Sports Minister Richard Caborn today called for a "full and comprehensive debate" on the structure of elite sport in the UK to continue the work done so far in creating a system capable of delivering sustained British success of the world stage following the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
The Minister - who was opening the second annual UK Sports Institute World Class Coaching Conference at The Belfry - said that the Strategy Unit report into the organisation of British sport, which is due to be published in December, contains recommendations that will contribute to achieving this goal.
"There are a lot of actors on the stage of how we organise elite sport in this country," he explained. "We want a comprehensive debate on how we take British sport forward post-Athens.
"There exists an opportunity for significant changes to develop a sustainable system that is second-to-none in the world."
The Minister, who has just returned from a two-week fact-finding mission to the high performance sports institutes in Australia with UK Sport Chief Executive Richard Callicott, said that similarities existed between the challenges now facing the two countries.
"The highly-regarded Australian sports system was borne out of the failure of the 1970s. In the 1980s, serious amounts of money were invested that created the Australian Institute of Sport. They are now revisiting their system in terms of regionalisation to the states, and how to better link it with higher education.
"In the UK we had the introduction of the National Lottery in the 1990s, which contributed enormously to the success of British athletes at the Sydney Olympics. But that was more crisis management than a well thought out strategy. Now is the time to stand back.
"It will create problems, but if we bear in mind the bigger picture, collectively we can get there."
The Minister went on to praise UK Sport’s Modernisation Programme – a Government-funded initiative to professionalise national governing bodies and make them more efficient in their operations – saying that the model should be extended to encompass as much of British sport as possible.
He also took the opportunity to counter recent media reports that the Government might renege on its Lottery commitment to elite athletes in the run-up to Athens, stating that investment in World Class Performance would continue at £25 million per year.