Funding a future champion

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Sport doesn’t have to be an expensive pastime but as many parents discover, as soon as your child starts to pursue it seriously, it can quickly become so!

So what do you do if you’ve got a budding champion of the future in the household?

The good news is that if a member of your family has shown real sporting potential, there are several sources of support out there that can help you nurture it and bridge the difficult gap between the junior and senior levels – when Lottery funding and professional sponsorship deals take over.

The first place to turn is your local authority. Some councils set funding aside specifically to help talented young people move up to the next level in sport and it’s always worth speaking to your local sports development team to see what’s on offer.

You may also find you have a good county sports partnership in your area. These work at the grassroots level in collaboration with local authorities, sports’ governing bodies, local schools and clubs to increase participation in sport and physical activity. Some go beyond this and, usually in collaboration with the local authority, provide funding streams for local athletes with the talent and commitment to turn sport into a potential career. Similarly, many schools provide scholarships with this in mind.

At the national level there is also the long-established charity SportsAid, which has funded British athletes since 1976 and now exclusively supports promising young people. Unlike some of the local schemes it’s not possible to apply directly to SportsAid for funding but if your child is already competing well at the national level, it is definitely worth speaking to their sport’s governing body to see if they will be eligible for the next round of SportsAid awards.

These are made annually and the process begins every autumn when the governing bodies nominate a selection of athletes on their ‘talent pathway’, as it is known, to SportsAid for financial support. The money is usually distributed the following spring, with cash awards of around £1,000 given to each successful athlete – though it is worth noting that SportsAid awards can be made anytime during the year, depending on when the funding becomes available.

It varies by sport but to give you an idea of the level that SportsAid-eligible athletes are competing at, as a rule your child would need to be among the best in the country for their age. There is no upper age limit as such but most SportsAid athletes are between the ages of 12 and 18 (though in many disability sports in particular the athletes are often older than this).

If your child is nominated to SportsAid for support, they will receive an email from the charity which will invite them to complete a nomination form on the charity’s website. To find out which governing body you need to speak to about this, visit the website of Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Wales or UK Sport for a full list of contacts. For Northern Ireland there is a list of governing bodies on the Sport Northern Ireland website but it is worth noting that here, you can also apply directly to the Mary Peters Trust, which works in partnership with SportsAid.

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