Schools and grassroots communities across the UK face drastic cuts in sports funding following the government's comprehensive spending review.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport's overall budget will be cut to £1.1bn - down 24% - over the next four years while Sport England, who distribute funding for grassroots sport, face cuts of 33% over the same period.
Whilst Sport England's core funding to the Football Association - and 45 other national governing bodies - has been protected until 2013, the cuts will hit the organisation's ability to provide grants directly to grassroots clubs and organisations, with facilities projects amongst those to be hit.
Jennie Price, Chief Executive of Sport England, said the announcement was “tough for grassroots sport, and in particular the coaches, volunteers and clubs in communities across the country. These are challenging times for everyone."
The direct impact of the cuts on football is yet to be seen but, with local government cuts of 7% a year for four years also announced, the outlook for the state of the UK's football facilities - highlighted by Club Website earlier this year - is not good.
The outlook for school sport is no better, with Department of Education funding for this area of their budget also slashed.
The Youth Sport Trust have lost all £160m of their funding for 450 School Sport Partnerships currently running in England, a blow described as "devastating" by their Chairperson, Baroness Sue Campbell.
She said: “This is devastating news for the future health and wellbeing of our young people and the army of dedicated, passionate and committed people throughout the country who, through sport, have delivered such change for young people in recent years.”
Some of the sport funding shortfall will be made up by a revised distribution of Lottery money and the London 2012 Olympics funding of £9.3bn has been ringfenced but, within the grassroots sporting community at least, it is clear that belts will need to be tightened over the next few years.
Whilst exact figures for Sportscotland, Sportwales and Sport Northern Ireland have yet to be announced, a headline one-third cut in sport spending suggests that these bodies will be in line for similar cutbacks to Sport England.
The full detail of the cuts - and how these will affect grassroots sport - may not be clear for some time but, according to Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, the situation could have been worse.
“As a country, we are paying out in debt interest payments every day the entire UK Sport exchequer payments for a year," he said. “With the deck of cards we inherited, we have got sport out of this in the best possible fashion.”
Dan Pope, Club Website editor
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