SportsAid’s support giving Britain’s young athletes a boost as they bid for future sporting success

SportsAid can reveal the overall average spend on sport for young talented athletes stood at £6,370 during 2015 - the highest it has been for five years. The results, which are outlined below, come from SportsAid's ninth annual athlete survey and show a jump of over £450 when compared to the previous 12 months.
31 March, 2016

SportsAid can reveal the overall average spend on sport for young talented athletes stood at £6,370 during 2015 - the highest it has been for five years. The results, which are outlined below, come from SportsAid's ninth annual athlete survey and show a jump of over £450 when compared to the previous 12 months.

The survey helps to highlight the challenges facing young athletes and their parents as they go to great lengths to fulfil their sporting potential, and the role played by SportsAid in relieving this pressure through financial support and recognition. 1,200 athletes received SportsAid Awards in 2015 with a typical value of £1,000. 

The 714 athletes surveyed had an average age of 18 with an even gender split. Just over 80% compete in an Olympic or Paralympic discipline, and each athlete has been identified by their National Governing Body (NGB) as being among the brightest sporting prospects from across the country. 

With SportsAid celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016, the survey provides further insight into the life of a young athlete, the many commitments they balance during the critical early stages of their career, and the rising costs they’re facing to progress in their sport.

SportsAid’s help is as relevant now as it was back in 1976. What will you do to #SupportTheNext? Join our team and play a key role in helping the country’s brightest sporting prospects as they look to win medals at future Olympics, Paralympics and World Championships.

Key headlines

  • British sport’s most loyal and longstanding ‘sponsor’, the Bank of Mum and Dad, committed around £7.5m in 2015 to support their talented children
  • Family is still the biggest single source of inspiration to young sports people
  • Every athlete found their SportsAid Award to be helpful or essential
  • SportsAid athletes travel the equivalent distance of Land’s End to John o’ Groats every month to train and compete
  • SportsAid athletes cover 42 miles a week in training – that’s the same as getting from Tower Bridge to Southend Pier under your own steam
  • Winning medals are the main target for SportsAid athletes with the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics continuing to act as an inspiration for many, in particular disabled athletes
  • Representing Team GB at the Paralympic Games is seen as the next big step for many disabled athletes

Importance of the SportsAid Award

SportsAid Awards are vital to all athletes - whether helping to relieve costs, providing them with recognition of their achievements, giving them the added focus they need to perform, or allowing them to train and compete more often. Crucially, some athletes would have had to consider dropping out of their sport unless they received a SportsAid Award.

  • 100% of athletes described the SportsAid Award as either helpful or essential
  • 98% said the SportsAid Award has helped to motivate them and 97% said it has pushed them towards achieving goals
  • 87% said the SportsAid Award has relieved the financial pressure of their sport
  • 68% said it is helping them progress, 55% train more often and 53% compete more often
  • 40% feel it has focused them more on their sport and 39% say it has helped them to improve their ranking
  • 80% regard the SportsAid Award as essential whereas in 2014 the figure stood at 68%
  • 8% (that's nearly 60 athletes who responded to the survey) would have had to consider completely giving up their sport without the SportsAid Award
  • 74% wouldn’t be able to train and compete as much

Rising Costs

The overall average spend for SportsAid athletes is the highest it has been over the last five years. Travel continues to be the greatest expense with many athletes feeling costs are rising more generally across the board. The proportion of athletes receiving other financial support has fallen since last year.

2015 – £6,370
2014 – £5,912
2013 – £6,193
2012 – £6,022

  • 32% receive other forms of financial support, which is down from 40% in 2014. The other main sources of support are local authority grants (34%) and NGBs (21%).
  • 72% feel costs are rising overall with travel the single greatest expenditure for 47% of SportsAid athletes.

Training hard

SportsAid athletes undertake hours and hours of training every week as they strive to reach the top of their sport. Most of them train during the evening as they fit sessions in and around their other commitments. Over the course of a week, athletes travel long distances to be able to train and compete.

  • On average, a SportsAid athlete covers 42 miles a week in training
  • 47% of athletes travel at least 150 miles training and competing each week
  • 30% of athletes spend over 19 hours per week training

Inspiration and ambitions

SportsAid athletes are hungry for success with winning medals on the international stage their main target. The success of Team GB at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games continues to act as a huge inspiration to many with this a key motivational factor for disabled athletes in particular. 

  • Nearly 34% stated that their family was the biggest inspiration when taking up their sport
  • 20% of disabled athletes saw the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics as their single biggest inspiration when they took up their sport competitively
  • 83% of athletes' desire to continue comes down to wanting to compete internationally with 44% saying support from SportsAid gives them the extra drive to keep going

The next step

The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are a major aim for many disabled athletes who receive SportsAid support. Competing at the junior level of the world, European and national championships are the main target for non-disabled athletes who are typically younger when receiving a SportsAid Award.

  • 26% of disabled athletes see representing Great Britain at the Paralympic Games in Rio as their next big step. 14% feel Tokyo is more achievable with 19% focusing on the senior World and European championships
  • For non-sport progression, 40% of disabled athletes see continuing with education as their priority whereas 26% want to maintain full or part-time employment
  • 63% of non-disabled athletes wish to continue with their education and 45% would eventually like to study at college or university

Biggest challenges

SportsAid athletes feel balancing the different areas of their lives and access to funding are the two biggest challenges they face

Age when taking up sport

82% of all SportsAid athletes have taken up their sport by 13. Disabled athletes tend to start their sport later – 50% over the age of 14.


89% of athletes feel their parents have a good understanding of their sport. Athletes feel advice on nutrition, sports psychology and creating a lifestyle balance would be most helpful for their parents.

Additional notes

  • 93% of respondents from England across all regions (3% each from Scotland and Wales and remaining 1% from Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and Jersey) 
  • 82% were non-disabled and 18% were disabled  
  • 50/50 gender split overall with a slight skew among disabled athletes (61% male and 39% female)

Reaction to the survey

Tim Lawler, SportsAid's Chief Executive

“This sort of insight and data is invaluable to SportsAid and of course, is important to the wider sporting sector. It tells us what the next generation is thinking, hoping and doing. It gives us a feel for what type of help and support they may need and just how much of a boost a little bit of recognition can provide. SportsAid has been helping this next generation for 40 years and the athlete survey will ensure we keep our focus and continue to make the biggest difference we can.”

Phil Smith, Sport England’s Director of Sport

“The results from this survey further demonstrate the important role that SportsAid plays in helping young athletes overcome the challenges they face at the early stages of their sporting journey. These young people make many sacrifices to train and compete, with SportsAid providing invaluable support to help them reach their potential.
“SportsAid understands the commitment that parents make to support their children’s sporting ambitions, and helps to relieve some of the pressure they’re faced with as their talented son or daughter progresses in sport. It’s a role SportsAid has been playing for four decades – making a great difference to so many of our country’s sporting talent long before they become household names.” 

Barry Horne, Chief Executive of the English Federation of Disability Sport

“The findings in this report highlight interesting differences between disabled and non-disabled athletes. Although this survey focuses on the talented minority, it is relevant to our work at the grassroots level and when we support sports providers with their development pathways.

“The prevalence of disability increases with age, so it is not too surprising to note that disabled athletes are more likely to compete at an older age. However, it could mean for disabled athletes, that sports need to look to different marketing messages to find talent, as well as providing support systems that could be needed for different age groups.

“Notably, findings show that disabled athletes are more likely than non-disabled athletes to rely on SportsAid funding to able to compete, but typically while still in employment. Therefore, disabled athletes’ time is often more limited and therefore spend less money on training.

“While disabled athletes are more likely to be influenced by the Paralympics and hope to perform at future Games, they are less likely to see themselves as a professional sports person. This could highlight a need to improve the personal and public perception of elite disabled athletes in addition to managing how individuals are supported if it is a professional career choice.”

More information

To find out more about SportsAid’s athlete survey, please contact Richard Bates, the charity’s National Communications Manager, on 020 7273 1978