The stand-off over the Team 2012 sponsorship package continues to cast a shadow over elite athlete funding for the London Olympic Games.
Team 2012 was created by the government to help cover a hefty shortfall in public funding for prospective UK Olympians. In essence, companies which sign up to it will be granted access to talent as part of their marketing and promotional activities. However the programme has run into problems because of a potential clash with top athletes’ personal endorsements.
Leading athletes are concerned about a clause in the Team 2012 contract which bars them from entering any new arrangement which “derogates from and/or conflicts with the Team 2012 agreement”. In other words, athletes who are part of the UK Sport-administered programme appear to limit their own earning potential. As a result, leading names such as swimming sensation Rebecca Adlington and cycling champs Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins have refused to sign.
The government however is starting to pile on the pressure – suggesting that top athletes should see Team 2012 as pay back for all the years of public support they have drawn on during their developmental years. There’s also a suggestion that, by refusing to sign, top stars with serious earning potential are driving a wedge between themselves and lesser known athletes who can’t command big commercial fees. For the latter, Team 2012 is being promoted as a lifeline.