Water polo's funding is an insult to history
YOU can tell a lot from a photograph.
PIONEERS: Great Britain's Osborne Swimming Club, based in Manchester, won the first-ever water polo Olympic gold in 1900
The sepia-tinted image of William Wilson might be stained by time and smudged by history but with his handlebar moustache and stern stare, he looks every bit the Victorian visionary.
Wilson, pictured below right, was born in London in 1844 and made his career as a journalist and swimming coach - writing a book that defined the modern concepts of stroke efficiency, training, racing turns and water safety.
In 1877 he devised a set of rules for a team water ball game, which he called 'aquatic football'.
The first ever match took place between the banks of the River Dee in Aberdeen.
In 1885, three years before the formation of the Football League, the Swimming Association of Great Britain recognised the game - now called water polo - and Wilson's rules were expanded upon and adopted into their rule book.
Put simply, Wilson is to water polo what Pierre de Courbetin is to the International Olympic Committee.
The sport was soon internationalised and within 15 years was making its Olympic debut in Paris.
Great Britain - represented by the Osborne Swimming Club - beat Belgium in the final after winning all their group games. In the final, the dominant British team - being such good sports - took a limited number of shots because they didn't want to humiliate their opponents. They still won 7-2.
Water polo was dropped from the Olympics in 1904 but returned for the 1908 London Games and has remained ever since - it's the longest running team sport on the Olympic programme.
Great Britain won gold at their home games - Paul Radmilovic, a veteran of five Olympics - their star player.
They defended their title in Stockholm in 1912 and Antwerp four years later but haven't been in the medals since.
And therein lies the problem. Great Britain last qualified for the Olympics in 1956 and finished seventh - out of eight.
However, hopes were high that as hosts and automatic qualifiers at London 2012, Great Britain's water polo team could finally stop swimming against the tide.
But the sport, which is governed by the Amateur Swimming Association, is one of eight sports that have been told to expect cuts in their funding today.
UK Sport - which saw a £50m shortfall in their funding due to economic conditions - argues they are simply investing the money where it has the best chance of a medal return.
But water polo officials insist that its legacy - the buzzword seemingly invented by 2012 organisers Locog - must have a value as well.
David Sparkes, the asa's chief executive, is a wizened sports administrator used to fighting battles, after all he once employed Bill Sweetenham.
He claims that with £9.3 billion being pledged towards infrastructure costs of hosting the Games, an additional £50m to fund athletes is small beer.
He expects the sport will receive approximately half what they were given for the last Olympic cycle, meaning one of the elite programmes currently based in Manchester, probably the weaker men's team, will be scrapped.
Unsurprisingly Nick Hume, GB water polo's performance director, claims UK Sport's minimal funding would be a disaster and a golden once-in-a-lifetime chance to revive a sport neglected for over half a century would be wasted.
Against a flurry turned torrent of foreclosures and a daily wave of global redundancies, disaster might seem too strong a word.
However, it's very bad news for British sport and the British Olympic Association's stated aim of competing in every event in London - as the majority of host nations do.
And just spare a thought for William Wilson, water polo is coming home but the hosts can't be bothered to attend the party.
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