The news that the Park and Pipe programme run through British Ski and Snowboard has received increased funding is great news for that section of the winter sports market. Sadly for the traditional side of the sport, the side with the most registered athletes, results have not met the UK Sports criteria and as such the current crop of athletes have to go back to the borrowing board in search of funds. Tough times for the immensely talented athletes that are choosing to go down the Alpine route. … While the Freestyle world can now plan with the knowledge that their side of the sport will be catered for financially from the UK Sport and Lottery coffers, it is a different story for the Alpine side. it is not complete doom and gloom but it will make it hard for the athletes at all stages to plan programmes.

Dave Edwards, CEO of British Ski and Snowboard, explained to Racer Ready that it is UK Sport that make the decisions as to whether an athlete is deemed ‘Podium potential’. While the funding is there, if athletes do not perform as they are expected, the personal awards can also be taken away and these are evaluated every year. With funding for alpine zero at this stage, this does not mean that if David Ryding, Dougie Crawford, Jack Gower, Charlie Guest, Alex Tilley and other promising athletes, start performing in the zone that UK Sport are looking for, at least top ten’s in World Cup races, then they will be reconsidered.

The UK Sport criteria are tough, there is no doubt about this. In raising the bar higher, the best athletes will buckle down and work harder to reach these goals. Many fans and armchair critics have laid out on social media networks that they feel that the criteria are too tough. On the flip side one athlete that went to Sochi explained that he felt the criteria for Sochi were right and that if the others could not make the results then they needed to raise their game. What most people would agree, however, is that there is little planning, guidance or help for the British Athletes showing the promise that they could play at the top table. Medals are what UK Sport are after and while it may be a few cycles before these are achieved again for alpine, raising the standards required is one thing, having achievable goals is another.

Planetski.eu tweeted their story regarding the funding issue with the words “Good for the freestylers but is it the end of the British Alpine Ski team?” (click here for tweet) When put to Edwards, this was answered with a categoric “I do not believe for a moment that it will be the end of the Alpine team so No!”

The majority of the money that has been awarded will go to the athletes for their programmes but “the remainder of the money will go to the support programmes and services and injury management and prevention. We have to put a plan against all of these particular items,” Edwards explained. Asked if any of the money could assist with the alpine programmes and Edwards explained that “the money has to be focused entirely for the Park and Pipe athletes that have realistic chances of gaining podium places. However, UK Sport does allow a deduction of 10%  of the money that the BSS receives (not the money that the athletes receive) for administrative costs. We try and run on a very slimline administrative structure and do not plan to change this.” This all helps to pay for the administration of the sport.

The dialogue with UK Sport has been going on for over nine months, Edwards explained and that despite the evidence that the BSS put to them, UK Sport did not believe that the BSS could translate performances of athletes into athletes on the podium in a four to eight year period. Despite the tremendous performance of Dave Ryding at the Sochi Olympics and his super impressive section splits, Edwards confirmed that Ryding “was put forward by BSS in our original discussions with UK Sport. We and they had dialogue and their statisticians produced lots of material which the BSS was asked to review and they were not convinced that Dave was a low enough risk opportunity for a medal in Pyeongchang or beyond.”

Edwards knows that it is a chicken and egg situation regarding funding and getting results. It certainly helps that there is no doubt. “It is much easier to get those performances if you have the funding to support you. But I am not going to convince the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to change UK Sport’s criteria,” Edwards continued.

With the criteria for up and coming major international events on the BSS website, (Click here), the long road for the athletes and their coaches can be plotted out. With results talking, serious planning is at an advanced stage for all looking to reach the goals set to compete at these events.

With the conversation moving back to funding, Edwards hoped that a recent outbreak of dissatisfaction between some of the disciplines regarding membership fees could be resolved. The £100 membership fee for organisers category had been left to the disciplines to decide who was in what bracket. Edwards was at pains to explain when asked would it not just be wiser to have a flat £20 fee for all that he did not think it was fair for athletes, who have paid £150 for their FIS start licence to have the same voting rights as a £20 member. While he recognised that the athlete had a lot more services also on offer, he did not feel that this was just. “There are clearly some discrepancies in how this is being implemented and we need to look into this and come back with something better,” he agreed. “I am not suggesting that everyone should have a £20 membership as that would be unfair to FIS licence holders but I am also not saying that those that give their time and energy should have to pay £100 to have a say.”

While the news regarding UK Sport funding for Alpine is not good, the backing of Delancey for British Ski and Snowboard does provide some solace. With Delancey supporting the Alpine Championships and also being Headline sponsors of teams across the disciplines some of this money has had to be used for the new clothing that will be worn by the athletes provided by Avalanche. There is money that is provided by Delancey that is not ring fenced for the Championships and decisions on how this is used, Edwards explained, will be made in the forthcoming period.

With Uvex supporting the BSS for a four year period with money and equipment plus one other deal that is being worked on by Konrad Bartelski, there are glimmers of hope on the financial horizon.

Nothing speaks louder than results by athletes despite what you think of administrators. Where there is a will there is a way! From the moment the start wand is hit, determination to win is the biggest asset you can have. The lack of a programme and structure is the flip side.

The funding issue will roll on it seems.

Full statement from the BSS

Picture credit: Jack Gower competing at the Delancey British Alpine Championships in March 2014, Credit: Racer Ready