UK Sport decisions on funding for Paris 2024 signal a move towards greater diversity and winning “the right way”, says chair Dame Katherine Grainger.
British sports will receive £352m for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, split across 43 sports.
New additions like surfing and skateboarding have been funded while some traditional sports have seen their budgets reduced.
“It is a really important and exciting moment,” Grainger told BBC Sport.
“There are two key things – broader diversity and broader engagement and that winning is still important but how we win is equally crucial to everyone in the system.
“Everyone is on board to make sure that we win in the right way and that it isn’t just a nice tagline to have.
“This isn’t just a phase it is an evolution of the system and the how [we win] being so powerful and popular now.”
Those without the right culture ‘not welcome’
UK Sport’s “no-compromise” approach linking funding strictly to medal potential – which was announced in 2004 – has been blamed for a series of recent athlete welfare and bullying scandals.
However, a change in strategy was announced in October, focusing the future funding of Olympic and Paralympic sport on medal potential over a 12-year period instead of four, with a “progressive approach” intended to produce success over a wider range of sports.
“What we’ve done is taken a holistic view of the sports in terms of looking at their athlete cohort and their potential for the future,” chief executive Sally Munday told BBC Sport.
“We’ve looked at how they run their programmes, the cost of running their programmes, and we’ve looked at how they’re going to make sure that culture is at the heart of what they do.
“We’re very satisfied with the sports that we’re investing in that they are committed to having the right culture.
“We will work together with the sports to make it very clear that if you’re not going to put good positive culture at the heart of what you do you’re simply not welcome.”
Former rower Grainger – Britain’s most decorated female Olympian – has been head of the national funding body for the past three years. She added: “We have a duty to do well by the public pound and to say it needs to reach as many as possible and in the right way.
“It needs to have this heart of solid integrity and trust in the system.
“I want our sporting community to be known internationally for its people-first approach and also for upholding the highest standards of integrity.”
The winners and losers
While the funding represents an increase on the £345m allocated for the Tokyo Games and widens from 32 to 43 sports, some of Britain’s most successful sports have lost out.
Athletics, gymnastics, rowing and swimming have all had budgets cut by about 10% while sailing, canoeing, equestrian and modern pentathlon have also taken reductions.
Badminton has seen a significant increase and GB wheelchair rugby has had its funding restored. The sport received £3m in total in the run-up to Rio 2016 but had all funding removed after failing to win a medal at the Games.
They have since won two European titles and climbed to number four in the world.
Britain won 67 medals at the Rio Olympics and claimed 64 gold medals in the Paralympics.
British Rowing chief executive Andy Parkinson said he was not surprised to see a cut of about £2.4m for the sport in “difficult economic times”.
However, his counterpart at Pentathlon GB, Sara Heath, said she was “disappointed & perplexed” by a reduction of just over 20%.
In a statement, Pentathlon GB said it intended to lodge an appeal, with Heath stressing a “lack of parity… across the sports receiving this crucial funding”.
On the decision to cut funding for a number of sports, Munday added: “These are pretty tough times in terms of the financial envelope that is available to us and we have looked across the piece.
“We wanted to reach more sports than we’ve ever been able to before and as a result we have had to make some pretty tough decisions.
“I believe that the sports that have been consistently successful will continue to be successful with the funding that they have received.”
An additional new fund worth £3m will also be open to applications from other sports such as breaking, which is set to feature at the Olympics in Paris for the first time.
UK Sport is expected to expected to assess breaking’s potential over the next 12 months as they did when climbing, skateboarding, surfing and karate were all added to the Olympic programme for the first time.
Despite leading two decades of unprecedented Olympic and Paralympic success, this appears to mark a significant departure in approach from UK Sport.
Amid mounting scrutiny of how public money is invested by the funding agency, the penny seems to have dropped that medals are not all that matters.
Critics have long said UK Sport has focused too much on the so-called ‘posh sports’, played mostly in private schools, at the expense of growing activities that can inspire more diverse and urban communities. So this is an attempt to redress the balance a little, even if it risks medals in the short-term.
After being partially blamed for a series of bullying scandals UK Sport has also acknowledged winning cannot come at the expense of athlete welfare or integrity. It is too early to judge whether it will be prepared to back up such rhetoric with more funding cuts, but sports have been warned.
Who got what?
In rowing, funding fell by almost 10%, while swimming (11.4%) and equestrian (11.6%) also saw sizable drops.
However, archery saw its funding more than double, badminton’s rose by around £2.5m (up by over 300%) and cycling got an increase of 12%