British bobsleigh driver attacks decision to cut funding for women’s team

• Mica McNeill says decision to keep three men’s teams is ‘confusing’
• UK Sport monitoring bobsleigh’s governing body after ‘overspend’

The decision to continue funding all three men’s British bobsleigh teams while cutting financial backing for the only women’s crew has been branded “confusing” by the driver who started an online campaign to keep her Olympic dream afloat.

Mica McNeill said she wants people at the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association to be held accountable after financial “mismanagement” led to a £50,000 overspend at the governing body.

The BBSA runs Britain’s best-funded winter sports, receiving £5m for the four‑year cycle to Pyeongchang, but five months out from the Winter Olympics it has stripped McNeill of all her financial support because of what she terms “mismanagement”.

McNeill, 23, who won gold at the world junior championships this year, has now raised the required £30,000 via the online crowdfunding site GoFundMe. But she remains frustrated at the BBSA for leaving her in a situation where she is forced to rely on the goodwill of strangers.

“I’ve asked why fund three men’s crews and no women’s and the answer I get is that the men are a medal focus,” McNeill said. “You can use that excuse on one sled or even two but the fact that it’s three and still calling it a medal focus is confusing for me. You don’t want to call it out as sexism but we found ourselves in this situation and to think that it could be a sexist decision, you don’t want to believe it.

“If we don’t compete it’s a massive setback for women in bobsleigh in general. It’s not a good look to be supporting only men’s teams. If young people aren’t able to see female role models how can we get girls involved in sport?”

UK Sport, the funding agency which allocates lottery and exchequer money to Olympic sports, is believed to be very concerned about the situation at the BBSA. The Guardian understands it will demand monthly audits of its accounts for the foreseeable future, as opposed to the usual quarterly assessments, in order to establish what went wrong and why.

“It’s hard to get your head around how such a massive overspend could happen in a huge organisation, and for us to be punished for something outside of our control is really frustrating,” McNeill said.

Within three days of her launching the campaign to get to Pyeongchang it had raised £25,000 and they are now close to the £30,000 target. It means the team, for which McNeill is driver, will almost certainly be able to compete on the World Cup circuit, which begins in November.

“The £30,000 is the bare minimum that will get us to the Olympics,” McNeill added. “Bobsleigh is so expensive, you’ve got to freight the sled, travel around, get accommodation and pay track and race fees. If we can get any more than £30,000 that means we might be able to do the pre‑season and have the best chance that we can have at the Olympics.”


Martha Kelner

The GuardianTramp

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