Basketball: Leicester Riders hit back in funding row
Leicester Riders are fighting a decision to slash funding for British basketball.
UK Sport have announced no money will be available from its Project Rio awards ahead of the 2016 Olympics – despite £8.5million being made available for London 2012.
As a result, Leicester Riders general manager Russ Levenston and Hoopsfix.com founder Sam Neter have launched Fund British Basketball, a website which carries a petition for people to register their opposition to the decision.
If the petition gains 100,000 signatures, then it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.
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Levenston said he wanted to reach 10,000 signatures by the end of the month and, so far, more than 7,000 have pledged their support.
Riders have 11 up-and-coming international stars involved in their Loughborough Basketball Programme. Jamell Anderson is the leading light and is already a part of the GB's under-23s. He was a reserve for London 2012.
Anderson is also a member of the GB under-20 squad alongside Connor Washington, John Stewart, Jennie Rodgers and Rheanne Bailey.
Riders also have a strong England under-18 contingent in Brandon Hitchman, Josh McSwiggan, Harriet Ottewill-Soulsby, Lucy Buxton, Whitney Allen and Georgia Elliott-King.
"We have 11 GB and England players coming through our programme, all with ambitions of playing in the Olympics," said Levenston. "But if they stop all the funding they may not be able to do that.
"We want to bring the basketball community together across the whole country to show how much this means to us.
"As a club, we have been putting in a lot of hard work to develop our British talent and they all want to play for their country. But that could be taken away if there is no funding.
"We are confident we can reach 100,000 by the end of the year and, hopefully, UK Sport will see sense."
Riders' Drew Sullivan, Team GB's captain during London 2012, also feels strongly about the campaign.
"Playing domestically, I know how badly the sport needs a Team GB to exist," he said. "Kids come up to me on a daily basis to say how much the Olympics meant to them, and players I coach all hope to be a part of the GB set-up in the future.
"I encourage everyone to make their opinion count by signing the petition and supporting the Fund British Basketball campaign."
UK Sport's criteria for funding was based on medal hopes for 2016 – but Team GB was unsuccessful at London 2012.
Fund British Basketball claims this "no compromise formula" is inconsistent. Swimming is still being funded to the tune of £21.4m – a reduction of only £3.7m – despite barely hitting half their medal target. Water polo, which failed to win a single match at London, has had their funding for Rio increased to £4.5m.
"Their criteria for funding may be medal hopes only, but that is flawed when it compares all sports on an equal footing," said Neter.
"If a sport only has, say, a few dozen countries in it, of course it's going to be easier to win a medal. For all this talk of legacy over the last five years, it seems like basketball is one of the sports that has been forgotten about."
According to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, basketball is the second most popular sport for 11-15 year olds.
Neter added: "To cut basketball's funding, a sport which has arguably shown greater progress than any other over the last four years, is a complete kick in the teeth."
For more information, and to sign the petition, go to: