Olympic swimming champion Adam Peaty says the Government must do more to support elite athletes and said: “They can’t pay their bills with patriotism.”
Peaty gave evidence to MPs alongside Paralympians Lauren Rowles and Ellie Robinson on Tuesday about the support they have received during their careers from UK Sport, which distributes National Lottery and Exchequer funding.
Peaty called for athletes to be provided greater stability of funding, and said the onus was on the Government to step up and offer that support.
Really interesting session this morning about grassroots sport and lottery funding for athletes https://t.co/ToCTspuqdW
— Jane Stevenson MP (@Jane_Stevenson_) November 30, 2021
“When you go to the Olympics and we’re third, second on the medal table, the Government will get all the credit,” he told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.
“The Government and the country reap those benefits (of success at Olympic and Paralympic Games). We represent that, we fly that flag very proudly, but we can’t pay our bills with patriotism. I’m very well supported by other companies and sponsors, but more needs to be done from the Government, definitely.”
Peaty said even more funding was required at grassroots level to avoid future Olympic and Paralympic champions being lost.
“(The Government) needs to fund the grassroots, it needs to invest in leisure centres, it needs to invest in coaches and everything in between. The lottery can only do so much,” he said.
“I think the Government can do more to support the elite and definitely, definitely the grassroots. Stop closing leisure centres, because it will bite you.”
Peaty agreed with committee member Steve Brine’s assertion that Government investment in sport was “minuscule”, and that it used the lottery funding as “a way out” of providing more.
Peaty said: “I’m not a politician. I don’t know where the money’s gonna come from, but I know if you’ve got a healthier nation, a fitter nation, a happier nation and a valued nation, that return on investment is going to be great.”
The Government announced in August it was providing £77.4million a year to elite Olympic and Paralympic programmes in the three-year period up to the Paris Games, in addition to lottery funding.
The Government and the Lottery combined provided £220m to support community clubs and exercise centres through the coronavirus pandemic, distributed in England by grassroots funding body Sport England.
A DCMS spokesperson said: “It is not right to suggest £345m of taxpayer and National Lottery funding invested in our Olympic and Paralympic teams is minuscule.
“Almost 40 per cent of this comes directly from the Government and the level of public investment is reflected by the success of our teams in Tokyo.
“We have increased the Government’s funding by over 40 per cent ahead of Paris 2024 to the tune of £232million.
“We have also provided an unprecedented £1billion of public money to ensure the survival of the grassroots, professional sport and leisure sectors, including the £100million National Leisure Centre Recovery Fund which secured the survival and reopening of more than 1100 swimming pools all over the country.”
Committee member Kevin Brennan also alerted the witnesses to Public Accounts Committee findings from 2018 that National Lottery operator Camelot had only increased its funding to good causes – which includes funding for sport – by two per cent between 2009-10 and 2016-17, when its profits had increased by 122 per cent.
A massive thanks to the @TNLUK players 👏 without your support @britishswimming Olympic team may not have achieved their most successful Olympic Games in the swimming pool since 1908! 💫#MakeAmazingHappen pic.twitter.com/i4CWoS0Kac
— UK Sport (@uk_sport) November 19, 2021
Asked by Brennan if that was a “massive moral failure” on the part of Camelot, Peaty said: “If I looked at my company, and I knew what I was doing, getting 120 per cent profits and only giving two per cent back to a good cause, I would feel morally depleted.”
Rowles told MPs that athletes, and even their families, were reminded on every screen before doing a virtual media interview in Tokyo to thank the National Lottery.
Committee member John Nicolson said: “I was very uncomfortable when I heard that you had to pay homage to greedy Camelot, the fact that you’re instructed to be obsequious to them on camera.
“It made me feel terribly uncomfortable because at the end of the day, this is funded by gambling.”
A Camelot spokesperson said: “It’s disappointing to see people once again referring to an outdated, flawed report – which gives an inaccurate picture of the current health of the National Lottery.
“We retain around one per cent in profit. Last year, we achieved record National Lottery sales of over £8.3billion and over £7.9billion of that went back to winners and society, compared with £78.1million retained in profit.
“Returns for good causes are now £500million more per year than they were at the start of the third licence back in 2009, while profit is up £33.6million.
“Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes who receive National Lottery funding are, like all funding recipients, asked to thank National Lottery players, not Camelot.”