On the evening of 29 November 2016 at least one national newspaper was reporting that UK Sport, the body responsible for funding elite sport in the UK, had made a ‘last-ditch funding plea to Government’ against ‘severe cuts’.
Against a background of unprecedented sporting success in Rio this summer which led to an outburst of national pride and to UK Sport’s Chief Executive claiming GB was now a bona fide ‘sporting superpower’, it is legitimate to ask why is happening now?
With each medal at Rio costing the UK public an average of £5.5 million and the increased level of scrutiny on governance and accountability in sport, Sports Shorts recently queried whether the current funding levels could or would continue.
However, this particular (potential) funding crisis has arisen as a result of an entirely separate issue: a change in public behaviour in buying National Lottery tickets that has led to a fall in profits of 6% for National Lottery operator, Camelot, in the first half of the company’s financial year. The decline in profits meant that Camelot paid out £92million less than it had done during the same period in 2015. Camelot expect the second half of the financial year to be similarly challenging.
With two-thirds of UK Sport’s income made up of takings from the National Lottery and the other third being made up by the Exchequer, it is clear to see that the overall monies available to elite sport will be severely affected if a solution to the funding shortfall cannot be found.
UK Sport received £350 million of funding from the National Lottery in the four year funding cycle up to Rio 2016 and was expecting to receive a similar amount for the Tokyo 2020 funding cycle. However, the UK Sport Chairman, Rod Carr, today revealed that the 6% drop in sales could cost Team GB and Paralympics GB up to £30 million following projections that the annual amounts received from Camelot would be reduced by an amount between £6-8 million. To put that deficit in context, that is the equivalent amount of money that Cycling received over the four years to Rio 2016 and is more than the combined amount that Fencing, Diving, Judo and Modern Pentathlon received over the same period.
In 2015, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, increased UK Sport’s direct funding by 29%. However, with the uncertainty of Brexit to consider it is not at all clear that Osbourne’s successor, Phillip Hammond, will be willing to meet the expected funding shortfall. In such circumstances, UK Sport is allegedly in talks with the government regarding other forms of help such as tax breaks or a possible commitment to underwrite the funding deficit. Carr confirmed that if no solution can be found, UK Sport will have to take some ‘hard decisions’ in respect of which sports continue to receive funding and in what amounts.
With Camelot set to make its public announcement on Friday 9 December 2016, much is at stake for UK Sport, Team GB athletes and our nation’s self proclaimed status as a new age sporting superpower. This author for one will be buying up her National Lottery tickets for tomorrow!