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Wheelchair rugby loses funding

Just as our sport seems to be really flourishing its seems that wheelchair rugby is about to lose all its funding leaving it in a dubious position prior to the Tokyo 2020 games. It seems likely that the lack of financial support means there is little likelihood Britain will have a national wheelchair rugby team at all in future years unless the decision is reversed.

A couple of days ago Liz Nicoll the CEO of Sport announced that wheelchair rugby will not be funded for the Tokyo cycle. The official reason is the lack of funding and not the lack of potential our team has nor their ability. So whey was wheelchair rugby targeted for one of the few sports to have its funding removed ? Who knows. However the implications of this are significant and it means that we are unlikely to have a team like we do currently with a 5th place world ranking and only lost to Australia, the Rio gold medalists, by two points in extra time.

Only a few years ago in 2012 there was a total of just 7 wheelchair rugby teams in the UK. 4 years later this has burgeoned to 22 teams and it continues to grow with new clubs in Norwich and Brighton about to start playing competitively. And the growth carries on with new programmes in many areas opening including military recovery centers and spinal injury units, plus aspiring rugby foundations at Saracens, Gloucester and Exeter. The sport is really gaining momentum and to hear of these cuts is nothing short of disastrous.

So why was wheelchair rugby singled out as the only paralympian sport to receive cuts ? With podium potential funding in place in the last cycle is was clear that wheelchair rugby was more than likely to win a medal in the next cycle. If you compare it to other sports, even cycling took 12 years before it started to get the consistent medal success that it does today.

Wheelchair rugby brings with it so much more spirit than simply being a sport. There is a great feeling of positivity among its players, many of whom claim that wheelchair rugby has helped to transform their lives off the pitch by helping them to build confidence and focus.

Former GB squad member Luke white is quoted as recently saying “It’s difficult to overstate the impact that wheelchair rugby has had on me. Within a very short space of time I went from playing no sport and being physically inactive to playing wheelchair rugby at least three times a week and doing gym work too. My perception of what kind of person I was and what I was capable of changed dramatically and I was much happier with my new perception. Furthermore, the change was permanent”.

Only £2m investment has been requested from UK Sport for wheelchair rugby, surely something can be changed to get this funding back in place and continue to drive the fun that can be found in wheelchair rugby ?