12th December 2008

Lottery Funding Comment



13 December 2008



Article by Ed Warner as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine




The distribution of lottery funds by UK Sport to Britain’s Olympic sports, announced last week, reminds me of the old adage that a camel is a horse designed by committee. Everyone will feel that, given a free hand, they would come up with something different.


Best, then, to focus on our own grant and not expend energy dissecting the awards to other sports. Athletics is awarded £25.1m for our Olympic programme (a few per cent down on the past four year cycle) and a broadly unchanged £6m for our four year Paralympic programme.


We’re pleased with this outcome, which should be sufficient to achieve everything we plan with the slimmed-down list of athletes announced last month under the leadership of Charles van Commenee and, soon, a new head of our Paralympic programme.


The press has been exercised by the small reduction in our funding. But if they think that this was either something revelatory, or a motivational impetus that was somehow lacking, then they obviously missed what we said after Beijing and on the announcement of Charles’s appointment. Our planning began some time ago, and we don’t need any outside agency to provide us with our ambitions for 2012.


Last week’s funding news has renewed the debate about the benefits and drawbacks of lottery funding. The arguments on both sides are well known. Suffice to say that I’m clearly of the view that lottery money spent well must be better than none at all. But, obviously, spending well is a huge caveat.


Our decisions on which athletes to fund, or which coaches to employ, will never meet with universal approval. And, by definition, the number of unfunded athletes and coaches will always dwarf the few that are. One of our challenges is to ensure that this imbalance does not become a destructive force, but that the success of our elite programmes provides a positive stimulus to the entire sport. I can’t pretend that this will be easy, but I can assure you that we are acutely aware of the challenge.


The same problem is writ large for Britain’s overall Olympic programme. A string of smaller sports have no guarantee of lottery funding for the next 4 years. Having said that there’s little point commenting on the appearance of the camel, I will say that – as a fan of Team GB as well as chairing UKA – I do think it’s a great shame that the shortfall in funding threatens to leave these sports short of resources. If we can assist in UK Sport’s endeavours to bridge the funding gap on behalf of these sports, we will willingly do so.