22nd August 2022
UK Sport has axed GB’s record-breaking World Cup Alpine Team from World Class Programme funding. UK Sport said it had shifted its investment towards freestyle disciplines. The future looks bleak for alpine skiing unless backers come forward. NEW
UK Sport has awarded skiing and snowboarding £11.9m for the Olympic and Paralympic cycle that leads to Milan-Cortina 2026.
The figure is down from £14m that was allocated for Beijing 2022.
Alpine skiing, Cross-country and Para-Nordic skiing have been deemed “not investible” for the top level of funding by UK Sport.
Freestyle Ski & Snowboard disciplines are set to do better out of the new arrangement.
UK Sport focuses purely on World Championship and Olympic results and it has concluded the five athletes in alpine skiing do not offer enough potential for top-level results.
The alpine team has launched a crowdfunding appeal with an initial target of £500,000.
One week after its launch almost £42,000 has been raised but it needs the funds by the end of September when the current financial cycle ends.
Time is not on its side.
The news of the axing of funds came as a body blow to the GB team.
PlanetSKI has been speaking to the team as they trained on the glacier in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.
“A month or so before the formal announcement we heard that UK Sport had not put us on the preliminary funding list, but we were told that it would probably be fine and we should be at ease,” said Charlie Guest to PlanetSKI editor, James Cove.
It proved not to be the case and the funding has gone.
Despite the setback the team has been training hard in Saas-Fee this month.
“The conditions are a bit thin with the current heatwave in Europe, we are getting up at 05.15 and though it looks shocking overall the race lanes are good and we are training hard.”
“Whatever happens we have to put in the training on snow to achieve the results we want despite the financial problems we face.”
The athletes losing their programes are:
Dave Ryding, who is Britain’s most successful Alpine skier ever with 5 world cup podiums. He became the first Brit ever to win a World cup, which he did in style at the biggest race on the calendar in Kitzbuehel, Austria this year.
Charlie Guest, who recorded a 13th place in January and Britain’s best result for a female on the World Cup Slalom tour since 1989.
Billy Major, who broke into the top 30 in 2022 for the first time with an 18th place.
Laurie Taylor – He came 25th in Madonna, Italy in December.
Charlie Raposo – In March 2022 he ended a 50-year drought for World Cup points in Men’s Giant Slalom with a 16th and 27th place in the same weekend.
A small fund has been ring-fenced for Dave Ryding as he is a World Cup winner, but it is unlikely it will be enough even to cover his coaching costs.
We reported on the announcement of the funding cut and reaction to it earlier this month.
Who is UK Sport and Why the Financial Cut?
The primary role of UK Sport is to invest income from The National Lottery and Exchequer.
It’s aim is to maximize the performance of UK athletes in the Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games and other major championship events.
UK Sport expressed sympathy for the alpine athletes, but said its World Class Programme funding priorities had shifted.
“UK Sport is aiming to become an ever greater force in winter sport, while powering a broader range of sports and champions who reflect the diversity of British society,” it said in a statement.
“We recognise GB Snowsport and some of their athletes will be disappointed by our recent investment decisions, but our investment going forward for snowsport is now more targeted, with a focus on the freestyle ski and snowboard disciplines, albeit not exclusively.”
Alpine skiers will still receive some support as part of UK Sport’s national squad level funding.
This enables athletes to attend major international events and Games qualifying events.
However the cuts mean likely having to train and compete without the help of coaches and other staff.
Some argue that GB Snowsport has become over-dependent on the UK Sport funding and it should have pursued other avenues some time ago.
The Crowdfunding Campaign
“Now is your chance to give British Alpine Skiing a future to make sure you still have a team to cheer for on the World Cup tour and at World Championships this season,” said the GB Alpine Team in a joint statement from the 5 athletes.
“We, Britain’s strongest ever Alpine team, are here, asking for your help so that we can continue to defy norms, break barriers and continue to lay the foundations for British success in Alpine Skiing for many years to come.
“We are currently standing up to one of the toughest challenges of our careers. Despite a record-breaking season, with Britain’s first World Cup win, UK Sport decided to heavily reduce our funding.
“This means that our British World Cup programes will be unsupported come the 1st of October.
“Whilst we remain hopeful that we will find a strong partner to invest in our story filled with grit, gutsy performances and tenacity, finding stability to keep pre-season running and ensuring we can focus our full energy on training will be key for the best possible performances come race season.
“We have set our target at 500k as this is the level of funding required to maintain all staff contracts and expenses for the season.
“All donations will go directly to a fund ring-fenced for us to be able to do this.
“We hope that you believe in our team of talented athletes and no matter how great or small, any donations will be gratefully received.”
Each athletes has responded to the pledges so far:
“Thank you so much for your donation to support the British Alpine World Cup programmes this season. The support that has come out of the Crowdfunder has been incredible. We are continuing to work as hard as we can both in training and finding opportunities to keep the team on the road, and your donation has gone a long way towards giving us stability and buying us time to find a long-term solution. You are a huge part of keeping us running this season, so just a huge thank you.” – Charlie Guest
“Thank you so much for your donation! The support so far has been overwhelming and it’s amazing to have the backing from so many to keep pushing on the World stage.” – Laurie Taylor
“A huge thanks for your donation. We are all taken aback by the support we have received so far, and it has given us reassurance that we will find a solution to our situation. We will continue to train as hard as ever to keep progressing and assure GB skiing stamps its mark on the world stage in 2023 and beyond!” – Dave Ryding
“We can’t thank you guys enough. To see so many different people stepping up and supporting us financially has been surreal. It gives us a sense of relief, as well as fuels the fire to work harder than ever and keep putting on the show for you. Thank you ” – Charlie Raposo
“It has been unbelievable seeing the amount of support we have received thus far. We couldn’t be more grateful for you donation and it will have an immediate effect on allowing our programs to continue. You will now, more than ever, be part of our success in the coming winter and in our journey taking British skiing to the top.” – Billy Major
The funding cut from UK Sport it will undoubtedly damage GB Alpine Skiing after one of its best ever winters with record-breaking performances.
PlanetSKI’s James Cove spoke to Dave Ryding in Obergurgl in Austria towards the end of last season after his podium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Dave’s thoughts were not so much on himself, but his legacy and the future of GB alpine ski racing.
The funding cut has dealt this a heavy blow.
“There was no pathway as I pursued my dream of being a ski racer,” said Charlie Guest to PlanetSKI in our extended interview from Saas-Fee.
“I never want the next generation to have to go through what we did.”
“We have achieved the results but UK Sport has left us hung out to dry.”
The crowdfunding will go some way to help the team with individual donations, but what it really needs are major sponsors to come forward.
A point raised on social media by the former GB ski racer, Martin Bell, who is a regular reader of PlanetSKI.
35 years ago, Drambuie Liqueur stepped in, and began a mutually beneficial relationship with British skiing that lasted for many years.
Anyone ready to take that step today? https://t.co/FbLXQrEvFS
— Martin Bell (@skimartinbell) August 10, 2022
It is easy to criticise UK Sport.
It is easy to criticise GB Snowsport.
It is easy to say more money should go to the GB Alpine Team after its most-successful season ever.
Sports funding though is a far more complex affair.
It is all about medal success at the relevant competitions.
Emotion has little place in the decision making process as millions of pounds are allocated.
No matter that relatively few people go curling and even less slide down an ice track on a tea tray.
Curling and skeleton have recently been backed financially as they have provided medals in the Winter Sports disciplines.
Elite sport is about winning, and little to do with taking part.
And there begs a question?
Should it simply be about winning and more about taking part?
Perhaps a combination of the two.
The GB Alpine ski team is currently winning and taking part.
At PlanetSKI we think they should be supported for both reasons.
Our stories last winter of Dave Ryding and the team received tens of thousands of views and inspired people to ski and follow the team.
Our posts on social media received some of the best engagement figures of the winter with many hundreds of likes, comments and reaction.
It would be a shame if such foundations are not built upon.
With the crowdfunding initiative and sponsors coming forward we hope the team turns their long faces, into smiling faces.
Time will tell.
Here is how you can help.