Matt Dickinson of The Times of London has written a highly critical piece questioning public funding in support of the British Handball Program. The basic premise of the article is that the 3 million British Pounds ($5.9M) through 2009 that has been earmarked to develop competitive handball teams for the 2012 Olympics is a waste of funding that could be better spent on sports where British athletes have a feasible chance of medaling.
While I agree that the chances of the Brits medaling are nearly zero this is not the primary goal of the program. The primary goal in simple terms is to field teams that are competitive and can give a credible accounting of themselves on the court. Of course, it can be argued as to whether even this is a worthwhile goal. It all depends on your perspective.
The article points out how much is now being spent on British Handball, but it fails to point out how practically no funding was provided prior to the recent influx. Still despite this lack of support there is an established club system in Britain which is more organized than other countries (ex. USA) which have participated in the Olympics previously. Additionally, the funding Handball now receives is still significantly smaller than the funding that many other sports in Great Britain receive. Medaling in some of these other sports is also an unlikely prospect and yet they did not receive the “Handball” treatment from the Times. Even more extreme, is the largesse provided to soccer. With arguably the richest professional soccer league in the world, soccer development does not need that kind of Government support. If every penny of that money went away there would still be thousands of youth teams and millions of Pounds being spent to develop young soccer talent. So if your perspective is relative to the funding other sports receive, I think it’s accurate to say that Handball is now finally getting it’s fair share.
In the larger scheme of things, however, one can always make a case against any Government funding for sport. There are surely run down sections of London or Manchester that could use a million pounds for community development. In some parts of the world there are people getting by on a dollar a day. Where do you draw the line? Some would argue that no money should be spent on games when there are so many problems that need solving. Just think of how much could be accomplished if every pound being spent on a two week London party was redirected elsewhere Others would argue that an appropriate balance is needed. I fall in that camp as do many others in the World. One only has to look at the kids playing soccer on dusty streets around the world to know that even the poorest people find discretionary funds to purchase soccer balls.
Oh, and one more thing: How can anyone claim that Great Britain is a “country remarkable for its sporting diversity?” Give me a break! As far as sports goes in Britain there is soccer and everything else. And that everything else is pretty much limited to rugby and cricket. My goodness, the most popular indoor sport is darts; which believe it or not is televised regularly. In terms of all team indoor sports Britain is woefully undeveloped when compared to any other European country. Britain sorely needs a National Indoor Team Sport- Why not Handball?
Times of London (22 Jan 2008: The lost cause sticking its hand out for 3M pounds of Olympic Riches: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/columnists/matt_dickinson/article3228314.ece