Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn accused Nigel Huddleston and Oliver Dowden, the Sports Minister and Culture Secretary respectively, of being "detached from reality'"after his sport received no funding in the Government’s £300 million rescue package.
In total 11 sports in England were named as the beneficiaries of the Sports Winter Survival Package, announced on Thursday, which is designed to help those impacted by the absence of spectators because of coronavirus.
Rugby union will receive £135m, the biggest amount, followed by horse-racing (£40m). Boxing, like cricket, is not named on the list although the Government is keeping back another £59m as contingency funding. On Thursday Huddleston said the money was "being spread fairly well across the country" and was "based on an assessment of need".
But Hearn questioned the decision to exclude a sport that plays such a key role in the community.
"Would there be anyone more detached from reality than Oliver Dowden and Nigel Huddleston? They completely disregarded boxing and the role it plays in the community to put funding into other sports. These people [Dowden, Huddleston] are so far removed from society and inner city communities," he told The Telegraph.
Heard added: “If they went to visit them, they may understand. We talk about knife crime, obesity, mental health, these are all the things that can help change the numbers. Every fighter says boxing either changed or saved their life.
“People think it’s about inspiring the next generation of fighters. It’s not, that’s not the role boxing plays in the community. If we can unearth a world champion from a local amateur club, brilliant. But it’s not about that. It’s about discipline, respect, physical and mental health. It’s about making sure you get the kids off the streets."
For Hearn, the decision to overlook boxing was 'madness'. He added: "These are exactly the people you need to be helping and saving. When you look at the disbursement of funds to rugby clubs. It’s going to rugby clubs... I’m not saying they don’t need help but who needs more help right now, businesses or the actual kids in the community? We’re not asking for £120m or £40m. We’d take the £6m they have given to motor racing. How can you give motor racing and not to a community boxing club which is keeping kids off the street, solving obesity, solving mental health? It’s madness.”
Hearn believes pressure must be applied, in the manner that the footballer Marcus Rashford did so successfully with his free school meals campaign.
“Make the people heard. You almost have to go full 'Marcus Rashford' on this," he said. "What Marcus did, which was incredible, was he got the support of the people. He put enough pressure on. You can’t be educated on everything but you’ve got to listen. I’m not looking to go on social media and scream and holler, but let’s have a sensible conversation. Please just understand the role of grassroots boxing in the community and I believe if you understand that, you will help.”
Hearn had volunteered on Thursday with the National Lottery volunteering initiative 'Miss Out To Help Out'. “We know a lot of people are struggling in business but a lot of people are struggling at home, mentally and emotionally. I did it and had the greatest time," he said.
I got involved with this charity called Sporting Memories and it’s for people suffering from depression who have some kind of debilitating injury or disease. The campaign is about giving up your favourite TV show to make time. An hour to make people smile is the best hour you’ll ever spend.”
MissOutToHelpOut.com is a volunteering scheme organised by the National Lottery.