Tokyo Paralympics: Goalball 'hopeful' of funding following promotions

By Gemma CollisBBC Sport
GB goalball player Michael Sharkey lunges to stop the ball
The GB women's team reached the quarter-finals at the London 2012 Paralympics, while the men finished bottom of their group having failed to win a match

Goalball UK is "hopeful" of increased funding following promotion to the European A League for both Britain's men's and women's teams.

The women beat Germany 4-1 to win the European B Championships, while the men finished runners-up to Ukraine to secure their consecutive promotions.

"It's the first step towards Tokyo," said assistant women's coach, Becky Ashworth.

"I'd like to think either UK Sport or Sport England will fund us."

Ashworth, who is also Goalball UK's national development manager, added: "The amount we'll probably need in the next year is £70,000 - which for some sports isn't a great deal of money, but for us it would mean the world."

Both teams have been without UK Sport funding since 2014 - the men's team having lost theirs following a group stage exit at the London Paralympics and the women after an eighth-place finish at the 2013 European A Championships condemned them to relegation.

Since then they have relied on individual fundraising, private sponsorship and Sport England money to compete.

"Since London 2012 we've tripled our participation as a national governing body," Ashworth added.

"So I hope that Sport England and UK Sport will see that and are willing to support us."

The European A League is the highest level in European goalball and gives both teams the chance to qualify for the 2018 World Championships and 2020 Paralympics.

"You can really sense that GB are turning a lot of heads in the goalball world," said Georgie Bullen, who is part of the women's team.

"If we continue like this throughout this Paralympic cycle, there is no reason why there couldn't be a GB team in Tokyo.

"We just have to focus on the things we can control and have our fingers crossed [for funding]."

Britain's Adam Knott, Niall Graham and Michael Sharkey dive to defend their goal against Lithuania at the London 2012 Paralympics
Britain's men's team won the European C Championships in 2015, defeating Russia 6-5 in overtime

What is Goalball?

Goalball is a sport for athletes with visual impairments and involves players attempting to roll or throw a basketball-sized ball with bells inside into their opponents' goal.

The ball must make contact with certain areas of the court and, once it has passed these points, defenders will attempt to block the ball with their bodies.

The game is played by two teams of three on a standard volleyball court and the goals are nine metres in width, which is the same length as the court.

Top Stories