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Brown bids to save wheelchair rugby as funding cut to zero

Harlequins and GB Wheelchair Rugby 290414England full-back Mike Brown has pledged his support to help save Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby after the organisation had their funding from UK Sport slashed to zero.

GBWR chief executive David Pond told The Rugby Paper he was “stunned” by UK Sport’s decision, which comes just four months after Team GB, ranked fifth in the world, came within an ace of defeating gold-medallists Australia at the Rio Paralympics.

GBWR had applied for £2.4m to run their programme for the next four years – down from £2.9m in the last Olympics cycle – but Liz Nicholl, CEO of UK Sport, claimed there was ‘not enough resource to go around all sports’.

In the last four years the number of wheelchair rugby teams in the UK has risen from seven to 22, with new clubs in Norwich and Brighton set to come on stream in 2017, while GBWR has been at the forefront of burgeoning youth and spinal recovery schemes.

Pond said: “It’s not a huge amount of money we were asking for and what I’m really stunned by is why we’re the only Paralympics sport that’s had its funding cut to zero. If you’d taken a little bit of money from other major sports, it would easily have covered us.

“It seems UK Sport has gone down the road of chasing medals, but we only lost to Australia by two points in extra-time in Rio so I’m not sure how you can claim we are not sport worth backing. Instead, our programme is in jeopardy and we need to find £2m.”

GBWR ambassador Brown has already pledged his support. On hearing of UK Sport’s decision, he tweeted: “We’ll have to come up with a way of raising it ourselves. Definitely not done, I have ideas. I’m sure Quins will help as GBWR is a charity they support.”

Pond, left, added: “It’s great to have Mike’s support and he’s not an ambassador who just talks.

“Like he plays his rugby, he’s fully committed and will do anything he can for us. I’m also hoping to enlist the support of Jason Leonard and Nigel Melville.”

NEALE HARVEY

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