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Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Funding reprieve for 2012 sports

By Matt Slater

NBA star Luol Deng in action for Great Britain
If Luol Deng is to take GB's basketball team to London funding is crucial

The agency handling budgets for Team GB has promised no sports will be left unfunded after this week's key decision on spending plans for London 2012.

But UK Sport has admitted "difficult calls" are inevitable with 50m missing from the proposed total of 600m.

Sports find out on Wednesday how much funding they will receive.

"No-one is more committed than us to ensuring we have a full team that performs creditably in every sport," said UK Sport boss Sue Campbell.

"But there will be some sports at the bottom where we've just got to be realistic and say we've still got some work to do to raise that money - but we haven't given up on those sports and we'll not give up on anybody."

BBC Sport's Matt Slater reports from Sheffield on the Olympic funding gap

An initial 79m shortfall on the proposed total of 600m was reduced to 50m on Tuesday after the Department of Culture, Media and Sport secured extra cash. The hole in UK Sport's finances was supposed to be filled by corporate cash but none has arrived.

Campbell's assurances will come as some comfort to those athletes who have been anxiously waiting to discover if they will even be given a chance to compete in London and will also allay the worst fears of the British Olympic Association (BOA) and London 2012's organising committee (Locog).

The BOA, the organisation responsible for Team GB at an Olympics, is determined to field a full team in London and Locog knows a "home" team's involvement in any given sport is essential to generate atmosphere and ticket sales.

Some sports who are unlikely to medal may not get the funding they'd hope for, but that's the reality - we're not going to compromise

UK Sport's Sue Campbell
But in recent months there has been considerable speculation that the funding agency, faced with the shortfall in its budget, will axe sports that have little or no chance of delivering medals, and cut support for sports that missed their medal targets in Beijing.

This has caused dismay throughout Team GB, particularly in those sports that have started elite programmes from scratch since London won the right to stage the Games in 2005.

Funding for Olympic and Paralympic sport runs in four-year cycles and the "Beijing cycle" money, which totalled 265m, runs out in March 2009.

That sum includes a top-up of 65m that came in March 2006, when Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced increased investment in "our 2012 Olympic champions" in his last budget as Chancellor.

Brown pledged a six-year total of 600m that would be made up of 300m from the National Lottery, 200m from the public purse and 100m from the private sector. This meant the overall pot for 2009-2013 would rise to 354m.

Brown's farewell flourish enabled UK Sport to increase the backing it was giving to Britain's most successful sports and provide seed capital to sports Team GB had little or no pedigree in - sports such as basketball, handball, table tennis and volleyball.

Peter Cousins losing in Beijing
Beijing under-achievers, like judo, face an anxious wait on Wednesday
Sadly, not a penny of that 100m of private-sector cash has materialised in the intervening two and a half years, leaving UK Sport with a dilemma: stick to the "no compromise" formula of concentrating resources on proven medal-winners or spread what money is available and back the developing and underperforming sports too.

It was the former that delivered Britain's remarkable results in Beijing this summer.

The DCMS eventually appointed sports marketing firm Fast Track to help with the fundraising effort but the only plan to emerge - a scheme to "sell" corporate sponsors access to Olympic athletes - has been widely dismissed as a non-starter.

Thanks to a better-than-expected lottery contribution the hole in the budget shrunk to 79m, which still represented an annual deficit of nearly 20m (22%), an alarming amount for an agency that has been repeatedly told by the government to plan for the full 600m.

But a concerted lobbying effort at the Treasury by DCMS and UK Sport is believed to have taken a further 29m chunk off that shortfall - reducing it to 50m - although hopes the Government would agree to underwrite the entire 79m are thought to have died.

While Campbell was at pains to assure concerned sports, which range from archery to wrestling, about the implications of Wednesday's announcement, she also reaffirmed UK Sport's commitment to a "no compromise" approach to funding.

Lynn McCafferty takes on the Faroe Islands in Sheffield
Britain's improving handballers harbour hopes of springing a 2012 surprise
"We're going to invest where we can have the greatest success and that's been our strategy all along," she said.

"What that means is some sports who are unlikely to medal may not get the funding they'd hope for but that's the reality and we're not going to compromise that approach."

This clearly suggests those "non-medal" sports should expect to stay on "development" funding, not the full-fat "podium" funding the likes of cycling, rowing and sailing enjoy.

Just how much development cash they will receive, however, depends on the final figure the Treasury gives to the DCMS and the DCMS dishes out to UK Sport.

Britain's would-be Olympic handballers, volleyballers and the rest will simply be hoping the number is big enough to keep alive the Olympic dreams they have hatched and nurtured over the last two years.

Sizeable reductions in their already tight budgets would as good as consign those hopes to the scrap heap.

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see also
Smith calls for gymnastics cash
21 Nov 08 |  Olympics
GB athletes hit by funding cuts
05 Nov 08 |  Athletics
GB handball issues Olympic plea
24 Oct 08 |  Olympics
Cash boost for 2012 medal hopes
06 Oct 08 |  Olympics
GB chiefs target misfiring sports
26 Aug 08 |  Beijing 2008
Britain may aim for third in 2012
25 Aug 08 |  London 2012
Jowell rejects athlete cash fears
22 Aug 08 |  UK Politics
Olympic sports must earn funding
08 May 07 |  Olympics 2012
'Better return' on Olympic cash
18 Jul 06 |  UK News
Brown reveals 2012 funding boost
22 Mar 06 |  Olympics 2012

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