Rugby-Britain's sevens teams secure Olympics funding

FILE PHOTO: The giant Olympic rings which were temporarily taken down in August for maintenance are illuminated after being reinstalled at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID 19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

(Reuters) -Britain's rugby sevens teams can compete in next year's Tokyo Olympics after the government arranged a funding package in partnership with the National Lottery, England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) said on Tuesday.

The RFU had ditched its sevens programme in August and told players their contracts would not be renewed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sevens does not receive funding from UK Sport, the organisation responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sports in the country, and England players launched a crowd-funding scheme in September.

But the RFU said in a statement that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had partnered with the National Lottery to come up with the funds, which will allow the teams to compete in the World Sevens Series ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which were pushed back by a year due to the pandemic.

"We're delighted to have secured this partnership with the National Lottery and thank National Lottery players. This is a great opportunity for GB Sevens and vital preparation ahead of next summer's Olympic Games," RFU Performance Director Conor O'Shea said in a statement.

As part of the partnership, the National Lottery will be acknowledged in a variety of ways.

"This clever partnership demonstrates how by working together we can have a real impact on a sport and boost the chances of gold in Tokyo next summer," Nigel Railton, Chief Executive of National Lottery operator Camelot, said.

Former England sevens assistant Tony Roques will serve as head coach of the men's team, while Scott Forrest will remain head coach of the women's side.

James Rodwell, the most capped rugby sevens player of all time, will assist both men's and women's programmes.

Britain's men won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016 while the women finished fourth.

($1 = 0.7468 pounds)

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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