UK Athletics: Ed Warner says 'too much' focus on winning medals

Team GB heroes return from Rio 2016
Great Britain finished ahead of China in the Rio 2016 medal table

British sport puts "too much" focus on winning medals, says UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner.

Funding body UK Sport allocates money to governing bodies on the basis of medal potential.

But Warner believes it should take into account how a sport can inspire people to get active, too.

"There's too much of a culture of medal winners and non-medal winners, which is unhealthy and doesn't speak well for us as a sporting society," he said.

It is an opinion shared by Badminton England chief executive Adrian Christy, who believes sports deemed unlikely to win medals have been "pushed over the edge with no parachute".

Badminton was one of the sports that lost all its public funding for Tokyo 2020 - along with archery, fencing, weightlifting and wheelchair rugby.

"We have a funding system at elite sport level where there is no kind of safety net. If you are a relegated Premier League football club, you are kind of pushed off the edge but given a parachute payment," Christy said.

"We are tossed off the edge and left to do one of two things - we either crash and burn or have to find our own way of bouncing back."

'We need a grown-up debate'

Rio 2016 was Great Britain's most successful 'away' Games in history, with 214 Olympic and Paralympic medals.

However, the funding approach has been questioned following a series of bullying allegations in elite sport, with some claiming it has created a win-at-all-costs mentality at the expense of athlete welfare.

Most notable have been allegations of a culture of bullying at British Cycling, which has enjoyed huge medal success at recent Games, while fresh claims involving British Canoeing emerged on Friday.

"We need a grown-up debate about the value of one extra marginal medal, out of the many Britain wins, versus the ability to fund an aspirant sport like basketball, which is hugely important internationally and could have enormous participation value," said Warner, who is stepping down this year after a decade in charge.

"Post-London 2012, basketball was one of the big losers. This is a sport which is urban and played by many people who come from deprived backgrounds.

"We should do everything we can to get a British team back in the Olympics for the inspirational effect that simply appearing in the tournament would have for youngsters in that sport."

However, speaking at the same conference, British Olympic Association chief executive Bill Sweeney said any debate should not lose sight of the importance of winning medals.

"The last thing we want is to go through all the various governance issues, tick all the boxes, and end up with such a squeaky clean system where people are afraid to challenge an athlete and we come away from Tokyo ninth in the medal table," he said.

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