The organisation that will take Britain’s team to this summer’s Paralympics in Rio has been criticised for launching a high-profile fundraising campaign, just three years after Paralympic sport received a multi-million pound increase in funding.
In December 2012, UK Sport announced a 43 per cent increase in funding for Paralympic sports – an increase from £49 million in the run-up to London 2012 to £70.2 million in the years leading up to the Rio games in 2016 – compared with a rise of five per cent for Olympic sports.
The increased financial support was provided through both lottery and government funding.
But despite that level of funding, the British Paralympic Association (BPA) today (Thursday) launched a fundraising campaign to “Supercharge ParalympicsGB”, aiming to “generate support and raise funds” for the ParalympicsGB team.
The campaign is supported by four celebrity ambassadors: the multi-gold-winning Paralympian Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, sports presenter Clare Balding, actor and comedian Eddie Izzard and disabled television presenter Alex Brooker.
Baroness Grey-Thompson said: “The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will be the toughest, most competitive games yet and ParalympicsGB will need to be the best it’s ever been to win the medals the nation craves.
“The team needs as much support and preparation as possible in the final crucial months of preparation to win those medals and ensure Great Britain continues to be a leading force in Paralympic sport over the next decade.”
The campaign was published at exactly the same time as the TUC’s new disability equality manifesto, which points out that millions of disabled people live in poverty, while support for the right to live independently and access to legal aid have both been cut.
Craig Crowley, honorary president of UK Deaf Sport, said he found the BPA’s fundraising appeal “rather puzzling” at a time when “disabled and Deaf organisations are still facing financial difficulties”.
He pointed out that while the £70 million funding for Paralympic sport had “some merits”, the GB Deaflympic Organising Committee (GBDOC) – which is preparing for next year’s Summer Deaflympics in Turkey – receives no funding at all from UK Sport and “urgently needs funds”.
He suggested that ParalympicsGB could share its Supercharge campaign and some of the funding with GBDOC.
Disabled activist Lynne Hutchinson added: “Why are Paralympians so different to everyone else?
“Are they seen as deserving rather than those of us who aren’t able to do superhuman stuff and are stuck at home and therefore a burden to society?”
A BPA spokeswoman said: “We recognise that not everybody will want to donate, but we hope some people who are fans of ParalympicsGB will decide that it is a worthwhile cause to help the team prepare and compete in Rio.”
She stressed that the UK Sport funding was handed to national governing bodies of individual Paralympic sports, and not the BPA.
She said: “BPA is ultimately responsible for taking the team to the games. The money we are hoping to raise will not go to the athletes, it will go to the team.”
She added: “Part of the reason we like #supercharge is that it is not that the team will not go to the games if people don’t donate, it is that the donations will allow us to provide more of the little extras that will help athletes in the final days, weeks and months before the games.”
This might include improving the pre-games preparation camp in Belo Horizonte (which begins in August) and the quality and quantity of support in the athletes’ village, such as ensuring athletes have the right cereal bars and snacks, or are provided with mattress toppers that will ensure a better night’s sleep.
She said: “We are talking about the small things that can make a big difference. It is very much the small things that can add up to a gold or silver medal rather than a bronze medal or fourth place.”
Picture of Libby Clegg by Tom Barnes