Kick in the teeth: Young thai boxers forced to fund own trips to World Championships

Several of Manchester’s young thai boxing stars could be denied the opportunity to compete in the Muaythai World Championships this August due to being forced to fund their own trips to Asia

Competitors will be required to pay £1,500 to send themselves to the prestigious event in Thailand, because of a lack of funding from national sporting body Sport England.

Dylan Furness, 14, who trains at the Peel Thai Boxing Camp in Salford, is currently attempting to raise the required funds via an online GoFundMe campaign.

“The ultimate goal is to go to Thailand, I always wanted to go there but never really had the chance,” he told MM.

“Getting picked to go fight over there and train as well is the best.

“I know people are trying to help me go there, I’ve got loads of support and people know how hard it is to get there and they’re trying to help me out as best they can.”

Even with the amount of training the youngster at both gyms put in, they still have to find their own funding to compete for their country.

Dylan’s father, Kieran, explained that they were still waiting to hear how much funding was going to be offered and lamented the lack of support that the sport receives.

He said: “There doesn’t seem to be much [funding] for Thai Boxing.

“When you’re a football club then everyone wants to throw money at you, but trying to get any sponsorship in Thai Boxing is hard work.”

Tricia McKeary, who coaches at Beastmasters Gym in Altrincham and for the national team, explained that although the UK Muaythai Federation helps with funding, it doesn’t go far enough.

“Eventually when we get Sports Council recognition, and we get government recognition, there will be grants out there,” she said.

“While we haven’t got [recognition] we have to rely on our gym, our team, local businesses to sponsor us, and our governing body as well.”

Over 2,000 athletes, officials and delegates are expected from over 100 countries at the Muathai World Championships in August, where the young fighters will be competing for HRH the Crown Prince’s trophy.

Beastmasters Gym are sending two-time World Gold Medallist Niamh Kinehan, 16, to the Championships in Thailand, along with Kiesha Nathan, 17, Alex Kenton, 14, and Fraser Wallace, 11.

In addition, senior competitor Jade Taylor, 21, has also been chosen from Beastmasters in Altrincham, as well as junior fighter Brandon Lindop, 11, from Team Chongi.

Jade explained that the difficulty of getting to the Championships was compounded by people not realising how big the event is for fighters like her.

She said that: “It’s hard, because some people out there don’t understand how much of an opportunity it is for us, it’s like the Olympics for us.”

In order to open the door for funding, Muaythai would need Sport England ‘recognition’, an acknowledgement that a National Governing Body governs a sport through the common consent of the sport itself.

A spokesman for the UK Muaythai Federation explained that they were initially rejected in their bid to gain Sport England recognition several years ago, but that they are still working towards that goal.

The spokesman told MM: “We applied several years ago, and they came back with a positive response saying we didn’t meet some of the criteria that would allow them to approve it but they would be happy to work with us and allows us to re-submit.”

“We’ve gone away and addressed their action points from last time, and we’re about ready to re-submit in the coming months.”

The UKMF has since put in place the same criteria that would apply to sports as large as football, including introducing a World Anti-doping Association approved policy and establishing accounts for the sport.

Once the UKMF has achieved Sport England recognition, they will be able to increase the funding for junior teams and introduce funding for senior competitors using government and charitable grants.

The spokesman added: “Our aim is to make sure the sport is governed properly in the first instance, and make sure Muaythai is run as Muaythai rather than as any kind of hybrid.

“But also to improve the exposure of the sport, the participation of the sport, from everything from increasing participation among children, using it in community groups in the way boxing is used in potentially troublesome areas.

“Right the way through to increasing the funding that can send teams to world championships and hopefully expose the sport and encourage the sport in the media.”

You can support Dylan’s GoFundMe campaign by clicking here.

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