A UK Scheme aimed at supporting young athletes crossing over from talent to elite potential is to be cut from September 2014. The Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme was introduced in 2003 and has distributed £24 million in 6,000 grants over the past ten years.
The Government funding, supplied through Sport UK will be discontinued from next year with a greater emphasis being placed on giving more support to fewer athletes that have the greatest potential.
Alumni of the scheme won 19 medals at the Beijing Olympics and Paralympic Games, and 44 last year in London. They included Helen Glover who won Gold in Rowing, as well as the heart of the nation, and who used her £3,500 grant to put petrol in her car to attend training when she was at teacher training college.
The purpose of the scheme was to help those in a small way that might otherwise fall away from sport unable to justify the immense investment of time with the ability to maintain a semi-regular life.
It succeeded and was taken on as a template by the International Olympic Committee who framed some of its own education programmes around the lessons learned through the athletes and the administrators of the programme.
Now there is a danger it will be no more but the need for it remains.
Sport for Business is working up a number of potential ideas on sports funding with Ulster Bank and other members arising out of last week’s Round Table on the subject. Funding the crossover point between those who might and those who can delivers not only for the elite but also as a beacon of acknowledgement for those who are willing to make the effort.
That is important and if business can contribute in some way to helping, the rewards, while not so tangible as some areas of investment, may be no less rewarding in the longer term.