UK Sport seeking clarity over shortfall

UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday received an MBE in 2013 for services to hockey

UK Sport is seeking clarity from the government over concerns that it could face a £15m financial shortfall next year after this week’s Spending Review.

BBC Sport has learned that the elite sport funding agency has called an emergency board meeting after fears the money it receives from the Treasury will not increase.

Like other public services, UK Sport was given a one-year settlement, rather than the usual three or four, because of uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But it is hoping for an assurance that government will continue to underwrite any fall in anticipated income from National Lottery sales, and avert a financial crisis that could affect preparations for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

A government spokesperson said: “We maintain our commitment to Olympic funding and fully recognise the impact the delay to the Tokyo Olympics has caused our elite athletes.

“We continue to work with UK Sport to ensure Team GB and Paralympics GB can focus on delivering outstanding performances at Tokyo and beyond.”

With Treasury funding remaining flat since 2012, the organisation has also been using more than £7m a year from its reserves to make up for inflation.

But those reserves are now depleted, with one well-placed source describing the situation as “very serious”.

BBC Sport has also spoken to leading figures from prominent sports governing bodies who are worried about the impact of the Spending Review of their future funding.

UK Sport is tasked with investing public money to maximise medal prospects at the Olympics and Paralympics.

Its world-class programme receives 31% of its funds from the government and 69% from the lottery, but there are fears ticket sales could be affected by the pandemic. Ministers have said they will cover any shortfall in lottery income, but only until March 2021.

In July, the government assured the body that funding levels – due to run out in March 2021 – would be extended for another year to cover preparations for the Tokyo Games after they were postponed. It meant national governing bodies could plan qualification competitions and training for athletes, and maintain support staff.

But there are now fresh fears that spending – including athlete performance awards – may have to be slashed as sports plan for the Paris 2024 cycle without the multi-year settlement they have become accustomed to.

In an email to sports on Thursday, and seen by the BBC, UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday said: “Yesterday the Chancellor unveiled the latest Comprehensive Spending Review and confirmed they would be issuing one year-budgets.

“[We] are still awaiting our final budget figures for the year ahead and remain in ongoing conversations with government to agree this. We have a meeting with our board this Friday evening to discuss potential outcome of these discussions.”

Munday has also called a meeting next Thursday with the chief executives, chairs and performance directors of all the sports that UK Sport funds, when she will reveal the consequences of the negotiations with government officials.

“This would be a hit to sports,” said an executive from a major governing body. “For the bigger Olympic sports a drop of £15m would not be good, and is a worry.”