By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

August 19 - Support for two of Britain's volleyball teams preparing for the London 2012 Olympics has been axed because of lack of funding, it was announced today.

The British Volleyball Federation (BVF) has now decided to to concentrate the £4.3 million ($6.8 million) worth of funding it receives from UK Sport into those disciplines they feel have the greatest potential for success in 2012.

It means that that the men's indoor volleyball team, the women's beach volleyball and sitting volleyball programmes will now share that money while the women's indoor team and the men's beach volleyball programme, whose event is set to be one of the highlights of the Olympics when it is staged at Horse Guards Parade, will have to fund themselves.

All six teams have automatic host-country qualification for London 2012 but the BVF have been forced to concede that it cannot continue to support all the squads.

Britain has never qualified for the indoor competitions at the Olympics.

BVF President Richard Callicott said: "Since 2009, the BVF has faced increasing difficulties in continuing to support all of its programmes within the funding allocation made available to it by UK Sport.

"Accordingly, and following discussion with UK Sport, the BVF Board has determined that it will henceforward expend UK Sport funding only on the men’s indoor volleyball, women’s beach volleyball and sitting volleyball programmes.

"This decision is in recognition especially of UK Sport’s investment principles, which prioritise support for sports on the basis of relative performance merit taking into account current performances and future medal potential.

"The BVF Board’s decision seeks to ensure that the teams with the greatest potential can continue to develop towards the fulfilment of their performance targets for 2012.

"This decision means that that women’s indoor volleyball and men’s beach programmes will no longer be funded directly with monies from UK Sport with effect from 1 October 2010.

"This does not, however, mean that the BVF is abandoning these teams."

Callicott, a former chief executive of UK Sport, claimed that the BVF is working hard to find additional income from sponsorship and commercial sources to enable these players to continue their preparation and to compete in London 2012.

For the forthcoming winter season the majority of the players in the women’s indoor programme will be taking up playing contracts with European club sides, and the BVF is hopeful that during that time sufficient income will be found to enable them to play competitive matches and continue their training from May 2011 onwards.

Callicott said: "We want to help all those people active in our volleyball programmes to fulfil their dreams and enrich the Olympic experience in London in 23 months’ time."

Audrey Cooper, the head coach of GB women's volleyball, said: "It is obviously difficult to register our shock and disappointment after three years of phenomenal progress.

"However, will we give up - no.

"We have a group of determined and resilient athletes and staff, as proved by our recent highly successful profile raising cycle ride from Sheffield to London.

"We will assess what this means for us and look for a solution.

"Clearly that solution will involve the development of partnerships with external organisations and commercial companies with similar characteristics and desires.

"Only two years away from London 2012 we have come too far to let the dream die."

But the decision to rationalise its funding programme was backed by UK Sport.

Liz Nicholl, UK Sport's chief operating officer, said: "For the London Games, UK Sport has invested record sums in volleyball, with over £4 million supporting the Olympic and Paralympic programmes.

"The decision made today by the BVF Board maximises the support for those teams with the greatest performance potential.

"This was no doubt a difficult decision for the Board, but it is one we feel took great courage and that is right from a performance perspective, especially in these economically challenging times."

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