Dame Katherine Grainger acknowledges call for change but urges caution on risk to winning formula

Published 29 June 2017

Dame Katherine Grainger, who takes up her position as Chair of UK Sport next week, has acknowledged a call by a minority of national governing bodies (NGBs) for a new approach to investment in Olympic and Paralympic sport.

Currently in its 21st year, the UK high performance system has delivered unprecedented success since National Lottery funding for elite sport began in 1997, taking the Olympic team from 36th in the medal table at Atlanta 1996 to second in Rio last year with the Paralympic team also securing second place with a high performance system building in strength, cycle after cycle. Team GB and ParalympicsGB achieving golds across the greatest variety of different sports of any nation competing in Rio.

Following the Rio Games, The Sporting Preferences survey, conducted for UK Sport by Populus, showed 72% of the public endorsed the use of UK Sport funding to support British Olympic and Paralympic medal success and a YouGov poll also found that Rio 2016 was by far Britain’s favourite sporting event of the year, with 41% of people choosing it over Wimbledon (5%) and Euro 2016 (4%) in second and third place respectively.

UK Sport is currently investing around £345 million National Lottery and Government funding into in 32 Olympic and Paralympic sports in the Tokyo cycle, with scope for further investment into some of the sports that have recently joined the Olympic and Paralympic programmes for Tokyo, once their medal potential is determined.

While UK Sport has been unable to invest in some of the disciplines within the 11 NGBs calling for change, all of the 11 sports do receive some public investment via the home country sports councils to support their sports at grass roots level. None of these sports have been able to demonstrate strong medal potential for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Incoming UK Sport Chair, Dame Katherine Grainger, said: “I really feel for the sports and athletes who have not been funded for the Tokyo cycle, particularly those that were funded in the Rio cycle as they are closer than others to having the potential to be there in Tokyo, which is every athlete’s dream.

“As someone who has personally benefitted from National Lottery funding I know how crucial it is to every athlete to enable them to be successful in their sport. It has completely transformed our sporting potential as a nation.

“All of these sports, UK Sport’s partners and the public were given the opportunity to input into the consultation on UK Sport’s investment strategy in 2014, well ahead of the Tokyo cycle getting underway, and the message was overwhelmingly that UK Sport should continue to focus on delivering medal success to inspire the nation.

“I will of course listen to these sports’ concerns, and UK Sport will go out to consultation again on its investment strategy for the 2024 cycle, but as things currently stand, as ever with finite investment, we simply cannot reach the sports who are furthest away from medal success.

“UK Sport runs a lean operation with 88% of its investment benefitting sports and athletes, either directly via the World Class Programme, or to fund their support services via the Insititutes, so to take the approach these sports are suggesting would mean taking away funding or expertise from athletes with greater chances of medal success.” 

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