Mixed fortunes for GBR team

24 Apr 2014

The British Gas GBR Women’s Water Polo team are celebrating the progress they have made this year after winning their final FINA World League match against World Champions and 2012 Olympic silver medallists Spain earlier this week in Manchester.

The win follows good performances at this years’ European Championships qualification tournament and success playing as team England at the 2014 Commonwealth Water Polo Championships.

"The win against Spain was very bittersweet" 

- Graeme Thompson, National Performance Director

But the team’s progress has been marred by the knowledge that they will no longer receive funding from UK Sport.

“The win against Spain was very bittersweet,” said National Performance Director Graeme Thompson.

“On the one hand it showed that we are making really good progress and proved we can compete with the best in the world. But on the other, we know that the programme we have been building since the renewed investment received in April 2013 will cease to exist following UK Sport’s decision not to keep funding women’s Water Polo.”

In February UK Sport announced it would be removing funding for women’s Water Polo as part of its annual investment review of summer Olympic and Paralympic sports. One of the key concerns was that the GBR team was not a realistic qualification hope for Rio 2016 or medal hope for Tokyo 2020, based on past performances and future projections.

Commenting on the win against Spain, British Swimming Chief Executive David Sparkes said: “This win demonstrates to statisticians the unpredictability of sports which often doesn’t follow neat curves.

"It reinforces our belief that the strategy adopted by UK Sport in terms of team sports needs further review and we will be seeking to influence this for Water Polo and the future of all team sports.”

In January the GBR team lost only one of their Group A qualifying matches to finish behind the Netherlands and secure qualification to the European Championships in Budapest in July.

Noted as one of the toughest tournaments after the World Championships and Olympics, GBR will face seven countries only one of which is ranked outside the top ten FINA rankings.

This win demonstrates to statisticians the unpredictability of sports which often doesn’t follow neat curves" 

- David Sparkes

At the last Championships in 2012 GBR finished seventh out of eighth but Thompson believes the team has the ability to challenge for an improved finish: “The benefit of having a large majority of our players abroad this season is that they have gathered valuable experiences, playing and training alongside some of Europe’s best players.

“Regular GBR competitions and camps have also helped, plus a growing relationship between the team and the coaching staff who came into post last autumn. Add in the ever present desire and commitment of the GBR Women’s Water Polo team and I think we have a good opportunity to make further progress in this year’s European Championships.”

Earlier this month 11 members of the team that lined up against Spain were selected to represent England at the Commonwealth Water Polo Championships.

Held in Aberdeen, the England Ladies finished the group stage with a goal difference of 61. They then went on to beat Canada, ranked 7th in the World by FINA, 10-9 in the final.

Thompson said: “The progress the team has made so far this year makes the funding decision all the more frustrating.

“In the year since we were given £4.5 million to develop our programme the team has clearly made progress. And with the team due to centralise at new facilities in Beswick next season, there’s no doubt that this improvement would have continued through to Rio 2016.

“Everyone has put so much into the programme that to have it all come to an end just as the team are showing their strengths is very hard to take. Team sports need time to develop and it feels as if our journey has been cut short.”

The European Championships take place from 14-27 July in Budapest.