Shot in The Arm for British Sport

THE Chancellor’s Autumn Statement may have revealed future hardship for students and recent graduates, but for sport throughout Britain, it’s a different story. UK Sport, the UK’s largest sports charity which distributes public money to elite sport, has been granted a 29% increase in funding.  

This is good news – and somewhat unexpected – for the sports organisation, who feared budget cuts would be imminent.

It also means that, when combined with funding from the National Lottery, UK Sport will be set to receive around £148 million over the next five years in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and confirms David Cameron’s commitment in continuing to build on the legacy left by the 2012 London Games, and confidence in UK Sport’s strategy to deliver results at an elite level.

In particular, Chancellor George Osborne also added that extra support would be underway in surprise bids to host two major sporting events – the Road World Cycling Championships and the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in Manchester.

Better still, the likes of Lord Coe – in his first year as head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) – will welcome the extra £400,000 that will be added to the UK Anti-Doping budget in the increasingly difficult fight against drug cheating in sport.

At a time when austerity is under such scrutiny, these budget announcements are a positive sign for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. For UK Sport, Sport England and the UK Anti-Doping, it is also a huge relief. The Chancellor’s reserved funding for these areas is a sign that sport is still valued by the government and recognised as a fundamental and ever-important part of British culture which must be financially supported in order to produce generational role models, economic gain and an increased national pride. When George Osborne declared last week ‘‘we’re going for gold in Rio and Tokyo’’, perhaps he really meant it.

His words echo UK Sport’s ambition in bettering the medal tally that was achieved at London 2012 – which would mean winning 66 Olympic medals and 121 at the Paralympics, although the organisation has yet to officially publicise their realistic medal objectives for the Games.

However, with the pros inevitably come the cons. The 24% cut to local government grant funding will leave community sport, which depends on local authorities, in a more precarious position. In the long-term, this is likely to lead to a drop in participation rates and rising obesity levels within more economically disadvantaged areas, with reduced spending on local leisure facilities.

Fiona Tomas 

Featured image: Huffington Post

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