Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng must carry some weight in the British sporting world, because his plea to have basketball once again funded by the state worked: The BOA offered a reprieve to the sport Friday, and will indeed fund it for the Rio Olympics.
“Today’s news is absolutely fantastic for the sport, I am overwhelmed to hear basketball have been awarded funding from UK Sport,” British player Drew Sullivan told Reuters. “This news puts GB firmly back on the map and on the road to success.”
The teams had initially seen their funding cut from more than $13 million for the 2012 Games to zero for the new Olympic cycle, despite the fact that UK Sport announced an eleven percent increase in funding across the board. That money was earmarked for popular British sports like cycling and equestrian, where the country has had plenty of success.
But Deng wrote a open-letter to Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this week stating his case that the team’s performance in London set a baseline that the country could only improve on with future generations.
Apparently Deng’s voice was heard.
“The door is not closed to any sport that has had their funding reduced or stopped,” said UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl in the statement. “Every sport has the opportunity to come back to us at the annual review stage to make a case for future funding if they can demonstrate sufficient progress to evidence a credible medal opportunity within the next eight years.”
Chicago Bulls All-Star Luol Deng, who happens to play for the British team during the summer, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron questioning the Olympic Association’s removal of any and all funding from the national team.
Playing catch-up: Despite a record $565 million investment by the UK for the Rio Games, the basketball teams are set to receive exactly $0, a cut of more than $13 million. The BOA instead decided to spread that money to teams they think have a better shot at medaling, like the very British sports of cycling, rowing, sailing, and equestrian.
“I truly feel like we are starting to put British Basketball on the map and we are now being taken seriously on the world stage,” Deng explained in the letter. “Taking myself and the other guys out of the equation, what about the future generation? Do not underestimate the fan base that this sport has in the UK.”
There is also a petition circulating that Deng has signed and encourages others to sign in hopes they can convince the government to notice basketball’s impact. It currently has more than 12,000 signatures, and includes the hashtage #fundbritishbasketball. Unfortunately, you need to be British to sign.
“Luol’s support for us is massively important. He recognizes the value of funding, not just for the elite levels of sport but to carry on investing in grass roots and creating a route for young people to realize their dreams,” said the chairman of British Basketball. Read the full letter here.