With Team GB having finished second on the medals table at the 2016 Summer Paralympics, and sporting stars such as Dame Sarah Storey, David Weir and Ellie Robinson having now become household names, disabled sports seem to be thriving in the UK.
Recently, however, UK Sport confirmed that wheelchair rugby and goalball would not receive any funding for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. So what does this funding loss mean for disability sports, and which grassroots organisations and schemes are contributing to the development and promotion of parasports in the UK?
Funding for Disabled Sports – How Relevant are the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Cuts?
It’s important to note that, although the UK’s wheelchair rugby and goalball organisations lost their appeals against the loss of their Paralympic funding earlier this week, UK Sports hasn’t just stripped funding from Paralympic disciplines in the run-up to Tokyo 2020. In fact, five Olympic sporting disciplines – archery, badminton, fencing, table tennis and weightlifting – will also lose out.
UK Sports’ decision to cut the funding was based on Team GB’s lack of medal potential in these disciplines. The amount of money given to some other sports, including Paralympic athletics, rowing and cycling, is actually being increased.
However, according to the Telegraph, UK Sport has also warned that further funding cuts could happen after the 2020 Games, while the costs of sporting success at the highest level may rise after Brexit has taken place.
Ed Warner, Chairman of the British Athletics Board, told the Telegraph that such cuts often have a significant effect on disabled sports:
“Often the Olympic sports are better able to survive outside the funding infrastructure,” he said, “but some of these parasports are young and developing, and they’re developing fast, with severely disabled individuals who need the protection that Lottery funding can give.”
Whilst winning medals is the ultimate aim for elite competitors, cutting funding to these sports could be seen as suggesting that victory is all that matters. This could prevent some people from wanting to participate, giving organisations promoting disability sports yet another obstacle to overcome.
Getting into Disability Sports – Grassroots Organisations and Schemes in the UK
According to Scope, there are 12.9 million disabled people in the UK, while statistics produced by Sport England in 2016, showed that approximately 17 percent of adults in England who have a disability or illness that limits them play sport at least once per week. Sport England states on its website that “a disabled person is still half as likely to play sport as a non-disabled person”.
Sport England is currently investing £170 million in schemes and projects to encourage and enable more disabled people to participate in sporting activities. Examples include its “Get Equipped” scheme, which provides money to sports clubs so they can buy disability sports equipment, and its “Inclusive Sports” project, which has been designed to assist organisations looking for experts who can help disabled people to get more active.
If you’re in England and you’re looking for more information about disability sports, one of the best places to start is by contacting the English Federation of Disability Sport. Designed to support both organisations and individuals, it runs a range of schemes and programmes to help disabled people to participate in sporting activities.
If you live in Wales, check out Disability Sport Wales. This organisation runs inclusive sports events, and courses for coaches and volunteers. Its website includes a wealth of information about disability sports for both beginners and those already participating, and also features a handy club finder tool.
The Premiership and BT also operate a football scheme for disabled people in England and Wales.
Scottish Disability Sport also organises national events and programmes, and can provide you information about disability sports clubs and facilities in your area.
Disability Sports Northern Ireland runs sporting events and coaching courses throughout the country, as well as providing a Sports Facility Access service to organisations who run sporting facilities.
Do you participate in disability sports? Which resources have you found useful? Tell us in the comments section, or on Twitter or Facebook.