UK Sport, the organisation currently charged with delivering Olympic and Paralympic success, believes the Government's decision to create a one-stop approach to high performance sport by transferring full responsibility for its funding and development is an important step on the journey to delivering medal-winning performances in 2012.
Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture Media & Sport, announced today that responsibility for the World Class Potential Programmes for Olympic and Paralympic sports, the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), London 2012 Scholarships and the funding and directing of the work of the English Institute of Sport (EIS), will transfer from Sport England to UK Sport with effect from 1 April 2006. UK Sport will also manage the performance pathway relationship for non-Olympic sports to ensure they receive the benefit of a more integrated performance system
Sue Campbell, Chair of UK Sport, says: "The Government's decision is welcome and necessary. For the first time, we have the opportunity to create one integrated system for the funding and management of high performance sport.
"Following the decision to award London the 2012 Games, the governing bodies of Olympic sport were united in arguing that a single agency should have responsibility for the 'performance pathway' - the period of an athlete's career that takes them from talent identification through to the podium. Whilst we have always done our best to make it work, the previous system was confused and complicated, leading to unnecessary bureaucracy and duplication of effort. The structure announced today is a big step towards making it more straightforward. It will allow us to have meaningful impact on decisions across the pathway and ensure that the investment of public money in sport is targeted where it is most required."
There is strong support for the move from the high performance sporting world. Dave Brailsford, the Performance Director at British Cycling and the man behind the performance of one of the nation's most successful Olympic sports, is in no doubt about the impact it will have:
"I have been concerned for some time about the complicated and fragmented system of support for Olympic sport and have always said it is a distraction to performance. The changes announced today, placing responsibility for performance with UK Sport, is fantastic news. This demonstrates how committed everyone is to success at London 2012. I can now get on with the job of helping athletes to deliver medals confident that an effective support system is in place."
The changes were also welcomed by the British Athletes' Commission, which is Chaired by Modern Pentathlete Kate Allenby. "This is excellent news for athletes as it allows us to focus entirely on performance," she said. "It gives us real confidence in the sporting system in the UK, and shows that all is being done to put the athletes first." Campbell continued: "The change of responsibility is very necessary. The world of an elite athlete bears little resemblance to that of the vast majority of sportsmen and women in this country and it is right that the structure designed to support them reflects that. The existing closeness of our partnership with the EIS and TASS means that we are fully able to take on the funding and direction of their work in supporting the world-class athletes of today and tomorrow.
"Taking lead responsibility for the World Class Potential Programme underpins our own World Class Performance Programme and gives us significant input into the crucial development years that lead up to an athlete becoming a genuine world class competitor, ensuring that all the sports benefit from an integrated performance system. We will work closely with our colleagues in Sport England and the other Home Countries to ensure that this new structure is workable and that we are genuinely able to bring a 'no compromise' approach to bear.
"In all these deliberations, we have only one aim: a simplified performance pathway that will reduce the current fragmentation of funding and support and primarily help sport to deliver in Beijing, London and beyond. The lesson of the 2012 bid is that we must all work together to achieve this common goal. UK Sport is keen to play its part in ensuring the nation's future sporting success."