POSTED: October 13th 2008

USOC Olympic cash pledge

Larry Probst: chairman's challenge / SFC
Larry Probst: chairman's challenge / SFC

LAURA WALDEN, KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

ORLANDO: Protecting financial support for the United States’ potential Olympic athletes will be a priority for the USOC amid the fall-out from the global economic crisis.

That measure of relief for potential medallists was offered by Jim Scherr, chief executive officer of the US Olympic Committee after the Olympic Assembly and first board meeting following the Beijing Games.

Scherr, underlining the need to re-examine the 2009 budget, said: “We’re not economists and we don't know how deep the economic recession might become and how it will effect our business and other businesses that support us."

The budget would be re-evaluated for possible cutbacks on expenses and administration with the possibility of job cuts not being ruled out.

At the moment 84 per cent of the budget goes towards athlete and sport support with a marginal 16pc allocated to administrative costs. However Scherr suggested that the last place at risk from a funding shift in the budget overhaul was support for athletes and sports.

He said: “We had a budget prepared for 2009-2012 that we pulled back due to the economic situation. It wasn't prudent to present that budget. So we'll go back in the next couple of weeks and measure how the situation of the economy will affect us and present a very stringent budget. One that is very prudent on the expense side for this organization.

“I can't give details right now on how we will evaluate. I have to look first to administration and curtailing new initiatives that had been planned for the quadriennium. Certainly the last place that we will cut down on would be athlete support."

Challenging time for corporations

Scherr’s overall concerns were echoed by Larry Probst, new chairman of the USOC. Probst said: “It has to be a zero budget approach from the bottom up to the top down to make the appropriate adjustments.

“It’s going to be a challenging time for all entities, whether they are corporations or organizations like the USOC. These are unprecedented times and people are going to have to get smart about how they do business."

Outgoing chairman Peter Ueberroth ruled out any prospect of the USOC even considering an approach for government support.

Ueberroth steps down leaving the USOC in far better functional shape than he found it four years ago even though it is considering enacting its contingency plan for the next quadriennium. 

In taking the podium one last time as chairman, Ueberroth again took up the issue of the fact that US corporations provide the International Olympic Committee with 60 per cent of its revenue.

He defended the fact that the USOC should continue to receive approximately 13pc of the US television rights and 20pc of global marketing revenues - citing the vast difference in the US$894m that NBC paid for the Beijing Games compared with the US$7m contributed for  programming by Chinese TV.

In spite of the delicate situation with a decision on the 2016 hosts just under one year away, he reiterated that the revenue issue needed to be tabled.

"Everything I said is transparent," he said. "You can go look it up yourself. I just want to be sure that people who don't bother to look it up, they need to remember the facts, and sometimes you have to realize, wherever you are in life, how the bills get paid."

Ueberroth will serve as "honorary president" of the USOC in a non-voting, non-board capacity and will be advising Chicago 2016.

Television channel project

The choice of such a high-tech media individual as Probst, of Electronic Arts, for chairman strongly suggests that the USOC is aiming to spearhead marketing across multi-media platforms. These could possibly flank the USOC’s project for its own projected television channel.

This would give it a powerful option of reaching out to a younger fan base by using his particular commercial expertise.

Probst, asked to address that issue, said: “I don't know that I have a comprehensive answer to that but I know a little bit about appealing to the 18 to 34-year-old demographic."

“Some initiatives are under way, like the television network that's in the works. But that that demographic lives online - and I think the movement has to do a better job of communicating in that medium.”

The Olympic Movement may be surprised as the USOC is likely to be coming up with some creative marketing en route through the next Olympiad.

Keywords · United States · USOC · Jim Scherr · US Olympic Committee · US Olympic Assembly · Larry Probst · Peter Ueberroth

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

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