British Shooting has described the decision to not add the sport to the programme at the 2022 Commonwealths in Birmingham as a “huge disappointment”, saying its athletes will “feel let down”.
As expected, archery and shooting were the two that missed out on Thursday when Birmingham 2022’s organisers and the Commonwealth Games Federation announced which of five potential additional sports would be included on the event’s schedule.
Archery GB and World Archery echoed shooting’s “disappointment” but resolved to get the sport’s Commonwealth status back in 2026.
The successful sports were beach volleyball, Para table tennis and women’s T20 cricket.
The International Cricket Council and England and Wales Cricket Board welcomed the inclusion of the latter, saying their application was part of a global campaign to “inspire and empower women and girls around the world”.
In a statement, ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney said: “We are absolutely delighted that women’s cricket has been nominated for inclusion in Birmingham 2022 – it would be a real honour to become part of the Commonwealth Games family.”
The mood within the shooting community could not be more different.
In a long statement posted on its website, the national governing body noted that Birmingham will be the first Commonwealths since 1970 without a shooting competition and explained that British Shooting and the International Shooting Sport Federation had offered to contribute to the costs of staging the event at Bisley, the Surrey venue used for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
It then pointed out that the decision will cost the UK’s home nations around 30 medals, deprive several smaller countries of a shot at a medal and also have a huge impact on Olympic funding for the sport in the Commonwealth’s strongest nations, Australia, Britain and India.
“I’m really disappointed that shooting has not been chosen as one of the sports to feature at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022,” said England’s Amber Hill, who won a silver medal at Gold Coast 2018 in a sold-out venue.
“Competing at Glasgow 2014 was an amazing experience for me and it’ll be strange to think the sport won’t feature when it’s on home soil in 2022.”
British Shooting chief executive Hamish McInnes added: “This news is a huge disappointment, if not entirely unexpected.
“Across the whole Commonwealth, many target shooting athletes, their coaches and their families will, inevitably, feel let down that they will be denied the opportunity to compete in Birmingham.”
Archery GB’s boss Neil Armitage said his sport felt much the same way after it had made a joint proposal with World Archery and Archery England that focused on the sport’s “accessibility as a world-class spectator sport, its inclusivity, its wide appeal as a grass-roots activity and delivering a strong post-Games legacy”.
Its plan was to stage the event at Aston Hall, one of Birmingham’s most popular historical landmarks.
“Our vision to get archery in the Commonwealth Games is as strong as ever and we will be reviewing our future strategy,” Armitage added.
World Archery secretary general Tom Dielen also expressed his dismay and pointed out that a quarter of the 2020 Olympic slots available at the World Archery Championships in the Netherlands last week were claimed by athletes from Commonwealth nations.
The five sports considered for the additional places came from the CGF’s ‘optional’ list and were not included in the original choices when they were announced in January 2018.
All five, however, made it clear they wanted to be involved and a panel compromising representatives from Birmingham 2022’s organising committee, the city council, Commonwealth Games England and the UK Government was set up to assess their merits, with its recommendations then sent to the CGF executive board for approval.
But this is not the end of the debate, as the choices must be ratified by 51 per cent of the CGF’s 71 member associations at a general assembly later this summer.
This means shooting’s supporters will get one more chance to force a rethink on excluding the sport.
Unfortunately, there is little appetite in the Midlands for staging a sport so far away from the main hub and there are also concerns that the costs of a shooting competition at a ‘satellite venue’ outweigh any benefits in terms of ticket sales or commercial income.
Shooting also does not score highly on Birmingham 2022’s other key criteria of diversity and appeal to younger audiences, unlike the three chosen sports.
Cricket will be making only its second appearance in the Games after a 50-over tournament was held in Malaysia in 1998. It will be a T20 competition at Edgbaston in Birmingham but only for women, as the ICC believes the men’s calendar is too congested.
Beach volleyball was a big hit with spectators at the London Olympics in 2012 and last year’s Commonwealths in Australia and is likely to be held at a city-centre location in Birmingham, while Para table tennis will fit neatly into the existing table tennis programme at the National Exhibition Centre.
By including Para table tennis, Birmingham 2022 will feature an unprecedented eight para-sports and, if beach volleyball and women’s cricket are approved, there will also be more female medallists than at any previous Games and a record six team sports.
Some eyebrows, however, might be raised by the announcement of these additional sports before the event’s overall budget, of which 75 per cent is coming from central government, has been officially confirmed, although it is understood to be imminent.