Winning is everything.

Nic Chamberlain

Team GB Rio winning Olympic team

Just over a week since the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics has finished and the brilliant Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes made their triumphant return to an undeniably deserved tremendous welcome.  You should be able to look at all the positives of individual and team achievements in creating history.  Mo Farah becoming the second man to do a long distance double-double, Max Whitlock breaking a 116-year drought for Gold, the swimming team getting more medals than ever before, every single member of the cycling team to picking-up a medal and the Women’s Hockey team getting Gold.  There are history makers everywhere within team GB.  This achievement of smashing a previous medal count outside of Great Britain by 20 and also the first country to gain more medals at the next games from previously hosting will never be forgotten.  But, after the dust settles, athletes recover the hard work starts again as this is a never ending 4-year cycle not only for their livelihood but for their sports as well.

A quick search on UK Sport gives you a breakdown on how sports and individuals are funded and from an individual stand point you can clearly see how gaining a medal is important.  This support is typically worth around £36,000 - £60,000 per athlete per annum at the Podium level, and £23,000 - £40,000 per athlete at the Podium Potential level, depending on the sport.  The funding is awarded based on the Olympic cycle and begins the February following the Olympics and is for four years.  Sports are also held up to the same performance markers based on medal production and as we have seen this past year it doesn’t matter what the sport is.  There are positives and negatives to any kind of system in place but the fairest way is to reward based on performance.  Everyone knows what is expected and you have to perform to get what you deserve regardless of participation or ‘how big the sport is’.  An example of this is Great Britain Basketball.  They receive £10million a year from Sport England and nothing from UK Sport.  This is based off their poor performance at London 2012 and also general poor performance across all the tournaments which included losing to Iceland (seems to be a recurring pattern) at the EuroBasket 2015 qualifying.  Surveys show that Basketball is the second most participated sport amongst teenagers and the NBA played six games during the 15/16 season in London.  There is no doubting the popularity but that does not mean they should get more funding.  You only have to look at the amount of money has been pumped into football to see that supporting the most populous sports doesn’t guarantee success.  People will rightly argue that without the funding how can there be improvement?  I would counter that and suggest that if these children show enough potential then British Basketball should recognise this and support them with a move to a country more supporting of that particular sport, with a hope that overtime things may change.  Is this a likely situation?  Most definitely not, but the funding was there to help Basketball’s men and women teams during the 2012 London games, yet they only managed to win a pitiful 1 out of 10 games, which was quite simply not good enough.  Yes, you can look at the performances and say we pushed Spain all the way and did well in other games but it is a results business.

If it means you have to travel on a budget and in cramped conditions because there isn’t enough funding then fuel it to make you want to reach the next stage and not use it as an excuse and then lose to Iceland and Bosnia.  Do you think Iceland pumps £10million into their Basketball?  Also, do you think it is fair those athletes and sports that do put all the extra work in over their careers by getting up at 5am driving an hour to get in some training before school, getting home at 11pm after an evening training session and still have to deal with school.  They should get the same amount of funding or less because of a sport that is popular isn’t doing very well?  Not in my book.

I am firmly of the belief you should be rewarded for performance.  Do I care if it means that Rowing and Sailing receive £58.1million between them?  Not at all (on a side note Gymnastics only receives £14million) because we know that they will produce when it matters at the biggest stage and bring home medals which is what it is all about.  It is this kind of attitude that led us from producing a shocking performance in Atlanta 1996 and finishing 36th in the medal table to now overtaking China and finishing 2nd


Author: Nic Chamberlain, MasterClass Football Coach