POSTED: July 27th 2010

Athletes' funding at risk as UK Sport faces cost-cutting merger with Sport England

Future funding? Michael Johnson and local children try out a new track in the London 2012 Olympic Stadium / LOCOG
Future funding? Michael Johnson and local children try out a new track in the London 2012 Olympic Stadium / LOCOG

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: With unfortunate timing, just as London was about to celebrate two years from its Olympic Games in 2012, the government announced that its cost-cutting programme will include the merging of Sport England with UK Sport.

The reasoning of Sports Minister Hugh Robertson is that it is financially efficient to have two bodies distributing National Lottery money to sport: UK Sport funds elite Olympic athletes and promising sports stars while Sport England funds grassroots sports in terms of facilities and coaching, albeit only in England rather than the entire UK.

Robertson also listed plans to close the central London offices of Sport England, UK Sport and the Youth Sport Trust in 2012 and co-locate them outside the capital to save on rent and support costs.

He said the level of exchequer funding would be cut but hoped compensation would be seen in a changes to Lottery share-outs which, he suggested, would boost sport's take by £100m by 2012 as well as a new scheme to persuade sport to invest more of its TV income in grassroots sport.

However, Robertson promised that the sports participation legacy which helped to secure the 2012 Games would not be affected. He said a new "community sports legacy plan" would divert lottery funding into a new scheme designed to protect sports facilities up and down the country.

Bleaker street

Robertson, explaining the bleaker future, said he had originally promised to deliver a 2012 participation legacy plan by this month but tjis made no sense ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review in October.

He added: "When I took over this job, one I have wanted all my life, I didn't want to have to spend my whole time with my nose in a budget sheet – which is largely what has happened in the last two months. But I have a plan to get us through this, which is to increase the money that comes through the Lottery, to help raise more money through broadcast income and sponsorship and to make the case for sport across government.

"We are in the middle of the process at the moment, so I can make no promises, but I am doing everything I can to get sport through this."

Former culture secretary Andy Burnham criticised the prospective cuts, particularly as they relate to sports projects within health and education and to local authority investment in facilities, as "a hollowing out of sport as in the Conservative 1980s and the Olympic legacy being thrown away."

Sue Campbell, chair of UK Sport, weas reported as saying that failing to preserve a legacy for elite sport by maintaining funding at close to the current levels would be "shameful." Performance director Peter Keen hinted at a review of investments in medal-potential sports.

Keywords · UK Sport · Sport England · London 2012 · Robertson · Burnham · Campbell · Keen

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