Fears of a 'brain drain' of Team GB Olympic coaches amid uncertain funding plans

Uncertainty over government spending in sport could make it more tempting for British coaches to leave their roles for other opportunities. Credit: AP

Team GB could face a ‘brain drain’ of its world class Olympic and Paralympic coaches, if the government doesn’t commit to its next round of funding soon.

The current Games in Tokyo are a prime poaching opportunity for other countries who are able, in some cases, to offer salaries three or four times higher than the amount British coaches are currently earning.

While many of them don’t really want to leave their roles, the cash on offer combined with the uncertainty over the government’s commitment, makes the switch tempting.

UK Sport, who decide which sports get how much, cannot budget accurately until the government outlines exactly what it is prepared to contribute.

The funding agency is pushing for an increased contribution and negotiations are understood to be ongoing, but less than successful performances by Britain’s rowers who were the best funded, receiving £24 million in this Olympic cycle and athletics which gets £23 million are bound to attract some scrutiny.

The government could well point to the BMX team which has gone home with four medals, double that of rowing, on a relatively small percentage of the £22 million handed out to the cycling team.

One source close to the coaches in question told ITV News: “They’re mainly British, so they don’t want to leave, but without knowing how much their sport is going to receive and whether they’ll even have a job moving forward, they can’t ignore serious approaches from abroad.

"They have families to support and mortgages to pay”.

Given the astronomical cost of the pandemic and the £300 billion deficit facing Chancellor Rishi Sunak, his spending review is likely to be bad news for some government departments.

There is a commitment up until the Paris Games in 2024 but where exactly sport fits into Sunak’s thinking is, as yet, unknown, although he has been fairly generous to the sector in helping it through the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking to me in Tokyo where he’s been enjoying a whistle stop tour of various events, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “It’s a really difficult balancing act, money is always tight, but we’ll be looking in the spending review about the future funding as well.

"We’ve got a commitment already through to Paris but we’ll be having conversations which will be taking place later this year.

“The medals are really important in helping decide on funding but we’ve got to look at nurturing new talent and look at some people who perhaps didn’t get medals this time but have got potential to get medals in the future as well”.

But until those decisions are set in stone, Britain’s best Olympic coaches might find it difficult to turn down the security and riches on offer from elsewhere.