UK's Olympic and Paralympic funding to increase despite COVID-19

·3-min read
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14, 2016: Artistic gymnast Max Whitlock of the United Kingdom reacts after winning the men's pommel horse final at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, at the Rio Olympic Arena. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14, 2016: Artistic gymnast Max Whitlock of the United Kingdom reacts after winning the men's pommel horse final at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, at the Rio Olympic Arena. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)

Only the crusts are left on the national financial pie but Olympic and Paralympic sport will continue to get their hefty slice, writes Tom Harle.

More sports than ever before will be government funded for Paris 2024 in the biggest shake-up of Team GB and ParalympicsGB funding in Britain since London 2012.

Funding quango UK Sport feared £15m would be wiped off their budget after November’s Spending Review - instead they will see a modest increase of around £7m to a total £352m.

The introduction of £10m of Progression Funding for basketball, climbing, fencing, skateboarding, surfing, table tennis and weightlifting will see 43 sports backed.

As a sector we must be better at reaching, connecting and inspiring the British public Sally Munday

Giving cash to emerging and previously poorly-funded Olympic sports is the nexus of UK Sport’s strategy of rewarding medal potential over 12 years rather than four.

Minister for Sport Nigel Huddleston said: "Over the past decade, one of Britain's greatest success stories has been becoming an Olympic and Paralympic powerhouse, supported by funding from the Government.

“As we emerge from the pandemic our athletes will have our full support to focus on delivering more memorable medal-winning performances at Tokyo and beyond.”

There will be more investment in the World Class Programme (WCP) - coaching, training and competition support - for core Paralympic sports, rising £61m from £55m with wheelchair rugby a first-time beneficiary.

The 18 fully-funded Olympic sports will see total WCP money drop from £222m to £213m, with the big winners archery and badminton with 129% and 220% increases respectively.

Archery GB CEO Neil Armitage said: “We are delighted that the funding announced today will allow us to deliver our ambitions for an even better Performance Archery programme in Paris 2024.

“We understand the pressures that UK Sport and the wider sector are under as a consequence of the challenging circumstances created by the pandemic.

“But we are so pleased that sport is recognised as an important asset making a positive contribution to British society.”

There are also increases for crisis-hit British Cycling and diving. Canoeing has lost a quarter of its WCP funding, and every other sport will experience a small overall reduction.

The budget for Athlete Performance Awards - tax-free, performance-based grants to contribute to living costs - has increased from £61m to approximately £66m.

UK Sport CEO Sally Munday said: “Today’s decisions signal our future ambition to broaden the areas in which we achieve global success and deepening our societal impact.

“This means supporting more sports via the World Class Programme and Progression Funding than ever before, as well as welcoming more athletes and staff from varied backgrounds into our high-performance sporting community so we better reflect the diversity of the country we represent.

“As a sector we must be better at reaching, connecting and inspiring the British public in order to deepen our societal impact in communities across the country, using the exceptional power of sport and our platform in the British consciousness.”

In a further olive branch to non-core sports, a new £3m fund will open to support sports that did not secure Progression Funding with the costs of fielding national squads in their big events.

Munday added: “I’m really pleased that we’ll be launching a new fund next year which will be open to any summer sport not on World Class Programme or Progression Funding.”