March 19, 2015 / 11:59 AM / 2 years ago

Britain to soften Olympic medal-based funding policy

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will continue to fund sports based largely on their Olympic prospects but will now also consider other factors such as participation levels, a report published on Thursday said.

The UK Sport report, produced after widespread consultation, revealed strong backing for the policy of focusing on potential medal success.

However, in a concession that will give some hope to sports which have had their funding cut in recent years, UK Sport will, after the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics, also explore a wider range of measurements of "success".

The key addition is participation, as well as consideration of longer-term investment alongside an established "eight year pathway."

Britain's Olympic performances have improved significantly since UK Sport was formed in 1997, helped hugely by money from the National Lottery.

Britain went from 36th on the Olympic medal table at the 1996 Atlanta Games to third in London in 2012 while at Sochi last year the country equaled its best performance in a Winter Games.

However, while sports such as cycling and rowing have flourished, others have had funding cut after failing to meet Olympic targets.

Basketball was particularly hard-hit, with critics suggesting it was exactly the sort of sport that appealed to urban youngsters who were otherwise failing to engage with the idea of a sporting legacy that was a pillar of Britain's hosting of the 2012 Olympics.

"I welcome UK Sport continuing to focus on medals and medalists...but I am also pleased that it is open to taking the broader value of its investment into account in its funding decisions," said Sports Minister Helen Grant in a statement.

UK Sport chairman CEO Liz Nicholl said it was essential Britain continued "to refine our investment policy to ensure we remain competitive on the world stage...

"We will always have to operate within finite resources, but we understand the desire from sports and partners in the sector, as well as the public, for us to be able to extend the impact of our investment into more sports."

Editing by Mitch Phillips/Alan Baldwin

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