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Reality bites for British athletics

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Matt Slater | 15:08 UK time, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

British athletes didn't have to wait long for new head honcho Charles van Commenee to brandish the big stick, although they would also have noticed a fair amount of carrot in Tuesday's announcement of UK Athletics' 2009 funding plans.

The 50-year-old Dutchman arrived with a reputation for hard work and honesty: by reducing the number of athletes in the elite programme he has demonstrated the latter, the former will no doubt start very, very soon.

The headlines were eye-catching: a 20% cut in headcount (a fitting reduction after winning four of five medals targeted in Beijing), only limited support for the under-achieving relay teams and the thinly-veiled threat of there being "no room for sentiment" in the future.

Gone were veterans like Donna Fraser and Joyce Maduaka, out too were injury-plagued talents such as Sam Ellis, Becky Lyne and Rhys Williams.

So with just one press release, it seemed the new man had swept away the bloated vestiges of the old regime, struck the perfect note for these cash-strapped times and set the good ship UKA back on course towards PBs and parades in 2012.

UK Athletics head coach Charles Van Commenee

And then you read the small print.

What appeared so strong-willed and revolutionary at first glance looked a lot more consensual and evolutionary when you looked at it a little longer.

Not that this is a bad thing. Let me explain.

The number of lottery-funded athletes (although they are now partially funded by the tax payer and hopefully private companies, too) has been falling for a decade.

There were 247 hopefuls on full lottery lolly in 1997, that number was almost halved a year later and then halved again in 1999. The next six years saw the "podium" squad settle at around 80.

But then it fell again and by the time Van Commenee's predecessor Dave Collins got the job in 2005, albeit with a different title, the number of athletes in the top tier was closer to 50.

As of March this year, there were 43 athletes in the "World Class Podium Programme", which is...erm, exactly the same number announced in Van Commenee's brave, new world document.

OK, today's 43 include 10 relay runners getting limited contributions towards their "living and sport expenses", but for those athletes this is more of a pay cut than a pink slip.

The sums involved are also fairly similar. In 2005, the maximum award an athlete could receive for living expenses was £22,000 a year. And that was means-tested so athletes with big-buck sponsorship deals would get less.

The new UKA regime (still means-tested, so Paula Radcliffe receives little more than first use of the steam room) for the top 33 is more transparent. There are now three bands - maximums of £25,383, £19,000 and £12,600 - that roughly relate to proven medal-winners, nearly medal-winners and maybe medal-winners.

I say "roughly" but in the case of the top band it is really as simple as that. The four medallists from Beijing, plus the two who failed there but did medal at the 2007 Worlds in Osaka, are on the top wedge.

So well done Tasha Danvers, Phillips Idowu, Germaine Mason, Christine Ohuruogu, Nicola Sanders and Kelly Sotherton: here's your carrot, now get back to work.

World and Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu

The 13 athletes who posted top-eight finishes in Beijing or Osaka - the likes of Lisa Dobriskey, Jessica Ennis, Martyn Rooney and Goldie Sayers - get £6k less but at least they know exactly what awaits them if they can up their games in time for the 2009 Worlds next August.

The remaining 14 - all highly-rated performers who have just missed a recent final or could at least aspire to one in terms of their personal or season best - can also now see a clearly-defined path to Berlin and beyond.

Beneath this podium group exists a 48-strong "development" squad of "athletes already identified as potential medallists and finalists in London".

It claims to be a new category but is actually just a "more tightly managed" version of the existing development programme, which supported 67 athletes (26 of whom have been cut entirely) ahead of Beijing.

Again, this is no bad thing. There is no way Britain has over 100 athletes capable of reaching a final in Berlin, London or any other major championship in between, to pretend otherwise is ridiculous and a waste of resources.

The message here is not revolutionary but it is perhaps more refined and better communicated: London 2012 is the ultimate goal but the Worlds are important too and our best medal hopes there are those who have done it before.

This will make sense to the likes of Steve Backley and Linford Christie - two celebrated British athletes who have long advocated rewarding performances as opposed to potential. And this is what seems different about the new funding criteria, not the overall numbers.

Admittedly, there are individual selections and omissions in the podium and development groups that could be debated ad infinitum, but that's the nature of sport and I'm more than happy to let Van Commenee pay our money and take his chances.

Athletics received nearly £27m of lottery money in the build-up to Beijing so its four medals cost £6.75m a pop.

Direct comparisons with other sports are usually unfair so we shouldn't read too much into the fact British Cycling's 14 came in at a far more recession-friendly £1.57m each, but Van Commenee's performance will be partially measured on how close he gets to this gold standard.

It won't be easy - medals in the main stadium are harder to come by than medals in the velodrome - but targeting more resources (and it should be remembered that those personal awards are only a part of what UKA spends on each athlete's training and medical support - it was laying out £45k per squad member in 2005) at those who can actually benefit from them is a great start.

So let's not waste too much time debating whether Danvers really is a better medal prospect than Ennis, or why world junior 1500m champion Steph Twell is deemed to be a less deserving of support than the dependable but limited Larry Achike.

No, let's embrace the new, more realistic, less is more approach, even if it is just one step towards London at a time.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    It seems to me that anyone who is British Champion and holder of the British record in their sport should be considered, by definition, as one of the "elite" of British athletics.

  • Comment number 2.

    Disagree with the above poster. We need to put money into those who can win us medals, not someone who finishes 16th in the final.

    Like it or lump it sport is about winning not competing. Let's not reintroduce the British love for losers.

  • Comment number 3.

    Does anyone find it slightly counterintuitive to CUT funding after a poor performance.

    Erm, doesn't poor performance show you need MORE investment , not more.

    Imagine if you had a football club, and you fired a squad member each time you lost a match.

    Well that would really work, wouldn't it?

    Absolutely, absolutely nuts.

  • Comment number 4.

    Why do these athletes need funding at all? If they want to reap the rewards for their labour, then they should pay their own way. I am on a highish salary, but i still pay my own tube fare, rent, food, gas, council tax etc. It seems these athletes want someone else to pamper them, when they dont have their own lucrative deals.

  • Comment number 5.

    You are right you can't compare sports but saying "medals in the main stadium are harder to come by than medals in the velodrome" is a bit daft, I'd say the complete opposite is true.

    Traditionally the UK wasn't too bad at athletics but was terrible at the professional and therefore much more cut-throat Cycling.

    The £6.75m versus £1.57m per medal quoted takes no account of sky-high Cycling equipment costs, which are minimal in track-and-field . How much wind tunnel testing does a 1500m runner do? £5k for a bike anyone? Oh yeah- and each rider needs three or four plus helmets, skinsuits, tools, turbo trainer, power meter, etc...

    Bike tracks are like hens teeth relative to Athletics stadiums. Schools have simple running tracks with a massive potential development base compared to the [as viewed by parents] dangerous sport of Cycling.

    Athletics was always fairly well supported because it was a relatively cheap and easy way to get medals. Cycling now does well because of forward thinking by some very clever people and a good management team that is meticulous and ruthless.

    Sadly UK athletics has not adapted well to the era of professional athletics, a few visionaries in Cycling saw the opportunity offered by lottery funding, grabbed it and ran!

  • Comment number 6.

    PS. Cycling CUT the number of supported riders but maintained the level of funding.

    And they cleaned up in Beijing. Perhaps it isnt so nuts...

  • Comment number 7.

    In response to kal77 these athletes need funding because to compete at a medal winning level they need to train around 3 times a day, most days of the week. They won't find a job that fits around their training hours and gives them a wage they can live and train on.

    More than this the uk in general needs to invest more money in athletics facilities and coaches as a whole to support development at all levels: I live in a town with a population of 100,000 people and it doesn't have an athletics track of any description, never mind a tartan-surfaced track.

    We're not going to develop any young talent with such a glaring lack of basic facilities.

  • Comment number 8.

    Excellent point Magomagi.

    UK Athletics should try and stay as close as possible to the policy employed by the cyclists. We've got a proven results-driven exec in Van C and coupled with such proven policy UK athletics can hope to do very well in both the World Championships and London.

  • Comment number 9.

    Agree with some good points from magomagi above,

    Have to add though that for £1.57m you get much more than just an Olympic gold
    From memory GB won nine golds at this years worlds and several last year and the year before. Add to this Nicole Cooke winning the world road race recently and even Cav's tour wins (although that was as a professional) and you get a hell of a lot more for your money than with Athletics.

    In the the two Athletics worlds since Athens GB won only two golds, one was Paula Radcliffe who as you state in the blog will receive basically no funding and the other was Christine Ohurougu who presumably will now have plenty of endorsements also and will see her funding cut. So for Athletics the return really is low.

  • Comment number 10.

    Morning all, thanks for reading/commenting. A few replies:

    Greektown (1), I think steviehully has got there first but it's worth asking what you think lottery-funding is for. Is it to reward British athletes for reaching the top of the pile here or is it to help them to reach the top of the pile everywhere? I think it's the latter, as does UK Sport (the government agency that distributes funding) and UK Athletics (the governing body).

    When people talk about the "elite programme/set-up" they're usually talking about "elite" as in "top of the sport" or to differentiate it from the grass-roots/mass participation side of things. The "elite programme" for our Olympic sports therefore refers to everybody "in the system" who is getting some support (financial or otherwise). The elite of the elite, the "podium" group, are those capable of winning medals in the next Olympic cycle. I wish that group was one and the same as "all British champions/record-holders" but, sadly, sport is a tougher nut to crack than that. Another way of thinking about it is to remember the full title of the truly elite programme is "World Class Podium Programme".

    jontseng (3) - They're not going to cut funding. The overall pot for our Olympic sports in the build-up to London is going to be approx double what is was for Beijing. That said, the (very successful) principle behind lottery funding has always been "no compromise" ie concentrate resources on proven potential as opposed to scatter them widely and hope for the best. This is exactly what UKA is doing (and is what British Cycling, in particular, has been doing for a few years). So any track and field athlete with a genuine shot of success in Berlin, London or beyond will actually get MORE money spent on them, not less. Those without a genuine shot will get less or none at all. Harsh, perhaps, but sensible. Funding is a privilege, not a right.

    kal77uk (4) - We fund athletes so they can concentrate on their sport. We also provide them with access to the best coaching, facilities and medical support available so they can compete against athletes from other countries that also provide funding for their athletes. We also pay the costs they incur in representing their country in major competitions. If we didn't only very few athletes (in a few high-profile sports) would be able to afford to pursue their sporting dreams and we would win far fewer medals. As it happens the support only barely covers these young athletes' costs - the majority of Team GB also rely on handouts from parents, well-wishers, local businessmen etc and will have returned from Beijing broke. How many "lucrative deals" do you really think are out there once you get beyond the dozen truly recognisable faces in British Olympic sport?

    magomagi (5) - Putting aside your suspect opening argument about cycling being professional (and therefore more cut-throat) versus athletics being amateur (do you remember the Cold War?) and therefore less competitive, and your apparent ignorance of the costs associated with a sport that has 47 different events and (off the top of my head) 14 different disciplines (as opposed to track cycling's..what...sprints, pursuits and distance/tactical disciplines?) let me ask you a question. How many countries are genuinely competitive in track cycling?

    Only four countries won golds in Beijing's velodrome (and we won 70% of them), whereas 24 countries won golds in the Bird's Nest. At last week's World Cup in Manchester we won 14 of 17 golds, with Germany, Holland and France winning the others.

    Returning to Beijing, how many countries even took part in events in the velodrome? 25? 30? It would be closer to 200 in the Bird's Nest, with 42 of them winning a medal.

    You then go on to outline the high costs associated with cycling (I was careful to limit my remark to track cycling, by the way), as opposed to the low costs associated with athletics, but you draw the wrong conclusion. The fact track cycling is a sport in which money talks makes it less competitive (and therefore easier to win a medal in for a wealthy country) rather than more competitive. The greater accessibility (plus its historic position within the Games and its relative popularity away from the Games) of track and field makes it the most competitive sport at the Olympics by some margin.

    I'm not picking on track cycling, I could just as easily make the same point about other high-cost sports like equestrian or sailing.

    If you look at the top five cycling medal-winners in Beijing - us, France, US, Switzerland and Spain - they're all First World nations. The top five in athletics were the US, Russia, Jamaica, Kenya and Ethiopia. Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden - five rich, traditional athletics powers - won four medals between them.

    Do you still think my comment was daft?

  • Comment number 11.

    Matt

    Thank you ever so much for putting that point so eloquently. I get into too much of a rage when faced with the same argument and can't counter it quick enough with all the points I need to make.

    I am an athlete myself who, although not ever having received funding, has been in and out of the GB team for the past 11 years. I am still only 29 and fully intend to compete in the London Olympics. In fact I live in Stratford and draw strength from the speed at which the building progress is coming as a visual catalyst to my own development.

    I compete in an event that is without doubt the hardest in athletics. It is also almost impossible to gain funding in. IN order to achieve the level required to earn that funding we need to be training almost full time, but of course to train that much requires funding. This has nothing to do with talent. I, like most others in my event in the GB team, won successive English Schools events, broke british records and competed successfully against foreign junior athletes. However, raw talent can only take you so far and in order to challenge the best in the world funding is required.

    I train twice daily, around a full time job. I receive no additional funding or sponsorship and this is the case for the vast majority of athletes who will make up the squad for 2012.

    Athletics is a sport that doesn't require much in the way of equipment, but as you so rightly point out, that only makes it easier for any talented athlete worldwide, regardless of their country's financial state, to compete alongside.

    On a final note, I do find that it grates with me somewhat that so many would deny athletes who train so hard for so little in return the meagre living expenses that this funding offers whilst so many 'professional' sportsmen enjoy bloated, lavish salaries not anywhere nearly commensurate with the dedication, commitment and passion that burns inside so many of my fellow 'amateur' athletes.

    Besides, if you consider how much enjoyment we all got from the successes at this years Olympics in relation to the limited funding paid, you get a lot more 'bang to your buck' than your average moaning primadonna in the Premiership.

  • Comment number 12.

    No worries Hesperian, I was kind of hoping magomagi would come back and fight his corner...I had a few arguments up my sleeze. No matter, I can use them next time I have to point out the fact that some gold medals are easier to win than others.

    And you're right about how inspiring it is to see the Olympic site take shape. I went through there on the London Overground line from Hackney Wick to Statford this very morning. It has come on leaps and bounds since the summer.

    Keep plugging away with your training - Jade Johnson and Germaine Mason weren't being funded but still did OK in Beijing - and all the best for the next few years.

    I'm now going to try to work out who you are!

  • Comment number 13.

    "up your sleeze"?

    Can't imagine what you were reading before you wrote that!

    Well Decathlon is the event (as you probably should have guessed). Name you might struggle with as injury has as yet prevented me competing at major comps so you'd need to be quite the athletics geek!

    Germaine and Jade a fortunate enough to have clothing sponsors I think. Jade certainly does. That's the issue with Decathlon, it doesn't hit the headlines long enough for sporting brands to warrant an investment. We rarely compete at the bigger events at home or abroad so without tv coverage aren't the most bankable prospects.

    I am not grumbling at all though. I don't do it for money as with most people in athletics. To line up alongside competitors as good as I do is a privilege in itself.

  • Comment number 14.

    Matt, thankyou for your response. I have to admit that when I wrote my first post I was thinking about Goldie Sayers. She is the best at what she does in Britain and set a new British record in the Olympics. I know you know all this but I just wanted to explain what I was referring to.

    I can see what stevehully means but Goldie wasn't 16th she was a close 4th - and that was with a rushed final throw. On other days she has beaten at least one of the people who beat her in Beijing. She finished closer to a medal than Kelly Southerton did I believe but Kelly is in the "elite". I also believe Kelly was talking about changing her chosen event before the next Olympic games. If she does this how can anyone know if she will be even as good as she is now?

    I do agree with your point about the funding being about helping our athletes become the best in the World and not just at home. Surely that would be the dream of all our athletes.

    It seems to me though, that we are heading down the road which will lead to Britain only sending athletes to the Olympics if they have a good chance of winning. This would be a huge mistake IMO. We had a number of medallists at the last games who surprised many knowledgable people. I am thinking of the swimmers in particular.

    I may be old fashioned but I still believe that the taking part in the right manner is more important than winning. I don't expect that to be a popular idea now.





  • Comment number 15.

    Matt, and All,

    I beg your pardon. I am reminded that Kelly Southerton finished fourth in her event. I had forgotten the disqualification.

  • Comment number 16.

    Matt, you raise some valid points but I would offer food for thought:

    The open doping culture in Cycling partially stems from being professional from day one, big money encourages cheating, as other sports are discovering.

    The former Eastern-bloc robots weren't allowed to ride against professionals - what races they would have been! Cycling has little history of gentlemen athletes and Olympian spirit, just poor blokes trying to make money. Olden-day pro track-and-field was an also-ran compared to the amateur game and Olympic Cycling has only recently been taken seriously because it excluded pros.

    Not many countries are competitive in track Cycling, on the road a lot more. Can you Imagine trying to fit 200 nations in to a tiny velodrome track centre? ;-) There are only a few track races and only four road events in the Olympics because some have been lost to IOC pressure or never allowed [eg. the Omnium, Cycling's Pentathlon - there is no event for bike throwing/jumping though], something Athletics doesn't seem to have faced.

    The same accessibility v cost divide even exists within Athletics - look at the split between low-overhead running and the technical/strength events, developing countries rock at running but shot-putt or pole-vaulting...? Comparing Athletics to biking in this way is like pitting Gymnastics, Weightlifting and Cycling together as a "whatever-sport" against track running - how many running events are there? Running is a relevant comparison to Cycling not discus or long-jump.

    The 6.75 m versus 1.57 figure doesn't really show how terribly UK Athletics did because of the sheer potential medals available to a team of how many? They blew it! British Cyclist were considered a joke 10 years ago but could have won another possible 4 golds in Beijing but the events were dropped and there is a lack of sex equality in track racing. The constraints of costs, number and type of races count against cycling but do not explain why the UK does so badly when the potential pool of medals that could be won in Athletics is so large.

    It takes talent, dedication and rewards [in ALL sports], something UK Cycling promoted by cutting back, dumping all the old-school riders and trainers, focusing and starting from scratch with driven athletes with quantifiable talent and coaches. They had a plan, backed it up with results and look where they are now.

    Athletics doesn't have a deity-given right to support, it can be just as mind-blowingly boring as cycling can be at times. Popularity is linked to results...

  • Comment number 17.

    don't worry about the fact that there are athletes on the funding lists who will not be old enough to compete with the best at 2012!!!

    in many of the athetes cases it's not what you have done but who you know that get's you the funding..

    I coach an athlete who has zero support from family, basically because he has no family and lives on his own, relies on the support from myself as his coach (my coaching is free) and tries to hold down a trainee job while training as many hours has he can to maintain the UK No1 spot he rightly earned in 2008.. any funding for this huge tallent....erm... NO is the answer whereas others who have the full backing of their parents and others are getting funding...

  • Comment number 18.

    don't worry about the fact that there are athletes on the funding lists who will not be old enough to compete with the best at 2012!!!
    ----------

    Indeed don't worry about that, stop being blinkered by 2012, there is life after that you know!



    coach an athlete who has zero support from family, basically because he has no family and lives on his own.....
    -----------
    If he is so good then why not name him so we can judge for ourselves whether we think he deserves funding?

  • Comment number 19.

    Javelin Sam makes an interesting point...

    We have a friend whose daughter is UK No. 1 in her event. Her funding has now been cut, as she appears to be in an 'unfashionable' event. A slighly younger athlete, who did not perform within miles of our friend's daughter in 2008, has been given development funding for next year.
    I spoke to our friend this weekend, who was (perhaps predictably) scathing about the culture within the sport, that issues like funding were based on cliques, and that if your face didn't fit, you were not given a fair crack of the whip.

    I appreciate that our friend is defending her daughter, and that some of her comments may have been over-hyped. However, it does seem a very arbitary system where Mark Lewis Francis retains some funding, and Andy Turner doesn't.

    I would be interested to hear other peoples views.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hackerjack

    My athlete was undefeated in his U20 agegroup all season domestically and was only beaten twice in the top senior league (BAL Prem). He ranks in the top 10 as a senior and is the 2nd best all time U20 athlete in the UK (out of those who only get 2 years as an U20 compared to those who got 3 years otherwise he is ranked number 10 best ever as an U20) He has won the national title at U15, U17 and U20 and ranks just outside the top 20 in the world. A ranking list which includes many 3rd year Juniors.

    He is one of the poster faces for the local council for their 2012 promotions (for which he get's nothing)

    out of many people on the list this lad needs all the help he can get. those who know him and have competed against him know he is something special... shame the governing body doesn't agree...

  • Comment number 21.

    Matt excellent points and thorough descriptions.

    Greektown, I think you are confusing somethings, as many are around the globe. We are a professional sport. That does not mean the ideal of competing is lost but it does mean evolution. Too often money clouds peoples opinions, and in the UK funding has changed the conversation for the worse.
    Anytime an athlete falters, or loses, or is beaten the talk of funding is th FIRST and only thing talked about. All other factors be damned.
    JavSam has a good fight although I think he lets his emotion cloud his opinion. The Javelin is tough, is your kid at the level to garner international recognition or national recognition only?
    Comparing sports is always a bad idea. I can tell you that athletics is a complete lifestyle, and if you have to work it is a huge hurdle to overcome. Not an excuse just clarification. Many have done it and will continue to do it.
    There is another aspect ignored. Professional athletes should be paid a salary that allows them to be professional. Athletics is no where near that level for any of the athletes. More later....

  • Comment number 22.

    DGS1103

    My athlete has already thrown the IAAF standard for the U23 European Championships 2009.. bearing in mind he is only 18 (will be 19 during next season) and will be up against MEN of 22 years of age. The standard is 70m and he has thrown 70.80m. The main aim is to make the GB U23 squad in 2009. Some level of funding this winter would have been a great help to achieve this aim.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hello all, some good recent comments, apologies for not replying sooner but I've been a bit sidetracked with other bits and bobs.

    Wise words from you, Hesperian, and no, I have no idea what was going through my mind when I typed that. Some might say that's the case for most of what I write. But it was probably something scandalous and dastardly.

    Greektown, I love your idealism but have to repeat what I said above...it's public money (in one form or another) we're talking about it here so we have to be a lot more realistic/calculating about these funding decisions. That said, the athlete you're talking about is surely in the B group as a near miss in Beijing/good chance of improvement athlete. She hasn't been cut off and she will still get all the coaching and medical support she needs, if not more than before.

    Javelin Sam, keep plugging away. I don't know the details of your athlete's case (I will try to look into them) but it does sound like he should certainly qualify for "Talent" funding if not "Development". Has he had any help from SportsAid? A great charity that dishes out grants to lots of talented youngsters.

    dgs1103, cheers pal, some good stuff from you too. By the by, Monday evening's Five Live Sport is scheduled to be discussing the athletics funding issue. It should make for a decent listen.

    magomagi, bravo for coming back and you also make valid points. I would like to pick up on some of them individually (as we still don't see eye to eye on all of them!) but I'm promising myself to only have one fight a day with cycling fans (please see my most recent blog for explanation). But I would like to make a few general points. I was talking specifically about track cycling, so I think it's important to keep that distinction clear. The reason I specified track cycling is that that is basically what British Cycling did a decade ago. They correctly realised that the traditional cycling powers were a bit sniffy about track cycling and the best riders would be found on the road. Competing with them would be very tough. So, like the Aussies before us, the plan was to target the velodrome, win medals (cycling's lower hanging fruit, if you like), attract sponsorship/funding and gain momentum. And you know what? It worked! Hey presto, we have decent road riders coming out of our by now very well-funded cycling programme and the likes of Sky want to bankroll a pro team. Our success in women's road racing is quite similar....not Nicole Cooke so much - she's one of those awesome athletes that emerge despite the system not because of it from time to time - but her successes this year in Beijing and at the Worlds are a result of BC fast-tracking team-mates to support her, transfering talent from other programmes (triathlon, for example) and once more realising that the Frances, Spains, Italys of this world weren't doing as much as they might in this area. What's my point? Kudos to BC, they've come up with a great plan and executed it superbly....I've written about this a few times myself over the last year!

    Now, UK Athletics. I'm sorry but the evidence just isn't there to say they've done "terribly" or "blown it". They certainly haven't performed as well as our cyclists but then who has? The Chinese diving team?!? The point I made earlier about how many countries are genuinely competitive at track cycling compared to how many are competitive at athletics is crucial to this. You're right to point out different countries/regions excel in different events but there is still as much competition in each of those areas as there is in track cycling. And which one of those areas is our strength? You refer to the more technical events but we have a shocking record/pedigree in most of those as our facilities are rubbish, we don't have the coaches and kids just don't get to try those events at school, unlike many of our European rivals.

    You also talk about athletics not having a "deity-given right" to funding. You're right, but the truth of it is that for many people, athletics IS the Olympics. And the fact that there are, relatively speaking, so many medals on offer makes it more, not less, likely that it will attract funding. The good news is that there appears to be a new sense of realism at UKA and a new eagerness to listen and learn from other more successful sports....which brings me back to the original blog!

    Right, that's me done as I appear to have answered all your points individually after all! That really is my last row with a cycling fan today.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hello Matt and everyone,

    I take the points you and others make so well. I do realise that some of my views are somewhat idealistic and anachronistic. I don't want to set things back to when athletes were training after a hard days's work.

    I suppose I should, especially considering the current economic climate, be pleased that the athletes are funded as well as they are.

    I would like to say how comforting it is for me to take part in an internet conversation that has been conducted in such a civilised manner with respect for differing ideas. Thankyou to all.


  • Comment number 25.

    Matt,

    He has over the years received funds from the Ron Pickering Memorial funding and some money from the local council. These funds barely cover his kit expenses for the year and certainly do not cover all his travelling and training expenses. I'm talking about a few hundred pounds not thousands.
    He was interviewed by the regional talent manager who is an ex 10k runner for GB.. not too sure how he can manage a highly tallented javelin thrower as he didn't exactly know the ins and outs of event.

    on a side note.. i find it very bad for people like Andy turner, who was on full funding, to be suddenly dropped with no warning. I would assume he was training full time. the funds being given to him to do this would have been paying for his homelife.. rent and bills etc. He will now not get a cheque from the governing body and will have to wait to find suitable employment while we are in an economic downturn and the highest unemployment figures for 11 years.

  • Comment number 26.

    By all means fund those young athletes deemed potential to final and possibly win a medal in 2012. BUT, don't leave out a Performance Reward System for anyone else. Otherwise what is motivating enough other athletes to sustain training at the level required to even get to the Olympics.

    A 30 year old very good international athlete (and we have a few) who has struggled to get on the global podium over the previous 8 years would naturally be totally overlooked as having no possibility for London in 2012. Simply too old if they haven't done it by now! In fact it would be laught at to even consider funding such an athlete!

    Well, Kelly Holmes was one such athlete. Four years before Athens she was 30 and considered by most to be well over the hill......and we all know what happened four years later when she was 34!

    She's not the only "oldie" success story either, from Olympic Games. So don't lets purely support only the ones thought to be on the way up, at least keep the options open by rewarding and supporting whoever produces the right level of performance at any point between now and London because if that incentive isn't there we will be leaving too big a comfort zone, without challenge for those assuming they've already booked their place on the team!

  • Comment number 27.

    And just to clarify my previous post. I am not referring just to those who may be "too old" I am also referring to those who are in the "right age bracket" but who are outside the performance level at this time to get funded.

    The failure of the past 10 years of lottery funding is that too many have been kept on well past their sell by date (injuries/ poor performances over too long a period) because their name, their coach or their face fits. While in the meantime others banging on the lottery door for at least the chance to get necessary medical support and inclusion on warm weather training camps are still left outside in the cold to go home and get on with it on their own.

    No problem when the playing field is the same level for everyone but this highly subjective "elite" system is a sure way to erode motivation when every other athlete should be made aware that any top ranking performance at any time will provide appropriate support reward even if only on a trial period to help potential further progression.

  • Comment number 28.

    I am involved in the Deaf Women's Football team and the have an even worse position. Being Deaf is not a criteria within the Paralympics, and so the Deaf community are forced into having their own olympics, which will be in Taipei in August 2009.

    However, this is completely unfunded by the Government, meaning that the players have to try to raise all of the money for the flight, accomodation and participation themselves. This is despite the team bringing home Bronze at the last Olympics, and being predicted to do better this time around.

    Some of the players may not be able to go because they cannot raise the necessary funding - being Deaf make it VERY hard to do presentations at local charities, call potential sponsors etc that a sportsperson would usually do to find funding.

    Where is the 'elite' decision here? The Deaf community is so isolated, and young Deaf people grow up with so few role models, that surely you would think there could be funding for a team that consistently brings home medals??!!! We are only talking a fraction of the sums discussed in the news today. seemingly not

  • Comment number 29.

    So, Matt, what's your take on the idea of rewarding performance not just potential and how might that affect those already funded and those out of the category?

 

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