Sports funding: pounds 25m for young talent

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S CRICKETERS will no doubt be reflecting today that things can only get better. They may be right - if a major new sports funding initiative announced in the presence of the Sports Minister, Tony Banks, yesterday has the desired effect.

The English Sports Council has launched two new funding schemes aimed at developing young sporting talent which will command an annual total of pounds 25m of National Lottery money.

The new figure will supplement the pounds 30m currently being spent every year on elite British performers through the World Class Performance programme which was set up in 1996.

"This is the most important development in funding of top athletes since the introduction of the World Class Performance programme," said Trevor Brooking, the acting chairman of the Sports Council. We have funding in place for the next 10 years, so we can plan long term."

The two new tiers of the programme - World Class Start, and World Class Potential - will support promising competitors in the 11 to 13 age range and 15-18 range respectively. The intention is to mark out and encourage those who could be winning medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

The youngest age group, who will command pounds 10m of the new total, can expect subsistence grants of up to pounds 500 each to cover expenses such as travel; at least half of the new funding will go to individual sports bodies to enable them to provide extra coaching and support, and send teams abroad. The Potential athletes can expect grants of up to pounds 2,000 each.

"The benefits of investing Lottery money in top competitors has been shown time and time again," said the Sports Council's chief executive, Derek Casey. "Now we are seeking to develop the competitors of the future. I no longer want to see talented performers and their parents frustrated because of lack of investment."