Great Britain World Cup appearance in jeopardy after funding issues

23 September 2009

After stunning the world of baseball with qualification to the Baseball World Cup, Great Britain's appearance at the championship could be in jeopardy following their failure to secure the necessary funding.

In 2007, GB Baseball qualified for the Baseball World Cup for the first time since 1938 by coming second in the European Championships and it seemed the sport was entering a golden period in this country. But now, as the tournament approaches, Britain is facing the very real possibility of being forced to send an under-strength, under-prepared team to the contest.

If the GB Baseball Team can get through the first round of the tournament, which includes a game against baseball giants Japan, the national team will almost certainly be invited to the next MLB World Baseball Classic tournament in 2013, with all the prize money and sponsorship that comes with being one of the world’s elite nations.

But the peculiarities of sports funding in the UK have left GB Baseball struggling to come up with the £30,000 it needs to be able send a full squad and to have a week’s preparation.

GB Baseball finds itself falling between the remits of the two main sports funding bodies, UK Sport, which funds elite athletes and teams, and Sport England, which funds grassroots sport. At present, baseball is not an Olympic sport and UK Sport is set up to fund potential Olympic medalists, while Sport England only funds activities that encourage mass participation.

The British team will be the only one of the 22 World Cup finalists to receive no funding and as such will be at a massive disadvantage. All of the other teams receive funding from their governments and, with the exception of Nicaragua, either get funding from the world governing body (IBAF) for hosting World Cup matches or won prize money in this year’s World Baseball Classic.

Without funding, GB Baseball will have to leave behind some of its best overseas-based players because of the extra cost of flying them to Zagreb, Croatia, for their opening game against current world champions Japan on 10 September. The team will also have to save money by flying to Croatia later than planned and cutting back on their pre-tournament training period.

Alan Smith, General Manager of GB Baseball said, “After fighting so hard to get to the World Cup it would be a travesty if we were denied the chance to compete to the best of our abilities.

“We will be up against some of the world’s best baseball teams and taking anything short of our strongest squad will leave us with a mountain to climb.”