By David Owen

Chemmy Alcott_21-03-12March 21 - British skiing's most faithful benefactor has warned of the sport's desperate need for long-term funding on the eve of the British National Alpine Ski Championships which begin next Sunday (March 25) – in France.

Sir John Ritblat, the grand old man of British property, who has been involved with the sponsorship of skiing for 34 years, said that Britain had tremendous young prospects across all disciplines.

However, "in order for them to be in with a chance of challenging for medals at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympic Games, it is crucial that they have the opportunity to attend race events".

He added: "Most important is that they secure the long-term funding that they and the sport so desperately require.

"A solid financial platform is the only way to ensure Britain maintains its world-class reputation in this, and any other, sport."

The country's best-known skiers of recent times are probably Chemmy Alcott (pictured) and Alain Baxter, a Scot known as the "Highlander".

Baxter sensationally finished third in the men's Olympic slalom event at the Salt Lake City Winter Games in 2002 only to lose his bronze medal over a positive test attributable to his use of a United States nasal spray.

Now there are warnings that the very attendance of a Great Britain alpine ski team at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi is under threat from a severe lack of funding and sponsorship.

Dave Edwards, chief executive of British Ski and Snowboard (BSS), the national governing body formed in 2010 when the previous governing organisation ran into serious difficulties, acknowledged that the sport faced an uphill struggle.

But he added: "Although many organisations have cut their marketing spend savagely over the last couple of years, I firmly believe that our alpine ski team presents organisations with a very good opportunity to communicate messages and values about their brand to a very attractive audience.

"I am determined to find those organisations over the next few months so that we can provide promising athletes with the support they deserve.

"For over 30 years British skiing has enjoyed the support of Sir John Ritblat and British Land.

"Sir John and the property business Delancey – run by his son Jamie – continue to support skiing, but additional sponsorship is critically required."

Delancey is title sponsor of the upcoming championships which are being staged in the French resort of Méribel.

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