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Government steps in to help elite athlete funding

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Mihir Bose | 11:30 UK time, Friday, 3 October 2008

The government will provide the first £20m of the £80.1m earmarked for elite British athletes competing at the London 2012 Olympics. The £20m is the first installment on a funding package that runs from 2009-2013.

As to the remaining £60m the government is still hopeful that some of it can be raised through fundraising via the recently launched Medal Hopes plan. Given the current economic climate this seems unduly optimistic.

This elite funding package has generated a great deal of controversy over the years.

Back in 2006, at the time of the Turin Winter Olympics, there was concern not enough was being done to make sure the best and most hopeful medal prospects of Team GB were being funded.


The government then announced that £100m would be provided but the hope was that the money would be raised through the private sector.

Towards the end of the Beijing Olympics, with the credit crunch making it impossible to raise such money in the marketplace, there was fresh controversy about whether the government would step in to make up for what some called a funding gap.

By then more money from the National Lottery meant that the money required for the overall package had reduced to just over £80m.

Ministers are reluctant to say they will step in but the fact that the first £20m is coming from the government indicates which way the wind is blowing.

A final decision on the remaining £60m will not come until December, when it appears the government will have to step in and decide whether to ultimately provide all the funds itself.

I understand that the UK Sport board meeting held on Wednesday discussed the elite funding plans, and although no cheque for £20m has been received from the government, UK Sport is sufficiently confident to write to various sports promising to tell them by next week what sort of funding they will receive for 2009.

The board meeting reiterated what is called its "no compromise policy". This means UK Sport is determined that Team GB aims to maintain its fourth place at the London 2012 medals table.

To the delight and surprise of almost everybody, Team GB finished fourth in Beijing, achieving the target that had been set for four years hence. Before Beijing, the hope was only that they would finish around eighth. But having got ahead of schedule, UK Sport is determined to make sure there is no slipping back.

Implicit in the no compromise policy is that sports that win medals, or have a prospect of winning medals, are likely to be funded and will be informed of their funding early next week.

However, sports that have not done well will find their funding is cut. They face an uncertain time, as they will not hear about their funding levels until December.

The whole approach is meant to make sure that the winning mentality, so brilliantly demonstrated in Beijing, carries through to London and beyond.

Money will be given to sports that demonstrate they can convert funding into medals. Those that cannot will miss out.


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  • 1. At 4:32pm on 03 Oct 2008, jhfgdsaw wrote:

    Medals and 'elite sucess' need not strictly correlate. Consider: is it better to finish 3rd out of 4 competitors or 4th out of 1000? Which is the more elite athelete? Is it the one with the medal or the one without?

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  • 2. At 6:15pm on 03 Oct 2008, ianwarncken wrote:

    Simple I will answer your question for you: it's better to finish 3rd out of 4 and get a medal.

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  • 3. At 7:03pm on 03 Oct 2008, jhfgdsaw wrote:

    Good answer but it wasn't the question was it... which is the more elite athlete?

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  • 4. At 8:16pm on 03 Oct 2008, Toon-Dan wrote:

    jhfgdsaw - that's an impossible question. To see how elite a athlete is they need to be compared to the whole pool of talent. Assuming the other 3 athletes are the best in the world, then coming 3rd is great. If it's 1000 useless sportsmen then coming 4th is no achievement at all.

    I think it's great that money is being put into sport, especially when the participants actually want to take part, and aren't purely motivated by money.

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  • 5. At 8:34pm on 03 Oct 2008, Estesark wrote:

    Your blog seems to be more about business and economics than sport...

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  • 6. At 10:06pm on 03 Oct 2008, MarktheHorn wrote:

    Well done to those ahtletes who did use the money wisely to gain success like the cyclists/rowers but there were still some who failed to perform ofcourse as there will be in all sports.

    What happpens to these athletes?

    Is the funding cut?

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  • 7. At 09:58am on 04 Oct 2008, Tatloaf wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 8. At 6:35pm on 04 Oct 2008, stopthepress wrote:

    money money money money money money money money money

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  • 9. At 2:11pm on 05 Oct 2008, Plexico wrote:

    Bose is trying to get himself a new job as a financial analyst with all these articles about money and economics, he must be bored with football journalism.

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  • 10. At 8:02pm on 05 Oct 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 11. At 08:34am on 06 Oct 2008, MTO_2006 wrote:

    " At 2:11pm on 05 Oct 2008, Plexico wrote:
    Bose is trying to get himself a new job as a financial analyst with all these articles about money and economics, he must be bored with football journalism"

    I think you just gave away more about your own view being possibly too narrow, rather than Mihir's being too wide ?

    He's not a football journalist, he's a sports editor.

    To answer the question re funding, the levels of funding you get are based on results. Success will net you maximum funding, failure will see it reduced. But don't forget that of that funding only a percentage goes to the athletes - the rest is used for coaches and support.

    This is great in principle but it does pose some problems, for example in the build up to a major event, some athletes target their training regime just for that major event, but by missing out on others, they could see their funding cut. It's a tricky balancing act.

    We may not like it, but money is an important ingredient to success in sport. To be top of their sports, athletes need to give up a great many things, including any hope of a non sports career for a significant time. The funding they receive even at top ranks is quite low comparitive to a career, and most do not get a whiff of decent sponsorships unless they are lucky enough to be in a sport that the mass media in the UK popularises (usually for no good reason)

    What concerns me is about this policy is the way that, unchanged, it will ultimately lead to minimal investment. Here me out - we only started getting very succesful at many sports with the advent of lottery funding. That allowed us to develop and retain sporting talent. In other words, sports that were not doing well, received good funding and we became good at them.

    Now, if we substanitally cut funding to those sports we aren't doing well at, it makes sense to say it becomes harder to do well at them at all. Conversely those we do fund have a better chance of doing well, but ultimately it's about more than just money so all we need is an underperforming athlete, or other atheletes in the world being particularly talented (fancy going against Phelps ?), and the funding gets cut, ergo gets harder to achieve success next time.

    We are totally reliant on the distrubuting bodies taking the long view on some of these sports, and when it comes to money I think the credit crunch is proof that insitutions are spectacularly bad at taking the long view....

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  • 12. At 08:46am on 06 Oct 2008, Stokerambo wrote:

    Slightly off-topic, I know, but why are sports such as mountain biking and shooting olympic sports in the first place (and hence given funding) whereas far more popular sports such as Cricket and Rugby are not. You would think the IOC would at least nominate Rugby for reasons of TV rights alone, the Rugby World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events in the world and has a growing market.
    Cricket may not be as popular, but is the Subcontinent's prime sport. Back to funding, though: sports need funding, however, accessible sports such as swimming and athletics must take precedence over 'exotic pastimes' like horse riding and sailing.

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  • 13. At 4:12pm on 06 Oct 2008, MarktheHorn wrote:

    They are trying to get Cricket and Golf into the Olympics I believe?

    Not sure about rugby?

    Would it be rugby 7s?

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  • 14. At 8:44pm on 07 Oct 2008, boomshakalak wrote:

    i agree that there are "different" levels of olympic sports and associated medals... any country in the world would acknowledge the 100m as a sporting event and would be proud to have a medal winner in that event. it is about time that the funding recognises this... 1 track and field medal is probably worth gold silver and bronze in some half-sport event that only 3 countries in the world bother to play and even then (like the uk haul of medals) are only played by a very tiny minority in those countries... in the UK we are decent at picking up medals in "secondary" events (usually in middle class type events where you need money to compete in the first place - specifically rowing, cycling - velodrome related rather than on the road, and the best of all... equestrian). with this in mind maybe we should put a bit of cash into the grass roots of sports that matter rather than waste money on an already priveledged few that happen to be likely to get medals because no other countries or people either know the sports exist or care enough to compete....

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  • 15. At 9:08pm on 08 Oct 2008, MarktheHorn wrote:

    I see your point BOOM.

    I said elsewhere that we cannot just leave those sports that did not do so well in China to rot and not improve.

    If anything they need more cash rather than the cycling/sailing teams do so they can catch up with the rest of the world in events like Shooting/Judo.

    Good comment about the numbers of countries that take part in various events as well.

    Whilst I am happy we did well in events like Cycling/Rowing we have to remembered it not as open to all the world like Athletics is for example.

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