Is it time for UK Sport to change its 'no compromise approach' to funding?
The recent headlines from GB Basketball star Temi Fagbenle have reignited the debate around UK Sport's no compromise approach to funding elite sport.
We have a long history at the Sports Think Tank of trying to keep this debate alive. I was lucky to have been involved in both DCMS and then the Treasury Ministerial teams ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games that made some of these decisions to invest both Exchequer and Lottery funding into UK Sport to deliver a successful games for Team GB. Even in 2006 my understanding was that there would need to be a return to some sort of normality after 2012 for many sports that have up their funding for the 2012 cycle.
I was of the opinion in 2012/13 that the debate needed to take place, within sport and with the public. However, the success of 2012 showed we had created a 'system' that could deliver and we pursued a pathway for desiring even more success for Rio 2016.
However, the decline of lottery sales and a long period of austerity which is starting to hit grassroots sports even harder has put another sharp focus on what we are trying to achieve with this single minded desire to win medals at Olympic sports only?
To be fair to UK Sport they have been given a simple and measurable task – to deliver medals and they have been measured on that success. Any changes to what has undoubtedly been a successful system, for which I take some responsibility; will have to be made at a political level. As a former politician I can fully understand why any Sports Minister doesn't want to the one responsible for Team GB slipping backwards in the Medals table in Tokyo, Paris and LA.
This is why we need a proper open transparent debate as a nation about what we want from our investment. It needs a consensus from politicians, public, sports and the media to buy into any new approach and not play politics with any medal tally decline or a media campaign which creates a blame culture for fewer medals.
The previous attempts at consultation were run for UK Sport. They are worth looking at. But we think the time is right again, otherwise we will be stuck into the focus of Paris 2024 after Tokyo. We need to make a long term decision and if it is to change the focus of funding it needs a long lead in time to help sports make investment decisions and work with their staff. Cuts to NGBs in 2016-17 were poorly handled.
Andy Reed OBE
The key questions around this debate are:
QUESTION 1 – THE PRIMARY FOCUS
Should the primary focus of our investment policy continue to be delivering medal success as the key outcome, or not?
QUESTION 2 – IN WHICH SPORTS SHOULD UK SPORT INVEST?
Should our investment approach continue to focus solely on Olympic and Paralympic sports, or not?
If not, should the approach be broadened to include other UK-level sports or disciplines? What might be included and why?
QUESTION 3 – MAXIMISING THE IMPACT OF INVESTMENT
In your view what factors (besides medals and medallists) can or do demonstrate 'success' in high performance sport, and how would you like to see UK Sport incorporate these into our strategy?
QUESTION 4 – 'DEEPER' INVESTMENT TO UNDERPIN EVEN LONGER TERM SUCCESS
Should UK Sport consider investing in or supporting sports or athletes who are further down the performance pathway i.e. those who are more than eight years away from winning a medal, or not?
If so, on what basis could UK Sport invest or provide support?
QUESTION 5 – PRIORITISING FINITE INVESTMENTS
In the context of having finite resources, how would you suggest that UK Sport prioritises our future investments? What should be our top investment priority following the Rio Olympic/Paralympic Games?
QUESTION 6 – FURTHER IMPROVEMENTS TO UK SPORTS APPROACH
Do you have any further ideas or views on what we might do improve our investment approach in high performance sport?