17th November 2008

Comment On Funding Annoucement

Column as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine by UK Athletics’ CEO Niels de Vos


17th November 2008


Headlines last week unsurprisingly focussed on the announcement relating to individual lottery funding for athletes (Athlete Personal Award). As the biggest Olympic sport we are used to the level of attention this annual announcement achieves, and it is to be expected when the funds used are those from the public purse by way of the National Lottery. Every athlete is assessed against a strict performance matrix – which ensures that the process is fair, logical and focuses on performance.


The focus has also been on the reduction in athletes awarded the top tiers of funding – a number reduced to just 33 athletes. With a 20% reduction on the overall numbers receiving support in 2009, it has been a tough yet measured and honest process – but this is so that we can focus more on less – as the World Class programme gears towards maximising investment into genuine London 2012 prospects.


But it would be a shame if those outside the sport assumed this annual event was simply about how much money we are going to give athletes next year, and what sort of lump sum will be received by our top performers.


The APAs only make up a part of our sport’s lottery funding – and a relatively small part at that. Even at the very top of Podium the highest award is just £25,383 and those who have medalled at world of Olympic level – which is what it takes to be on the highest level of funding  – are more than likely to be means tested out of all or some of the award, which is designed only to cover essential living and training costs.


The bulk of the Lottery Award to UK Athletics is invested in the World Class Performance Programme that supports these athletes as well as helping run the many GB teams competing at every level.


For example – the High Performance Centre (HiPAC) Structure, provides these athletes with the access to those services essential in the high performance environment.


Sometimes, underwhelmingly referred to as “medical support” this package includes access to the best sports-physicians, medicine, physiotherapy and medical facilities in the country.  Similarly “Sports Science” does not explain the layers of bio mechanists, nutritionists and strength and conditioning expertise – the list of support provided is immense.


Outside of this, the funding ensures we can support the competitive opportunities for our athletes  and allows us to send fully supported GB teams to up to twenty separate international competitions every year. It is also worth remembering the ability to compete at this level requires the correct training environment and warm weather training opportunities are also supported by Lottery Funds.


Likewise, at major championships it would be foolhardy to invest in an athlete all year round and send them unsupported to the biggest competitive arena of the year – therefore the huge logistical operation of taking the athletes, their coaches and the support staff to major events is as much dependent on Lottery Funding as the individuals athletes themselves.


Headlines aside, the lottery plays a vital part in the structure of our elite sport, and whilst the athlete personal awards will understandably gain the most attention, the process will always be about much more.