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Fri 3 October 2008, BBC News

Government step in to help elite athlete funding

By Mihir Bose
The government has said will provide the first £20m of the £80.1m earmarked for elite British athletes competing at the London 2012 Olympics. The £20m is the first installment on a funding package that runs from 2009-2013. As to the remaining £60m the government is still hopeful that some of it can be raised through fundraising via the recently launched Medal Hopes plan. Given the current economic climate this seems unduly optimistic. This elite funding package has generated a great deal of controversy over the years. Back in 2006, at the time of the Turin Winter Olympics, there was concern not enough was being done to make sure the best and most hopeful medal prospects of Team GB were being funded. The government then announced that £100m would be provided but the hope was that the money would be raised through the private sector. Towards the end of the Beijing Olympics, with the credit crunch making it impossible to raise such money in the marketplace, there was fresh controversy about whether the government would step in to make up for what some called a funding gap. By then more money from the National Lottery meant that the money required for the overall package had reduced to just over £80m. Ministers are reluctant to say they will step in but the fact that the first £20m is coming from the government indicates which way the wind is blowing. A final decision on the remaining £60m will not come until December when it appears very likely that the government will have to provide all the funds. I understand that the UK Sport board meeting held on Wednesday discussed the elite funding plans, and although no cheque for £20m has been received from the government, UK Sport is sufficiently confident to write to various sports promising to tell them by next week what sort of funding they will receive for 2009. The board meeting reiterated what is called its "no compromise policy". This means UK Sport is determined that Team GB aims to maintain its fourth place at the London 2012 medals table. To the delight and surprise of almost everybody, Team GB finished fourth in Beijing , achieving the target that had been set for four years hence. Before Beijing, the hope was only that they would finish around eighth. But having got ahead of schedule, UK Sport is determined to make sure there is no slipping back. Implicit in the no compromise policy is that sports that win medals, or have a prospect of winning medals, are likely to be funded and will be informed of their funding early next week. However, sports that have not done well will find their funding is cut. They face an uncertain time, as they will not hear about their funding levels until December. The whole approach is meant to make sure that the winning mentality, so brilliantly demonstrated in Beijing, carries through to London and beyond. Money will be given to sports that demonstrate they can convert funding into medals. Those that cannot will miss out.
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