Welsh sport braced for ‘extremely concerning’ financial cuts

Welsh sport is bracing itself for possible funding cuts of almost £5m in plans that have been described as “extremely concerning”.

BBC Sport Wales has learned sports across Wales have been warned to expect as much as a 20% reduction in their Welsh government grants for 2024-25.

The Welsh Sports Association (WSA) represents Wales’ sporting bodies.

It fears the plans risk pricing many out of sport and could have detrimental long-term health consequences.

The chief executive of Welsh Cycling, Caroline Spanton, told BBC Radio Wales Sport: “Some sports are going to be facing potentially catastrophic cuts if what we’ve been told comes to fruition.”

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We will publish full details of our spending plans as part of the Welsh government draft budget process next week.”

Andrew Howard, chief executive of the WSA, added: “We are all extremely concerned about the future and how our sports are going to deliver in the same way that they are doing at the moment.

“Our real concern is that it’s a short-term cut for sport with huge implications further down the line for the well-being of the nation.”

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans is set to announce the Welsh government’s spending plans on Tuesday, 19 December.

Cuts to budgets across departments have long been expected with First Minister Mark Drakeford warning in August that savings had to be made amid the Senedd’s “toughest financial situation” since it came into being.

WSA members have not disclosed the figures, but expect the impact on sport spending compared to last year to be “substantial”.

Sport Wales, the body that distributes the Welsh government’s spending allocation for sport, received £31m of funding in 2023.

Of that figure, £8m is part of three-year capital funding for facilities and infrastructures which will not be affected by cuts.

However, the remainder is set to be slashed by 15-20%, leaving WSA members fearful of the impact, saying many are already working on “shoestring budgets” and are doing well to continue to function given their responsibilities at both elite and community levels.

They say the impact of further cuts will inevitably be felt by the public.

“We know that the cuts will come to all of us, but then there’s going be other associated unintended consequences in terms of additional costs that we’re just not going to be able to afford,” said Spanton, who stressed the value of recent moves to make cycling more accessible and its impact on society beyond sport.

“The challenge we will have is that we will have to make some big decisions.

“Over the last few years we’ve tried to invest across the board for increasing participation and ensuring that those in hard-to-reach communities can get access to sport and physical activity, plus deliver on a performance agenda to ensure Commonwealth Games success, Olympic success, because of the way that can give opportunities to aspire and achieve more.

“Now we’re going to have some really big consequences because we’re not going to be able to deliver everything we want to try and set out to do as governing bodies.”

Sport Wales has previously said it would try to absorb some of the financial blow in such a scenario and not pass the cuts on to the sporting bodies.

But the news comes after a change to the method in which they distribute finances to governing bodies and which had already meant cuts to some sports.

The new system was designed to be more demand-led and to help boost participation in disadvantaged areas, but it is being claimed such aims will be at risk with sports already battling inflation and the cost of living crisis.