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Rugby Sevens star Bibby slams lack of funding after GB miss out on medal

·4-min read
Rugby Sevens star Bibby slams lack of funding after GB miss out on medal

Dan Bibby came trudging off the field after his final sevens appearance and called out the amateur way the GB team have been treated in the build-up to Tokyo 2020.

While the golds keep coming in the pool and superior funding has allowed Great Britain to establish itself as a sporting superpower, the playing field is far from level.

And while that benefits GB in the vast majority of sports, in rugby sevens it has been the opposite, with the team forced to play with one hand behind their backs.

The home rugby unions have cut the cord on their respective sevens set-ups, leaving the team to self-fund to even make it to Tokyo.

A late injection of cash from the National Lottery made the trip possible, but still left Team GB with a mountain to climb to catch their rivals.

The task proved too tall, despite a remarkable quarter-final turnaround against the USA. New Zealand were too strong in the semi-finals before GB fell just short against Argentina in the bronze medal match.

And Bibby, who was part of the team that won silver in Rio five years ago, was candid in his criticism of what the side have been through.

He said: “If I’m brutally honest, it’s a joke. We’ve been offered eight contracts. Eight contracts is ridiculous. To play against a team like New Zealand with eight boys on not much more than minimum wage, it’s an impossible task.

“If you look at who has done well in this tournament. New Zealand, have had a full programme the entire time, Argentina, full programme the entire time, Fiji, full programme the entire time.

“You can’t compete on this level unless it’s properly funded. I’ve had the best career, nine years of fun, enjoyment, travelling the world and doing what I love. I want to give that to another young 19/20-year-old, to have that experience and have that amazing career.

“I can only do what I can on the pitch, everything else is left to the unions. I hope they look at that and think we’ve got to do something about that.”

GB’s chances were made more difficult by the loss of skipper Tom Mitchell, injured in the win over the USA, and they were never really in their semi-final contest against eventual silver medallists New Zealand, going down 29-7.

The clash for bronze was much closer but, in the end, Argentina proved just too strong, winning 17-12.

But for Bibby and this team, the Olympics was about more than trying to bring back a medal, they wanted to show that sevens deserves a future.

He sounded a warning, saying: “I hope we’ve done well in terms of how well we’ve showed, even without a programme for five months, we can still contend for the big medal matches.

“But we tried to showcase ourselves as much as we can and show how exciting sevens is. I had a few texts back home from mates with their little boys and girls watching, screaming at the telly saying how fun it is. That makes it for me, that we’re inspiring little boys and girls.

“But unless the unions pull their finger out, it won’t be exciting many people for much longer. It’s up to them now, we’ve shown what we can do. Off little funding, we can do that, so imagine what we can do with actual funding.”

Bibby’s justified concerns came in sharp contrast to the sheer joy of watching Fiji defend their title.

In Rio in 2016 they were all-conquering on their way to gold, a 12-7 quarter-final win over New Zealand, their hardest match.

This time around, they have looked far less convincing, but when it came to a rematch of that quarter-final, they produced their best.

Led by the magician Jerry Tuwai, they ran out comfortable winners, 27-12 with moving celebrations after being presented the gold medal, singing to those watching on.

These are Games without spectators and this Fijian team had to travel to Japan on a plane full of frozen seafood because of the Covid spike that has seen all other flights out of the country cancelled.

Despite that, there was a healthy collection of Fijian fans, as there always is at sevens tournaments, who were unrelenting in their support.

Bibby and GB sevens would be grateful for a similar level of support from their own unions.

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