Radcliffe will be chief Lottery loser
Restricting funding to potential medallists is likely to see the 39-year-old runner left by the wayside
Sunday 14 October 2012
Paula Radcliffe is expected to be one of the big losers when UK Athletics announce a drastically reduced list of Lottery-funded athletes for 2012-13 tomorrow.
The domestic governing body of track and field have decided to narrow their World Class Performance Programme from athletes deemed capable of making the top eight to those of medal potential. Only athletes who showed potential top- three form at the 2012 Olympics or 2011 World Championships, and those considered capable of emerging as medallists on the road to the Rio Olympics, will receive top-level funding, which ranges from £13,000 to £26,000.
That means Radcliffe is likely to drop from UKA's "Podium" funding list. The marathon world-record holder, who turns 39 next month, was on the roster for 2011-12 but was forced to withdraw from the Olympic marathon because of a foot problem that required surgery. She has run just one marathon in the past three years, finishing third in Berlin last autumn in 2hr 23min 46sec, a time which ranked her 19th in the world in 2011.
Other established GB internationals in danger of being cut from the list include Jenny Meadows and Lisa Dobriskey, both middle-distance medal winners at the 2009 World Championships, Commonwealth 1500m bronze medallist Steph Twell, 2009 London Marathon runner-up Mara Yamauchi and members of the under-achieving men's and women's 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m relay squads.
One name certain to be absent is that of Dwain Chambers. The sprinter might have been cleared to compete in the Olympics after the outlawing of the British Olympic Association ban on the selection of former drug offenders, but UK Sport, the government agency who distribute Lottery funding, retain a zero-tolerance attitude towards athletes with doping convictions.
One notable name expected to survive the cut is that of Phillips Idowu. The former triple-jump world champion endured a torrid summer, seeking medical assistance away from UK Athletics in a desperate attempt to cure an injury and make the Olympics before eventually failing to get beyond the qualifying round.
However, the Belgrave Harrier enjoys a more harmonious relationship with Neil Black, the newly appointed performance director, than he did with outgoing head coach Charles van Commenee, and his silver-medal performance at last year's World Championships in Daegu is likely to be strong enough to keep him on board.
The shift in funding emphasis is part of a significant shake-up behind the scenes at UK Athletics in the aftermath of the London Olympics. In addition to the promotion of Black – from head of performance support services, science and medicine – and the departure of Van Commenee, the Paralympic sprinter Sophia Warner has been hired as commercial director with a view to attracting a portfolio of blue-chip sponsors, and there has been talk of UKA considering a withdrawal from their Lee Valley complex in north London to a single national high-performance centre at Loughborough.
According to UK Sport, however, UK Athletics' decision to toughen their qualifying criteria for athletes seeking Lottery funding does not equate to a cut in financial backing for the principal Olympic sports post-2012.
"The key message from us is that it doesn't mean UK Athletics are going to receive a reduction in their funding," a UK Sport spokesman said. "That decision has not been made. It will be announced in mid-December, when all sports are made aware of how much will be invested for Rio.
"No funding decisions have been made for any Olympic sport at the moment, or Paralympic sport for that matter. There's an ongoing process where each sport makes its business case and then appears before a panel to present that case. The funding decisions will then be made.
"There's a similar amount of money to be invested for Rio as there was for London. If athletics puts forward a compelling case, UK Sport will invest accordingly."
In the last Olympic cycle, running from April 2009 to April 2013, athletics had £25,148,000 of funding from UK Sport. It was the third-highest recipient, behind rowing and cycling.
It was confirmed last week that the insurance giant Aviva would not be renewing their sponsorship deal with UK Athletics. Aviva have been the sole major sponsors of the governing body since 1999, and the £50 million, six-year agreement they signed in 2006 was the most lucrative in British sport outside football at the time.
UK Athletics are seeking to build a portfolio of several commercial partners, in the style of the Uefa Champions' League, whereas Aviva wanted to retain exclusivity. UKA's chief executive, Niels de Vos, who will work closely with Warner in the search for new backers, said: "The appetite for companies to invest in athletics following our success in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games is strong."
Warner's dream job
Sophia Warner's mission as the newly appointed commercial director of UK Athletics is to exploit the stratospheric exposure that track and field enjoyed on these shores during the London Olympic Games and Paralympics. The 38-year-old was one of the British stars who basked in the glow created by the sell-out 80,000 capacity crowds at the Olympic Stadium. She was one of the leading members of the home team in the Paralympics, finishing fourth in the T35 100m and 200m.
Warner, a mother of two from Dorking in Surrey, has cerebral palsy. She took a sabbatical from a highly successful career in marketing to prepare for London 2012. She was previously a marketing executive at British Telecom, Nestle and Palmer and Harvey.
She has described her role at UK Athletics, which she started a fortnight ago, as "a dream job". She intends to continue with her athletics career in her spare time.
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