The increasing cost of funding success for Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes is “at odds with the current financial climate”, the Government has warned.
Sports minister Tracey Crouch has launched a public consultation on sport in the UK which will be fed into the Government’s spending review – expected this autumn – and which is likely to lead to wide-ranging public sector cuts.
The new strategy will take a close look at the money spent on Britain’s elite athletes and also look to halt the decline in sports participation, with figures having dropped since a peak at the London 2012 Olympics.
Crouch said in June she would “rip up” the strategy on increasing participation and start again.
Olympic sports funding escaped any cuts in the spending review in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics and has been able to maintain the same levels for the four years to Rio 2016.
At elite level, UK Sport has invested £347m from Government and National Lottery money on Olympic and Paralympic athletes towards Rio but the consultation document warns the cost of success is spiralling upwards.
It says: “Government remains of the view that it should do everything it can to maximise the medal winning potential of Team GB and ParalympicsGB, and of the athletes being supported through every stage of the talent pathway.
“However, the international sporting stage is becoming increasingly competitive – other nations are continually devising and revising their own programmes of support for their Olympians and Paralympians and driving an expensive international market in coaches, performance directors, training programmes and equipment.
“This is driving up the overall cost of success, at odds with the current financial climate. The most pressing question for Olympic and Paralympic sport after Rio 2016 is how to sustain our success without the costs continuing to escalate to a point where they are unsustainable to be supported from the public purse.”
The strategy is likely to look hard at performances in the Rio Games next year, with any sports missing their targets likely to see funding axed.
In terms of the participation strategy, the continuing decline in numbers revealed by Sport England’s most recent active people survey is likely to lead to a massive shake-up.
Crouch said in June: “We have got a sport strategy that is very much out of date and that is the strategy that Sport England is designed to deliver. I’m saying that I’m going to rip up that strategy and start again.”
The number of adults in England who failed to take part in any sporting activity each month has risen to 25.2million from 23.6million in London 2012.
Swimming is still the country’s most popular participation sport but has seen the biggest decline, with 144,200 fewer people attending their local pool in the past six months.