UK Sport and SportsAid, the sports charity, today unveiled a strategic partnership designed to offer enhanced support to emerging athletes across 35 sports in the build up to the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
The new partnership is as a result of changes to the TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme) scheme introduced to bring more clarity and certainty to the way in which the scholarships are awarded. The changes were immediately welcomed by Gerry Sutcliffe MP, Minister for Sport.
Since TASS, and its sister programme TASS 2012, was introduced in 2004 more than 3,000 athletes have received financial support, helping them to maximise their sporting potential without compromising their academic careers.
From April 2008, UK Sport will allocate £8million of TASS funding to athletes in summer Olympic sports over the four year cycle through to the London Games in 2012. This money will be part of the overall funding package for National Governing Bodies designed to maximise our medal opportunities at the London Games.
A further £12 million will be administered by SportsAid in the same period to TASS and TASS 2012 athletes outside of those Summer Olympic sports. In addition, the charity intends to supplement this with a minimum of £2million private sponsorship. Higher and Further Education establishments will provide a further £2million worth of support to help deliver much needed core services to the athletes.
The new package will enable the direct support of around 800 talented young athletes, drawn from 35 sports, with grants ranging from £3,500 to £10,000 per year. It will also underpin the provision of flexible support to 250 world class student-athletes as part of UK Sport’s World Class Performance Programme.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the support TASS provides” said Shelley Rudman, Olympic silver medallist at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. “As an athlete, it gives you a real sense of solidity, and allows you to concentrate purely on performance.”
“This is another important milestone in the build up to London 2012” said Gerry Sutcliffe. “I believe that supporting world class athletes in a progressive academic environment, and helping other emerging athletes as their talents evolve and improve, is a critical role.
“Align that properly to the focus on our schools, through the Youth Sport Trust, on our communities, through Sport England and on our elite programmes, through UK Sport, and our system now has real clarity – something I know the National Governing Bodies of sport have been crying out for.”
Sue Campbell, Chair of UK Sport, said: “Through our strategic role in leading performance sport in this country, we know how critical it is to provide the right environment for our athletes.
“It is therefore fantastic that we can focus UK Sport’s activities around our main priorities while SportsAid, working in conjunction with the NGBs and many excellent institutions within Higher and Further Education, have the opportunity to nurture young athletes in education in a truly supportive manner.”
Adrian Friend, the SportsAid Trustee and director with responsibility for TASS 2012, added: “We relish the opportunity to make a real difference. Our role is to sustain and strengthen the impact of the work undertaken in the last three years.
“We have a clear remit - to foster our brightest hopes. By working with our partners in Higher and Further Education, and in the commercial community, we have the capacity to give athletes the academic flexibility their sporting ambitions require and their talents deserve.”
As part of the new strategy, the number of HE/FE institutions involved in TASS will be reduced to ensure the sporting services provided can properly be managed in terms of quality and consistency. From 2008, support to TASS athletes will be delivered via 20 ‘hub’ Institutions, which will in turn offer athletes access to a network of over 100 educational establishments in their region.
SportsAid has, over 30 years, established a reputation as the only UK charity directly helping fund young British sports people. It has already secured £1.6million from corporate partners in the TASS programme.
In addition to Rudman, successful TASS athletes include Greg Rutherford, Becky Lyne and Anyika Onuora, medallists at the 2006 European Athletics Championships in Gothenberg.
Five TASS alumni – swimmers Matthew Clay and Liam Tancock, 1500 metre runner Lisa Dobriskey, gymnast Louis Smith and shooter Rachel Parish – won gold medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. In all, 21 TASS alumni won medals in Melbourne.