Olympic athletes boosted after sport escapes the worst in autumn statement – The Guardian

Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes have been given a funding boost for the 2016 and 2020 Games. UK Sport, the funding body for elite athletes, will see its income increase by 29% over the next five years, according to the government.

The elite funding body had feared significant cuts but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will have its budget trimmed by 5% – rather than the 25-40% forecast – meaning UK Sport, the grassroots funding body Sport England​ and UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) all escaped a financial hit.

There remain, however, serious concerns over the long-term ​impact of local authority cuts at grassroots level, with numerous sporting facilities having ​been affected across the country.

UK Sport receives a third of its £135m annual funding from the exchequer, with the remainder from the national lottery. That figure is set to rise to £148m per year ahead of the Tokyo games in 2020, and the government is still confident that gold medals for Britain at the Olympics can assist grassroots sport despite a gradual decline in participation figures.

There will be a flat cash settlement for grassroots sports funding, with Sport England – which invests £325m of taxpayer and lottery funding into grassroots sport each year – receiving a cash increase of £2.6m, a slight drop in real terms. Ukad received a 7% cash increase, with the government protecting t​he national body while world athletics is in the midst of a global doping crisis.

Despite the DCMS’s total administrative budget being cut by 20%, the overall picture ​was welcomed ​by many expecting drastic cuts. Tracey Crouch, the sports minister, said: “This settlement recognises the wider value of sport in society and how it plays an important role in boosting the economy. The increase in funding will support our elite athletes in the run up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, grow the grassroots to get more people involved in sport and promote clean sport in the UK and beyond.”

UK Sport distributes money to individual sporting bodies depending on their performance, rewarding those who excel with increased funds. ​After Britain won 65 medals at London 2012 it targeted an even better performance at Rio.

Rod Carr, the organisation’s chair, said: “We welcome the chancellor’s spending review announcement today, which included an increase in exchequer funding recognising the outstanding performance of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes in delivering those amazing medal moments.

“This clearly demonstrates the government’s continued commitment and confidence in UK Sport’s strategy to deliver results at successive Olympic and Paralympic Games and our world class major events hosting ability, enabling our athletes to continue to inspire future generations and make the nation proud.”

Sport England praised the “positive news for grassroots sport”, while the chief executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Emma Boggis, said: “We’re delighted that ​g​overnment has recognised the importance of sport and recreation with sustained investment in sport at all levels from the podium to the grassroots.”

The government also stated its intention to support bids to host the cycling Road World Championships and ​the ​2021 Rugby League World Cup “in the northern powerhouse”.

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