British Cycling, the governing body for the sport of cycling in the UK, has expressed its concern over a new definition of 'sport' that could have an impact on its funding from Sport England.
BC learned of the proposed new definition via an internal document from Sport England last Friday. Cycling is to be split into two categories: Sport (activities related to competition) and Recreation (casual or organised participation aimed at expressing or improving physical fitness and well being and forming social relationships). Sport England will no longer fund the recreational aspect of cycling, which has become a significant part of BC's agenda over the last two years.
BikeRadar spoke to British Cycling's operations director Ian Drake about the change in policy, which is being instigated by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
"It's a U-turn," he said. "Up until 2005, for the past 40 to 50 years, all we had done is to drive up activity in competitive sport. Only then did we diversify into non-competitive sport via our Everyday Cycling programme. We've had a 40 percent growth in membership in two and a half years, and that's in the context of sports participation in general going well down."
While British Cycling have welcomed the DCMS's drive to get more people into sport, they are worried that segmenting cycling into two groups could work against it, given that recreation feeds the sporting side. Other activities that have significant recreational components, such as swimming and horse riding, have not been split in this way according to the proposed new definition.
"We're not sure how the new funding will work," said Drake. "But it should be governing body led, not decided by the Government."
The latter is actually in line with the DCMS's new policy. In a speech last week, James Purnell MP, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, said that the DCMS and Sport England will be focusing on "...the delivery of an excellent sporting infrastructure from the grass roots up. That means creating excellent national governing bodies, clubs, coaches and volunteers, supported by the investment we've already made in facilities.
"And the sporting bodies in our country will be critical. My offer to them is clear. We want to create whole sports plans, with a single funding pot. We will free them up from the bureaucracy and bidding that they complain about today.
"But, in return, they will need to commit to clear goals to improve participation, coaching and the club structure. And in particular, they will need to show how they will reach groups who do less sport today, whether women, poorer groups or some ethnic minorities."
Drake said that BC is now in "...direct correspondence with the Minister. We hope to get a resolution of the definition over the next few months."
Should Sport England funding be reduced, BC could look to the Department of Health for support for its undeniably successful recreational cycling programme.