Team GB’s success puts pressure on PM to sustain funding for elite sport
David Cameron is expected to guarantee funding for the system behind Team GB’s success through to the Rio Games in 2016
In the wake of Team GB’s Olympic success in London, the prime minister is expected to confirm that funding for elite sport will be guaranteed through to the next Games in Rio.
As the medals have poured in, pressure has grown on the government to guarantee the funding of the quango overseeing the high-performance system that has powered Team GB to third place in the medal table.
Going into the Games, UK Sport’s funding – derived from a mixture of National Lottery and exchequer revenue – was protected only until the next comprehensive spending review in 2014-15.
But as part of a package of Olympic legacy announcements, David Cameron is expected to confirm that funding will be maintained at least at the same level as for London over the next four years.
UK Sport has received around £500m over the past four years, with around £312m of that poured into the world-class performance programme that funds Olympic sport. According to its “no compromise” formula, the money is directed at those sports most likely to win medals. Cycling, rowing, sailing and athletics all receive more than £25m over each four-year cycle.
The system has been credited with helping Team GB from 10th place in the medal table in Athens in 2004 to fourth in Beijing and a likely third in London. In return for guaranteeing the funding through to 2016 and giving UK Sport the ability to plan with certainty, the government will require the body to take more of a lead in improving the operation of sports’ governing bodies.
Amid an ongoing debate about the future of school sport, and criticism of the education secretary Michael Gove’s decision to axe £162m in ringfenced funding for organised school sport in favour of a £65m pot that is guaranteed only until next year, Cameron has also announced plans to require every primary school pupil to take part in competitive team sport as part of the curriculum.
“I want to use the example of competitive sport at the Olympics to lead a revival of competitive sport in primary schools. We need to end the ‘all must have prizes’ culture and get children playing and enjoying competitive sports from a young age, linking them up with sports clubs so they can pursue their dreams,” Cameron said. “That’s why the new national curriculum in the autumn will include a requirement for primary schools to provide competitive sport.”
Critics of the government’s school sport strategy say the conflict between competitive sport and physical exercise is a false one and that both have their place. They say it is more important to have a network of dedicated sports specialists working in primary schools, something that is threatened when funding for a day release scheme for secondary school PE teachers runs out later this year.
The new PE curriculum, to be published in draft form this autumn, will be “slimmer and more focused” and “encourage outdoor and adventurous activity”, Downing Street said.