How the funding works
Athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery backed World Class Performance Programme will receive support for their Olympic or Paralympic campaign via two channels. UK Sport will fund their sport’s governing body to provide a range of programme support services, without which the UK’s top athletes would find it difficult to be competitive on the world stage.
Each sport’s Performance Programme is overseen by a ‘Performance Director’, whose job it is to coordinate all the back-up that athletes require to deliver on their potential, which could include any (or all) of the following:
- World Class Coaches
- Sports science and medicine support
- Warm weather training and acclimatisation
- International competition schedule
- Athlete development programmes
- Access to appropriate training facilities
This ‘in kind’ support is typically worth around £55,000 per athlete per annum, at the Podium level and £30,000 per athlete at the Development stage, depending on the sport.
In addition, all athletes are entitled to apply for a personal award, known as an Athlete Personal Award or APA. This award, which is paid directly to the athletes, serves to contribute to the athlete’s ordinary living costs and to contribute towards their personal sporting costs.
The level of award received is determined by a number of criteria, not least of which is the level at which an athlete is capable of performing. While there are variances depending on the sport, three performance categories apply for ‘Podium’ level athletes:
- Band A – Medallist at Olympic or World Championship level
- Band B – Top 8 finish at Olympic or World level competition
- Band C – Likely to be major championship performers, but flexibility given to individual sports to set their own criteria
Maximum award levels for athletes on Podium level funding are currently set as follows:
- Band A - £27,737
- Band B - £20,804
- Band C - £13,869
The actual size of APA an athlete receives is dependent upon a means testing exercise. UK Sport has set a maximum income threshold of £65,163 (including their APA) above which an individual’s APA will begin to be deducted pound for pound. This means, for example, that an A band athlete can earn a further £37,426 from sponsorship, prize money or earned income before it affects the maximum APA figure they can receive. This figure obviously rises for band B and C athletes.
This allowance is made recognising that National Lottery awards are only a ‘contribution’ to the costs of being an athlete and that income from other sources will still be required in many cases. Additionally, many athletes often find some form of employment useful both as a ‘rest’ from their sporting endeavours and as a stepping stone to life after sport. Athletes earning large sums of additional income over and above their APA, in terms of sponsorship, prize money or salaries, will end up being ‘means tested out’ of the APA award, but will still receive programme support via their governing body.
The average APA payment to athletes on the Podium programme is currently around £18,500. The average figure for Development level athletes is closer to £7,500.
The advent of the National Lottery in 1994 first opened up the possibility for a new stream of funding to support the nation’s most talented athletes in their attempts to win medals for their country at the world’s most significant sporting events. In 1997 the World Class Performance Programme was created and the dream became a reality.
With limited funds being available before this time, few Olympic or Paralympic sports had what we would now recognise as a performance programme in place and initial funding awards were confined to those sports best placed to deliver medal success.
Over time more sports were able to get to the starting line with the help of funding at the ‘Development’ level and with funding levels increased ahead of the London 2012 Games, all summer Olympic and Paralympic sports now have fully funded World Class Performance Programmes.
Funding is awarded on the basis of an Olympic cycle and commences on 1 April in the year immediately following a Games, for a period of four years.