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03rd October 2016

Sports bodies encouraged to act now to secure medals at the next Olympic Games

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UK Sport’s stated measures of success are “the medals won, the number of medallists developed, and the quality of the systems and processes in place to find and support the nation’s most promising future champions”.

Now the Olympics and Paralympic Games are over, Edward Wheen, a partner and sports law specialist at  law firm Hewitson Moorhead, discusses the effect successes and failures of Team GB could have on the sports involved.  

Great Britain is the first nation in more than 100 years to win more medals in the Olympic Games that followed the one it hosted, ending second in the medal table. Our Paralympic athletes have now achieved the same feat.

This has been achieved, during a time of austerity, by lottery funding and a clear emphasis by UK Sport, the body responsible for the allocation of funds for elite sport, towards the rewarding of success. Olympic sports such as cycling and rowing have benefitted greatly from this.  On the other side of things, basketball, table tennis, wrestling and handball have all had their funding cut following 2012. 

Most of those involved in the most recent Games will now have taken a much-needed break, but will be well aware that their success or failure is likely to have a significant effect on the funding of their sport – along with individual funding.

They will already know how their results compare to their medal target. Many of the successes, such as gymnastics, will approach the new cycle with justifiable confidence. What is not so clear-cut, however, is the financial impact of UK Sport’s view of “the quality of the systems and processes in place to find and support the nation’s most promising future champions”.

Liz Nichol, UK Sport’s Chief executive, has made it clear that UK Sport will not hesitate to use the leverage of funding to encourage good governance. Notwithstanding their outstanding success at both the Olympics and Paralympics, GB Cycling will no doubt be waiting on the findings of the Independent Review Panel currently looking into the culture within British Cycling’s World Class Programme, following the comments allegedly made by technical director Shane Sutton.

For any sport the emphasis must now be – even more than ever – on ensuring that its governance is fit for purpose. Where changes are necessary, including any reorganisations or redundancies following a cut in funding, these must be made effectively, and in a way which limits the risk of successful challenge.  Changes to an unsuccessful coaching team are often required to be made without delay, to allow the new team the best chance of success in the next Olympic/Paralympic cycle.

Whilst some of these decisions will be dictated by the level of future funding - once this is known - consideration of governance and performance issues need not, and should not, be delayed.

The lawyers in the sports group at Hewitson Moorhead have a great deal of experience in helping  Sports National Governing Bodies to address such issues successfully, and have a  breadth of expertise in sports regulation, and related areas including  employment and commercial law. 

For further information about Hewitsons please contact Emma Hardwick at the Hewitsons press office on 01353 669939 or