Businesses help plug 79m Olympic funding gap

Culture Minister Andy Burnham may have been handed a lifeline in his battle to plug a 79m gap in private funding for potential Olympic athletes.

A group of businesses led by West Bromwich Building Society chief executive Stephen Kearle have united to provide help for local athletes and para-athletes training for London 2012.

The scheme, called Team Business West Midlands, is chaired by Kearle and has already signed up a number of Midlands-based organisations, including Birmingham Airport, Black Country Business Consortium, Chiltern Railways, steel company Hadley Group and West Bromwich Building Society.

Under the initiative, each business has pledged to raise £60,000 over the next four years, which will be doubled by the Government, to help athletes with medal potential.

The funds will be paid into a consortium and local athletes who receive minimum funding but need financial help will be able to apply through recognised sporting organisations, such as national governing bodies.

The Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has been slammed for failing to properly understand Olympic sponsorship when it promised £100m in private sector funding for athletes for London 2012 (MW August 27). Even after appointing sports marketing agency Fast Track, the DCMS still failed to raise any cash towards the £100m ( June 27).

Since June, £21m has been secured from the National Lottery, leaving a £79m shortfall.

Experts say that the Midlands scheme provides hope for Burnham. Tim Crow, chief executive of sponsorship specialist Synergy says: “If the DCMS was to get behind this by incentivising businesses, that £79m could be achievable.”

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