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Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Wednesday, 5 March 2008

GB's Olympic baseball dream ends

By Peter Scrivener

The Beijing baseball stadium
Beijing will stage Olympic baseball events at the Wukesong Stadium

British Baseball has called UK Sport short-sighted after being forced to pull out of a final Olympic qualifying tournament which starts on Friday.

Team GB have been unable to raise the 40,000 needed to fund the trip to the competition in Taiwan and UK Sport turned down a late request to help out.

Spokesman Bob Fromer told BBC Sport: "UK Sport are being short-sighted - I am not at all happy with them."

UK Sport's Matt Crawcour conceded: "We sometimes have tough calls to make."

The British baseball team was funded by UK Sport until 2005, the same year the sport was dropped by the International Olympic Committee for the 2012 Games and beyond.

The British Olympic Association stepped in and acquired an Olympic solidarity grant of $100,000 (50,000) from the IOC which funded the team through 2006 and 2007.

"That money was used to play in the 2007 European Championships, where we finished second," said Fromer.

"And that result meant we qualified for the final Olympic qualifying tournament, along with seven other teams, which starts this week, but it also used up the rest of our funds.

"The BOA were sympathetic and tried to arrange another solidarity grant, but the IOC said no.

"And UK Sport turned us down in December, for which they received criticism from (Shadow Sports Minister) Hugh Robertson, who raised a question in parliament about the 30,000 UK Sport spent sending delegates to a conference on sporting legacy in Barbados.

"In January, we told the International Baseball Federation that we didn't have the money to be able to attend the event, and they spent a few weeks trying to help, but ultimately they couldn't and we had no option but to pull out."

Fromer conceded that it would have been a tough ask for Britain to qualify for the Games.

"The tournament takes place during spring training for the American baseball teams and we have a few players trying to make it onto their teams, so they would have found it difficult to be released to play in Taiwan," he said.

"But then, the same goes for teams like Spain and Germany."

Britain's place in the tournament has been taken by Germany, who join Mexico, Canada, Spain, Korea, Taiwan, Australia and South Africa in the round-robin event to decide who goes to Beijing.

We'd love to fund every athlete and sport but we don't have a bottomless pit

UK Sport's Matt Crawcour

"It's very sad," added Fromer.

"I don't agree with UK Sport's policy. They are giving more and more money to fewer sports and that is being too narrow, but unless baseball gets back into the Olympic picture the future looks bleak."

Crawcour defended UK Sport's stance, saying: "Baseball falling out of the 2012 Olympics in London coloured our thinking.

"If a sport is on the programme for 2012 there would be incentive for us to invest, but baseball isn't - it's effectively a one-off event for 2008.

"It's all about value for money - we'd love to fund every athlete and sport but we don't have a bottomless pit."

There is some good news for British baseball - the second-placed finish at the European Championships secured the team a spot at the 2009 World Championships.

The International Baseball Federation will foot the bill for most of the costs incurred going to the tournament.

But Fromer added: "Beyond the event, we will have no external funding, which means we will have to field a team entirely made up of home-based players. That means we will not be as strong internationally."

Meanwhile, the GB team will play a friendly match against a team of international cricketers at Somerset's ground in Taunton.

Somerset and England batsman Marcus Trescothick came up with the idea for the game, which will form part of his benefit year.

The seven-inning contest will take place on Saturday, 4 October 2008, and feature Kevin Pietersen, Simon Jones, Ashley Giles, Ian Botham, Alec Stewart and Mike Atherton on the cricketers' side.

On the following day, the British Baseball Federation will be running a day-long youth clinic with instruction from GB players and coaches.

see also
Costs hit GB Olympic baseball bid
19 Dec 07 |  Baseball
Team GB target Beijing berth
04 Dec 07 |  Baseball
Baseball - the basics
24 Mar 04 |  US Sport
Baseball jargonbuster
26 Oct 05 |  Baseball

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