MP Sharon Hodgson stands up for British basketball

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West has written a letter of protest after sports chiefs cut all government and lottery funding for Olympic basketball

Flying Colours Photography Ltd Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West
Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West

A North MP has written a letter of protest after sports chiefs cut all government and lottery funding for Olympic basketball.

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said the decision by funding body UK Sport “risks killing off completely its development in this country”.

Her target was outgoing chairman Baroness Sue Campbell, who last month claimed basketball did not deserve the money.

Baroness Campbell pioneered the ruthless “no compromise” doctrine which saw UK Sport plough money into sports it thinks can win medals and abandon those that can’t.

But Ms Hodgson, who is chair of the Commons All-Party group on Basketball, said her comments were “ill-informed”.

She said: “I was dismayed to read recent remarks attributed to you in the media about UK Sport’s decisions.

“I fail to see how it is possible for Team GB basketball teams, which have seen unprecedented progress in the last five years, to have the rug pulled from beneath them just at the point we are seeing an emerging golden generation of basketball players.

“Without funding at the elite level, those players have no chance of fulfilling their potential to challenge the top teams, and therefore little to no chance of inspiring the next generation to replace and better them.

“I don’t think I’m guilty of hyperbole by saying that the withdrawal of funding at this point in the sport’s progression risks killing off completely its development in this country.”

Supporters credit Baroness Campbell with turning Britain’s fortunes around, while others claim she has gutted promising sports before their time.

In 2005, she walked into Gordon Brown’s office and told him that if he agreed to her demands Britain could win 65 medals in 2012 - the exact number we actually won.

Asked about whether UK Sport should grant basketball’s appeal for funds, she said: “As a bank manager, would you give them money? No, you wouldn’t.

“You’d say go away and focus on developing talent, get your coaches better, get your competitive structure better, get more kids playing, and when you’ve enough talent coming through the system that, with eight years of funding, you might potentially qualify, then come and knock on our door.”

Ms Hodgson stressed she admires Baroness Campbell’s work but said basketball is the second most-played sport for 11 to 15-year-olds.

She claimed many Brits compete at the top level in the American leagues and feared team sports were being “entirely squeezed out” ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016.

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