The crisis at British Bobsleigh has worsened with news that the women’s team is to be stripped of all funding five months before the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Already beset by allegations of bullying, racism and harassment, the sport’s governing body now faces being accused of sexism in the way it allocates its funding.
The support of three men’s teams is set to continue while the top female driver has been forced to plead for money on a crowdfunding website to keep her Olympic dream alive.
Mica McNeill, a world junior champion, claimed “mismanagement” at British Bobsleigh had forced her to take drastic action after it apparently ran out of money. British Bobsleigh has admitted it is struggling to finance the women’s team competing at eight World Cup events that serve as a ranking competition for Pyeongchang 2018.
The latest damaging revelation comes after Britain’s best-funded winter sport announced both the performance director, Gary Anderson, and the head coach, Dominik Scherrer, have stood down. UK Sport also cut public funding by £50,000 in the summer after athletes complained of a “toxic atmosphere” in the sport. Neither Anderson nor Scherrer are directly implicated in the allegations but their departures have left the elite programme in disarray.
“Due to the mismanagement of British Bobsleigh there is no longer any funding available for a women’s programme to compete in the Olympics,” McNeill wrote on the GoFundMe website where she has raised more than £1,000 of a £30,000 target. “I now must self-fund my winter season and I am asking for funding and sponsorship so that I am able to compete on the World Cup circuit this winter to secure my place in the next Olympics.
“I have worked incredibly hard and made many sacrifices. I have even bought my own bobsleigh so that I can achieve my dreams and due to circumstances out of my control, I’m now looking to raise the £30,000 so Team McNeill can represent GB this winter.”
McNeill, from County Durham, cannot understand the disparity in funding between the men’s and women’s teams. With the bobsleigh season beginning in November the women’s team face a race against time to make South Korea.
“It’s really disappointing because we’re left with a month before we’d look to be on ice and get the experience we need,” McNeill told the BBC. “The federation said they’re struggling with funding at the moment. I was really unhappy and thought, ‘That’s not a good enough explanation.’ I said: ‘Why are we in this situation?’ – there’s been an overspend on the budget, and there’s nothing left over for us women.
“I know that bobsleigh is an expensive sport but I just am really disappointed it has come to this. They tried to tell us it was because we weren’t medal potential but I said: ‘You’re funding three men’s crews. Why don’t you just be honest and say you’re not funding us because there’s no money?’ And they said, ‘Yes, it’s because there’s no money – if there was we’d be funding you.’”
In a statement, the BBSA said: “The GB Bobsleigh programme is focusing resources on winning medals in Pyeongchang. We are actively seeking commercial funding to further support our world-class programme and we will continue to do so.”