sport

Tennis funding put on hold

Tennis has had millions of pounds of funding put on hold with the sport told to improve its plan to boost participation.

Sport England announced the 2013-17 funding levels for all sports but the Lawn Tennis Association's four-year plan for increasing the numbers of people playing has been declared "not strong enough" and 10.3million of its 17.4million total has been put on hold.

Swimming and basketball will also have chunks of funding withheld for 2014-17 - both sports have brand-new participation plans and they need to prove these are working.

Other sports such as cycling, netball, triathlon and wheelchair basketball have all enjoyed funding rises of more than 30 per cent.

For tennis, the overall funding will go down from 24.5million to 17.4million and the LTA will have to produce a convincing new, improved plan for how they will spend the 2014-17 money, otherwise it will be distributed in other ways such as directly to clubs.

Sport England chief executive Jennie Price said: "Tennis has not performed well in terms of participation and is broadly flat though it got a bit of bounce in the latest figures.

"Their plan simply wasn't strong enough to justify the four-year investment. Our hope with tennis is that they do access the full four years. They have only a one-year award for participation and they have to improve their plan for growing participation.

"The current plan doesn't have a good delivery plan across the country, there is not a good feedback mechanism, it is not really based on customer insight but the LTA know about all these things and we are working with them."

Some 31 of the 46 sports are getting increases including cycling 32million (up from 24.7million), netball 25.3million (18.7million), triathlon 7.5million (4.7million) and wheelchair basketball 2million (700,000).

Football's Sport England funding will also rise by 4.4million to 30million.

In relation to swimming, Price said its new plan needed to produce results to turn around a 300,000 drop in the numbers of people taking part in order to secure the withheld funding.

She added: "Swimming has really struggled to drive participation but they have a brand-new plan and a brand-new director who has made a reasonable start.

"We didn't have the evidence for four years but we are giving them a one-year investment to prove the plan is capable.

"It is a similar situation with basketball."

Cricket, rugby union and rugby league have all had big overall cuts but Price insisted the governing bodies were comfortable with the drop.

Cricket's funding drops from 35.2million to 27.5million, rugby union from 28.8million to 20million, and rugby league 27.6million to 17.5million.

Price said cricket had taken the decision to fund its women and disability programmes itself rather than rely on Sport England funding, hence the drop, plus the sport will receive less for spending on capital projects such as facilities.

Rugby union and league were both given large capital investments in the past four years to spend on facilities and were not expecting similar levels this time around. Both sports are happy with the new level of funding, said Price.

She added: "Cricket looks like quite a big drop but there is a significant reduction in the talent programme - they have decided to invest their own money into their women and disability programmes and that is a good thing for a responsible governing body to do. I have spoken to (England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive) David Collier and the word he used was 'delighted'."

Cycling's increase is a reward for a big rise in participation - more than 200,000 more people are now cycling at least once per week compared to October 2011.

British Cycling's chief executive Ian Drake said: "Today's Sport England funding announcement is a recognition of the good work done by British Cycling members and volunteers in driving grassroots participation and a challenge for us to do even better in the next four years.

"Whether it is for winning medals or for getting people active, we are proud of our record of delivering value for lottery funding and we take the responsibility very seriously.

"There is still a great deal of work to do in making cycling in this country better. We're looking forward to getting stuck in."

At least 60 per cent of the 433million total will be targeted at young people aged between 14 and 25, with 83million aimed at developing talented young athletes in 43 sports.

Canoeing and sailing are among the sports receiving increased investment targeted at their talent programmes.

The LTA insists it is on the right track but admit there is still work to be done.

Simon Long, the LTA's chief commercial officer who was appointed in June and who heads up the body's participation team, said: "17.4million is a substantial potential award for British tennis, and we are working closely with Sport England to ensure that we develop the best tennis offers to increase participation, whilst continuing to deliver a leading talent programme."