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Financing elite athletes

Athletes waiting for funding to finance their training complained of delays by Chancellor Gordon Brown in allocating monies to the British Olympic Association (BOA) (E. Harris & P. Waugh, Evening Standard, February 15, 2006). The BOA has stated that it needs £500 million to develop young athletes. The Chancellor refused to announce a decision until after the March 2006 Budget. Three athletes announced that they were quitting because finance had not been made available. Ben Brown, who appeared on one of the London 2012 promotional posters, told the Standard:

Everywhere I look, there are 2012 posters and instead of filling me with excitement, they now make me feel sick, depressed and defeated. There are obviously large amounts of cash out there which are being spent on creating an attractive London arena for 2012, but not a penny is being spent on the young British athletes who might bring home a gold medal.

A meagre £15,000 a year would enable Ben Brown to train full time. Another gymnast, Daniel Carr also said that he had been forced to quit because of lack of money. Carr suggested that a grant of £2,000 a year for the next two years until he is 20, and then £6,000 a year until 2012 would enable him to carry on.

The training facility both Brown and Carr use, the Sutton School of Gymnastics (a school gymnasium), will close at the end of the year unless it receives funding to bring it up to national standards. If this happens, another Olympic hopeful, Laura Coggin, who appeared in the London 2012 promotional video and is tipped as a medallist in 2012, will also be forced to give up training as there are no other suitable facilities nearby.

Treasury claims to be lining up £250 million for athletes' training, "on top of another £250 million committed already" proved false. In the event, Brown delivered under a half of the BOA's demands. On March 23, 2006, he announced only a £200 million commitment over the next seven years to "widen the pool" of athletic talent in addition to £60 million already targeted at athletes regarded as potential medal winners (L. Gray, The Scotsman). The Scotsman reported that it was hoped that a further £100 million would be forthcoming from the private sector.

This masks the extent to which the private sector will be called on to finance sports and the training of elite athletes in the run up to the Games. Mihir Bose of The Daily Telegraph (March 23, 2006) revealed that LOCOG aims to raise another £600 million from the sector, and that the British Athletics Association plan to link all the governing bodies to a FTSE 100 company.

Sports bodies seeking money from the National Sports Foundation, a baby of the Chancellor's with a budget of £37.5 million, will be required to match funding pound for pound, again from firms. UK Sport are charged with looking for the £100 million sponsorship indicated in the Chancellor's speech. Bose concludes: "[This] means business will have to provide close to £1 billion in sponsorship over the next six years". £300 million has already been allocated from Lottery funds (S. Hart, Daily Telegraph, March 26, 2006).

This article is part of the Games Monitor briefing papers available for download from our Media Centre page.