A FORMER Haslingden handball club coach has appealed for the nation to join the fight to save his sport at the elite level from the scrap heap.
Bill Baillie, head coach of GB men’s handball squad, has set up a petition in reaction to having funding for the sport completely cut by UK Sport.
Burnley’s Holly Lam-Moores and Edenfield’s Ciaran Williams, who both represented Team GB handball at the London Olympics, have joined Baillie in slamming the decision to take all funding away.
The British men's and women's handball teams had their £2.92m funding to support elite athletes cut completely after finishing last in their groups at London 2012.
However on Monday the sport had its grassroots funding doubled from £0.6m to £1.2m. Officials say sports which lost their elite funding should concentrate on developing the next generation of Olympic hopefuls.
It is feared the decision will put the national team’s future in jeopardy, leaving Baillie wanting people to back his call for a separate funding system for indoor team sports.
Baillie, who played his part in setting up Haslingden handball club, said: “In 1997 British Cycling was nearly bankrupt and lying 17th in the world. In 1998 they received £900,000 from UK sport the rest is history.
“Given current guidelines in 1997 British cycling would receive nothing, where would that have placed them now? Give the team sports a chance.
“It is devastating and the sport at elite level is now on its knees “Money is like manure, it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.
“The money available to handball is £1.15million, of which £240,000 is already accounted. That equates to £227,500 per year, good for grass roots but no performance allowance is shameful.”
Nineteen sports have been big winners under a revamped UK Sport funding programme which is designed to produce more medals at the Rio 2016 Games than were achieved at the home London and Paralympic Games.
But four Olympic sports have had their funding cut to nothing by UK Sport following their failure to challenge for medals at London 2012.
Basketball, handball, wrestling and table tennis will not receive any funding between now and the Olympics in Rio in 2016. Indoor volleyball has also been cut adrift, although the British women’s beach volleyball team will receive support.
Sports minister Hugh Robertson admitted the sports which had had their funding cut off were only supported before the London Olympics because organisers thought it would help them sell tickets.
Former Haslingden High School pupil Williams, said: “A legacy won’t come over night, and won't come without pounds at both ends. Until we change this, team sports continue to be a flash in the pan.
“For all with the opinion that we deserve nothing as we didn't win, take a look back to 1997 at the position cycling were in, but still received funding, which wouldn't have happened today.
“They worked, created pathways, and the elite end is now reaping the benefits.”
Lam-Moores added: “Were we expected to go from unknown to gold in one Olympic cycle? These things take time and support which UK Sport are just not willing to give.”
The petition calling for a separate funding for indoor team sports can be found at www.change.org.