Committee of Public Accounts

Press Notice No. 54 of Session 2005-06, dated 18 July 2006


Mr Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said today:

"With a funding package of £600 million having been announced by the government to support elite athletes in the run-up to the London Games in 2012, UK Sport must demonstrate much more clearly that its spending of public money is being used to best effect. Goals must be clearer, methods of assessing progress better and the reporting of British athletes' performance far more reliable.

"We can justly be proud of the achievements of some of our athletes at Athens. But most funded sports did not win the expected number of medals and 10 sports disappointingly achieved none. It is welcome that UK Sport has adjusted its targeting of funding between potential world beaters at Beijing in 2008 and the persistent underachievers. But it needs to be made quite clear to the latter that they must achieve specified levels of performance if the cheques are to keep on arriving.

"It should also be remembered that there must always be a balance between promoting sport at the highest levels and supporting the mass participation in sport so essential to the health and enjoyment of our citizens."

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 54th Report of this Session, which examined the use of lottery money to support elite athletes competing in Athens in 2004 and Turin in 2006; and the plans for Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.

UK Sport uses National Lottery money to support elite athletes competing at the highest levels of sport for the United Kingdom or Great Britain by providing funding, through its World Class Performance Programme, to national governing bodies of sport and to individual athletes. During the Athens Olympic cycle from April 2001 to March 2005, UK Sport awarded £83.5 million for 17 Summer Olympic and 15 Paralympic sports.

In Athens, Great Britain finished 10th in the Olympic medal table, achieving UK Sport's target of 8th to 10th, and 2nd in the Paralympic medal table, missing the target of 1st. The majority of funded sports did not meet the medal targets they had agreed with UK Sport and 10 sports delivered no medals.

As well as targets for the Olympics and Paralympics, UK Sport has a number of other performance measures for the World Class Performance Programme. During the course of the Athens Olympic cycle, however, UK Sport's performance reporting was erratic and not always accurate.

At the time of the Committee's hearing, UK Sport had awarded funding of £98 million for the Beijing Olympic cycle from 2005 to 2009. For all the sports that underperformed in Athens, UK Sport has cut funding and/or reduced the number of athletes supported for Beijing. UK Sport has also identified a number of sports which it expects to do better in the future, including athletics.

Looking ahead to London in 2012, UK Sport told the Committee it would not set a medal table target until it knew what resources were available. The Committee learned subsequently, however, that UK Sport's 2003-06 funding agreement with the Department had included a target to finish 5th in the medal table in 2012, and that UK Sport's funding submission to Ministers had set out a range of funding options for 2012 with associated targets. The Department and UK Sport have since acknowledged that they could have made matters clearer in their original evidence. The Government has now announced a funding package of £600 million to support elite athletes in the run up to 2012, including £100 million to be raised from commercial sponsorship

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