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  • Comments: 0
  • 11 November 2015 00:00
  • in Paralympics
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Backing the Best

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The rising cost of becoming a sports star has led to some of England’s best up-and-coming talent dropping out, with new research showing parents have to fork out as much as £27,000 a year to help their child pursue their sporting ambition.

The study comes as Sport England launches Backing The Best, a ground-breaking new scheme to support talented young athletes. It will help families of the next Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis-Hill or Ellie Simmonds who might feel competitive sport is out of their financial reach.

On average, athletes and their families are paying £6,200 a year, with some paying up to four times that, according to the study by charity SportsAid, which is delivering the scheme. And the cost of progressing towards top-level competition is growing all the time.

More than two thirds (68 per cent) of young athletes rely entirely on their parents and charitable donations to fund their sporting dreams, the research shows. From a recent sample group of 1,192 young SportsAid-supported athletes, the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ covered a collective bill of more than £7.5 million annually.
Parents are taking on second jobs or having to go without to meet the costs, and, in some cases, giving up work to ferry their child to and from training. Others have had to remortgage their home.

Sport England’s Backing The Best scheme will commit £5.5 million of National Lottery funding over four years for talented youngsters who, because of their family's financial situation, might not get the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

Jennie Price, Sport England’s chief executive, said: "It's impossible not to admire the young people who dedicate themselves to being the best they can be in their sport. But for some, a hard road becomes an impossible one due to tough financial circumstances.

"That's why we created Backing The Best. We can't make competitive sport any easier, but we can make it possible for those who deserve the chance."

The scheme isn't open to everyone – only young exceptionally talented athletes in the early stages of their careers and who face the greatest financial challenges will qualify. SportsAid, of which the Duchess of Cambridge is patron, will be working with coaches and national governing bodies of sport to identify the athletes for whom an award would make a future top-level sporting life possible.

Annual awards of up to £5,000 will be made on a case-by-case basis, specifically contributing to essential costs such as travel, accommodation, kit and support by coaches and physios. The first awards will be made in February 2016 with up to 100 young athletes expected to benefit in the first year, rising to around 200 in subsequent years.

Sport is expensive for anyone, and parents across England are making sacrifices all the time for their children’s sporting careers. Backing The Best is designed to help young talent from families where money for sport simply can’t be spared.

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