UK Sport to axe quarter of staff to slash costs for 2028 Olympics

A Paris gold medal - UK Sport to axe a quarter of staff to slash costs for 2028 Olympics
A Paris gold medal - UK Sport to axe a quarter of staff to slash costs for 2028 Olympics

Olympic and Paralympic sport is facing a huge real-terms fall in budget for the next cycle to Los Angeles 2028, with funding body UK Sport preparing to cut a quarter of its employees this summer.

Staff were told this week – with 100 days until the start of the Paris Games – that they would be entering a period of consultation and that changes would be made for the Los Angeles cycle to 2028.

UK Sport has invested £305 million in Olympic and Paralympic sport during the current four-year cycle but it would need this funding to rise to around £360 million just to keep pace with inflation, following dramatically increased costs.

However, with a squeeze on public finances and competing demands for Government money, UK Sport believes that there is a real risk of no financial increase for high-performance sport.

The planned savings will go to the very highest end of UK Sport, with directors also being told that their numbers will be cut by half. The changes are planned to come into effect in July.

It is felt that UK Sport cannot make a serious plea for additional public funds if they have not themselves made savings and shown that they are working as efficiently as possible. Individual elite sports are also being asked to make savings. An email to stakeholders within the sector cites the need to make a “credible case to Government”.

The changes will not directly affect preparations for the Paris Games this summer, which are largely complete and now rest with the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations, who are funded separately by commercial partners.

It does, however, place a huge question mark over planning for the Winter Games in Milan in 2026 and the Los Angeles Olympics and Paralympics in 2028.

‘Investment needed to bring joy to the British public’

Great Britain has developed into a sporting superpower since the introduction of National Lottery funding, which is allocated by UK Sport, and finished among the top four medal-winning nations in Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

The financial support has not only allowed athletes to receive funding through the high-performance programme but allowed governing bodies to attract leading coaches and sports scientists from around the world.

The news, which has also come in the week of the official Team GB kit launch for Paris, places a huge question mark over Britain’s longer-term ability to take these improvements to the next level.

UK Sport remains committed to its 10-year plan of “winning well” and there is still confidence that there will be continued Olympic and Paralympic excellence.

Dame Katherine Grainger, the chair of UK Sport, alluded to looming pressure in her New Year’s message. “As we look to the future, it’s important to remember that the successes of the recent past did not happen by chance – and that we should not expect the same level of success to continue automatically,” she said.

“Sustained levels of investment are required if our teams are to remain a force on the global sporting stage and continue to bring joy to the British public.”

A UK Sport spokesperson added: “Due to the current challenging financial environment, in order to continue to deliver our ambitious strategy and ensure the maximum amount of funding possible continues to reach our sports and athletes, we are looking at some proposed changes to our organisational structure.

“Our priority right now is to support our colleagues and as we enter into a consultation period with them and until we have completed this, we are unable to share any further information. We do not anticipate any disruption to our sports and partners in their preparations for Paris this summer.”