contested at the Games. We have a fantastic record in the sport. It is a game that we should be competing in in at London in 2012. There is no question in mind of that.


It is disappointing that we are in this position but I understand as to why where we are here. It is our job now to challenge and we will do it. One way or another, we will do it, I promise you of that.


David Sparkes is the chief executive of British Swimming. Since taking over in 1994 he has built up to the sport up to a position where it now employs 300 people and has an annual turnover of £32 million.


The news that I have just read about Nick Hume resigning is a
disaster. He had steered the programme brilliantly and we were
beginning to make real progress. I hope UK Sport is happy with
By Disillusioned sports fan

21 March 2009 at 13:22pm

It is now time for David Sparkes to show that he really means it
when he says "We will do it" meaning getting both teams to the
games. The men need his wholehearted support and encouragement
rather than constantly being told that the women are better than
them. Is he trying to break their spirit in the hope that many
will drift away leaving him looking blameless? If the men aren't
there in 2012 then the revolution will undoubtedly happen. So
sorry Nick Hume has gone too.
By Concerned

21 March 2009 at 13:51pm

As ususal British Sport is upside down and its own worst enenmy!
We seem to be more concerned with administration and management
than by performance and looking after our athletes. The Water
polo program began brightly with 2 world class coaches, great
facilities and a fully committed support team. 2 years later,
following best ever performances from the junior teams and
creditable early performances from BOTH squads, the well
respected mens Head Coach is long gone, moral is at an all time
low, the programme is directionless and without the world class
support needed to push it on. The right decisions have not been
made. British Swimming need to be honest with the athletes and
themselves. Make a commitment and do it properly, put their momey
into the athletes not the adminstrators, accept nothing but the
best. Quickly.

22 March 2009 at 18:41pm

Is the Olympics the be all and end all?

I realise for some the attendance at the olympics will be the
supreme pinnacle of their career but what of the future? The next
generation of British Water Polo is being totally decimated,
ignored and bled dry. No funding, no strategy, no competition and
no support. The legacy of the olympics for water polo will be
less than nil, it will be totally detrimental.

A long term strategy needs to be formulated and put into action
now. We need a future for water polo and not just a quick all
consuming foray at a 'free entry'. Take the money and build a
future not a straw house.

The present situation is such: spend on the olympics and have no
future, or spend on building the future and have a long and
prosperous one.

To paraphrase: Never before in the field of sport have so few
been so detrimental to so many.
By What Future

23 March 2009 at 23:46pm

At last someone with some sense (What Future)

We need to look to the future of waterpolo in the long term and
not just to 2012. If we can get teams into the Olympics all good
and well, but not at the expense of the sport throughout Britain.
There are players who need support in all 4 countries who train
week in week out because they love the sport and want to be the
best they can. Through lack of funding in many regions athletes
and clubs have had to curtail their aspirations and development.
The athletes who are the future following 2012 are being ignored
and put on the back burner in the hope of getting a team to the
Olympics. Do we in all honesty have a chance of a medal or do we
need to put all our efforts into building a secure future for the
sport? A sport where everyone involved benefits and we end up
building teams that are competitive in Europe and at World level
before thinking of tackling the Olympics simply because we have a
'free entry'.
By name

24 March 2009 at 16:39pm

Every aspect of water polo, from mini and junior level right up
to the Olympic programme needs financial support. It's no good
funding the foundations of a sport if there is not a well run and
well financed pinnacle to aim for. The athletes in both GB squads
deserve the chance to play in the Olympics, they are doing it
because they are proud to be British and want to represent their
country in the greatest sporting event in the world, they are
obviously not doing it for the money!
By Build a Legacy

24 March 2009 at 19:22pm

as usual us brits just bend over and take it up the
proverbial....!!!we all know sparkes could`nt give a monkeys
about water-polo.please remind me??is this  OUR OLYMPICS.our
chance to incite young people away from booze,junk food,drugs and
no sport,towards respect and self-esteem.the olympics should not
be money and medals,but participation and mutual respect.
WHY is BRITISH SWIMMING NOT making up the funds necessary to
allow both our teams to be competitive for 2012.uksport was never
the only source of income!!!certainly before the bid was won the
asa funded the national junior and youth teams, WHY NO
david sparkes if you are not capable of doing your job FULLY
you should step down and stop filling YOUR pockets
it is a BIG shame water-polo cannot become independant of the
burocracy that has become the asa/b.s.
disrespectfully yours
the father of a disillusioned athlete
By father of a passionate

24 March 2009 at 20:48pm

I totally understand the sentiments expressed above. It is very
concerning that there seems to be no athlete pathway for the
young people who will benefit from the money being poured in at
the grass root level. The whole thing is topsy tervy and sadly
the athletes are at the bottom of the pile. I just hope that Mr
Sparkes will read and take notice of all the comments. Somehow I
doubt it.
By Concerned

25 March 2009 at 11:12am

What Future is more or less bang on with comments about the
Olympics. Run properly by the right people, with realistic
funding, the sport could compete at the highest level - it's just
that it will almost certainly take longer than 3 years. This
obsession with 2012 has started to have a negative effect. Some
people have just been seduced by the prospect of getting
themselves or their kids to these Olympics. As it happens, just
pumping more money into the current system to be administered by
the present regime wouldn't be the answer. Either way the whole
thing is a complete shambles. There is every likelihood that the
sport will fall apart post 2012 even if 2 teams compete. In the
meantime Mr. Sparkes is embarking on his own personal PR
campaign. When his voice was really needed in December and
January, the silence was deafening. The stuff above is just
nonsense. It's got to the point where if he said it's Wednesday
today, I'd check the calendar.
By Ged

25 March 2009 at 19:20pm

Right, let us ask the question; Mr Sparkes, The ASA, British
Water Polo, are you the today people or the tomorrow people? The
Today people are here today, gone tomorrow. The Tomorrow people
are here today and tomorrow, and the next day and forever. Mr
Sparkes you are not a figure head and the ASA/British Water Polo
are not a get-together, you are a responsible person and an
organisation to promote and benefit the sport you represent, SO

The abject failure to produce a strategy for the longevity of
water polo is appalling. The lack of support and funding at grass
roots level, at regional, at national academy and youth level is
disgusting. The ‘O’ event has become all consuming: it is the
panacea to nothing and the endemic problem to everything.

I realise people may think I’m being negative but I’m a realist,
I’m for the future of water polo, I’m for success and a sporting
prosperous future. The flash in the pan isn’t worth it. Let us
build and create a brilliant future. Let us invest in an
infrastructure for all our athletes, current and future, to
enable us to compete on the international stage now and forever.

Let us lift our heads out of the abyss and look at the prospects
and possibilities. We have funding, not for an Olympics but
possible for a future. Let us use this money to build the
infrastructure and from this spring board we can launch ourselves
to a higher level. We can and will compete with the best of the
world, but it can only come from the best of foundations.
By What Future

26 March 2009 at 02:23am

Firstly I would like to congratulate British Swimming on their
recent sponsorship deal and I hope a small proportion of it will
find its way to help the GB Mens Team to the Olympics in 2012 as
well as the Ladies' Team.

Some young men have completely put on hold their personal plans
for the immediate future to move to Manchester to pursue their
dream of taking part in their Olympics - they have struggled
financially and now to have the prospect of the rug being taken
from under their feet is just not fair.
How can we as a nation that brought Water Polo to the Olympics
now not send two teams to our home Olympics?  It is absolutely
disgraceful and now we have lost Nick Hume who at least was
trying to put water polo back on the map.

Water polo is so poorly funded that recognition of it as a sport
barely exists in Scotland and yet there are Scottish players in
the Junior GB squad - it they had the facilities available to
them that exist in some centres in England there could be so many
more.  Recently an Edinburgh University squad made it to the
finals of the BUCS Championships - not many of them had even
played in a 30m pool before!

Please can we raise the awareness of water polo by getting two
teams to our Olympics even though it may be already too late for
many of our young men who play the game passionately and want to
put their time into the game even through refereeing or
By Mother of another disappointed player

26 March 2009 at 17:15pm

In response to What Future, although I totally agree with the
need to build foundations and have a long term strategy to keep
British WP competitive at the highest international level, we
NEED 2 teams in the Olympics. The only way to promote the sport
and get more people playing it is to get exposure at the top
level (eg national team) at the olympics. Obviously our only
realistic chance of ever competing in an Olympics (with the
current lack of awareness and support) is 2012.

Once the immediate future building to 2012 is secure then we can
start focusing on building to 2016 and beyond. Furthermore, by
actually having 26 players (men and women) training and
eventually competing at the heighest level, we will then have
gained the experience and knowledge for the potential of 26
future coaches. Because they have achieved and been supported by
the sporting community they will hopefully want to give something
back and, most importantly, be able to coach our future players
to the standard required to keep us at the top of international
water polo.

Without people with the knwoledge and the willingness to give
back as coaches of the future then all our young athletes are
doomed to never reach the top.
By A realist!!

26 March 2009 at 22:41pm

Sparkes is clearly just making the right noises in his own
personal PR campaign and doesn't actually give a stuff about the
sport. He is all words and no action. When are we actually going
to see some changes? Professing that BS have no money to give
water polo is rubbish...what happened to the funds WP used to get
before UK Sport got involved? All he has done for years is make
decisions that have screwed the sport over and I KNOW he's just
waiting for the men to get fed up with the situation and leave
and give up, leaving BS blameless in the eyes of the masses...

The only reason the women's team have been given priority is
because there are less teams playing therefore of course they
will be closer to the medals. What kind of selection policy is
that? How does that teach our future generations that commitment
and hard work equal success? BS have just taken the easy option
as usual and found a perfect excuse to cripple water polo for
By NewB.S.CEOneeded..

26 March 2009 at 22:51pm

The mens team do not accept being classed behind the womens team
merely because there are less teams in the womens competition.
The gulf is bigger between the top nations in the world in the
womens as it is with the men, who have some serious candidates
with potential to enter highly paid professional leagues. Just
look at the age of the lancaster team who dominate british water
polo and have threatened to upset some serious names in European
competition. Sparkes is either misinformed in this respect or is
bending the truth.

In reference to the comments of “what future”, they seem to be
naïve in thinking that the future of water polo will be secured
by investing this (small amount of) money in grass roots water
polo. Much more money has been spent over the years, but without
the top class performers and professional attitudes/leagues that
are present in Europe, there is only a certain level which can be
reached. This is why we must ensure we compete at the highest
possible standard in 2012 and establish that base of world class
players. The 1.45m allocated from uk sport is obviously done so
with 2012 in mind, going totally against the performance criteria
set out would result in withdrawl of the funding.

I would be particularly interested to see/read how david sparkes
would respond to the rumour that he has been offered higher
status in FINA by Russian, german and Italian federation members
to ensure that there is no british mens team in 2012 so that
their own country’s participation is not put in jeopardy…

If we were to get a mens team to 2012 and perform admirably, I
would be amongst the first to congratulate mr sparkes, but at the
moment what real action have we seen?

Thoughts welcome.
By stand up

8 April 2009 at 16:56pm

There is a vast difference between threatening to upset some
serious names in Europe and in actually achieving it. Maybe those
in Waterpolo should have been spending money more wisely in
previous years instead of taking trips further afield such as to
New Zealand/Canada etc. Surely becoming competitive in Europe and
proving our worth in competitions on the Continent, would be more
beneficial to many of our players. As National Squads, we are
unable even to come top against some of the European club sides
playing at the moment, far less their National teams. A visit to
the European A championships last year made evident the gap that
has to be bridged to compete at the same level as other European
countries. GB waterpolo needs to be sent on a fact finding
mission to the Continent to see how they manage to achieve such
standards. Money is obviously an important factor, but so is good
management, organisation, coaching and people who want to take
the sport forward for all players, not just the chosen few. Other
countries must be doing something right to have so many quality
teams and players. Money can't be the only factor. Maybe we need
to admit we got it wrong somewhere along the line and move on!!
By EUPolo

19 April 2009 at 11:47am

My young son has discovered water polo and thoroughly enjoys the
sport . How many others are in a similar situation, but if not
encouraged by the organisations who should be funding young
players developement what hope have we got as a country to
compete in future national and international competitions . Does
it have to come down to who stands more chance of winning medals.
Encouraging young talent could be the future. Raise awareness
fund 2 teams in the Olympics and give hope to new and existing
By parent of a new player

23 April 2009 at 16:57pm

It's an unfortunate fact that water polo are not supported by
their own federation. Those who make the decisions at the top
level in British Swimming have consistently made bad decisions
that will affect any progress we will make as a sport. It's all
very well saying that they will set up these superclubs but
what's thepoint if there's no national team to aspire to? The GB
Mens's team have effectively been told that after September they
will be cut financially....we need to get the spotlight back on
to British Swimming and put pressure on them to explain their
reasons having publicly commented that they're doing all they can
to support the men's team.
By New B.S.CEOneeded

7 May 2009 at 08:04am

I'm getting a bit fed up with all the negativity about the
British Gas sponsorship. It's good to see that BS is doing its
bit to help WP earn its £8,000 a year share of British Gas
sponsorship over the next few years by re-branding its national
teams as British Gas teams (powered by British Gas). Formerly
referred to as the GB Senior Womens team, the British Gas Senior
Womens team (powered by British Gas) is now to be referred to as
the British Gas team.
And if you see a team preceded by the abbreviation BG instead of
GB, it's not a mistake. It's a British Gas (water polo) team
(powered by British Gas). Just wanted to clear that one up.
So, there you are - 9 mentions which is 2 more than the BS news
feature on the womens team (sorry, British Gas team) on 11 May.
(Make that 10 mentions). Beat that.
Just to help observers of other sports who may get confused - the
Nationwide team is the one that plays football and was formerly
known as England; the Vodafone team (also formerly known as
England) will be competing for the Ashes and the O2 team (also
formerly known as England) will hopefully be competing for
something like the 6 nations.
By Ged

15 May 2009 at 17:29pm

£8000 out of, was it 15 million? wow thats outstanding ged you're
right! most of them money will go to swimming who already have
far more than enough to get them to 2012 and way beyond, rather
than to the people who actually need it. that will no doubt be
spent on more pointless admin staff in needless jobs. they have
miss adlington to thank for that money, as if you take rebecca
out of the equation it was still a mediocre games for the
swimmers. how can you compare the amount of sponsorship put
towards water polo from british gas with the likes of o2,
vodafone and nationwide? british gas team? you must be joking.
By stand up

20 May 2009 at 17:58pm

Lets forget all about 2012 when the current Waterpolo structure
was put in place the statement was we will be ready for 2016 then
2012 came to London great for the UK but why have British
swimming and UK sport moved the goal posts and said everything
must be done for 2012 its killing the grass routes
By aim for 2016

5 August 2009 at 15:39pm