YOU might presume that after their most successful Olympic Games – the record medal-haul, laurels and plaudits hung around the necks of athletes, organisers, and volunteers alike – that the British Olympic Association would now be feeding richly on the legacy.
Yet funding and sponsorship remain insecure. Having won the war, we now risk following in the very British tradition of losing the peace. BOA finances are in turmoil with their overdraft extended from £4m to £5m. Accounts published last week show a loss for 2011 of £421,000. There was £235,873 profit in 2010, and £550,000 in 2009 (largely accounted for by the sale of their premises). They had a £1.5m deficit in 2008 and one of £1.3m in 2007.
The organisation relies totally on commercial revenue, yet despite the Olympic feel-good factor only one of the raft of 2012 sponsors (a shoe and sportswear company) has renewed thus far.
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That, plus their Olympic rights to 2016, will be worth £13m through to Rio de Janeiro, but when this year's accounts are published, they will reflect £13m spent on the 541 competitors and 450-strong 2012 support team. Income from Olympic rights were surrendered to the 2012 organising committee (almost certainly too cheaply) but BOA accounts show they spent a total of £8m on operating costs last year, including £5.5m on staff.
Having presided with Adam Hunt (Team GB chief executive) – some might feel recklessly – over this plunge into debt, chairman Lord Colin Moynihan stepped down more than a year early immediately after the Games. Cack-handling of issues from doping to skiing's financial crisis, and an ill-judged attempt to deny Paralympians their due, might well have blocked any reappointment.
The vote on Moynihan's successor, heavily-tipped to be 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe, is a month tomorrow. However, Hunt has meantime embarked on restructuring and cost-cutting, proposing staff numbers be cut from 87 to 52. This includes four highly-paid directors, and will involve unspecified and potentially costly redundancies.
One architect of 2012 success, Sir Clive Woodward, spat the dummy this week, quitting his £300,000 a year job as director of sport. He is a target of the restructuring which will surely infuriate Lord Coe, assuming he wins the forthcoming ballot. Indeed, it's a moot point whether Hunt would survive if Coe is successful.
Hunt and Woodward were appointed by Moynihan, despite the former having no sports background. Former sports minister Moynihan levered out Hunt's predecessor, the popular Simon Clegg, a former international biathlete who had also been earmarked as 2012 chef de mission. Moynihan suggested that even Bill Gates might be incapable of handling both roles – and used this notion to justify Hunt's appointment. Then he also appointed Hunt chef de mission, with Woodward – far better qualified for that job – as his deputy.
Hunt's lack of understanding of competitors was manifest, and his contribution during the Games seemed restricted to snatching photo opportunities with royalty and medallists (antics reportedly the subject of Twitter criticism) rather than making a meaningful contribution by working hospitality suites and wooing sponsors to sign up again. These were ego-serving antics to which the ubiquitously glad-handing Moynihan might have been alert, leaving Woodward to handle athlete issues. That was a role which his rugby experience, not to mention his outstanding work as BOA director of sport, more appropriately qualified him. Woodward may not have come cheap but, as a magnet for sponsors, he paid his way. He was the true architect of Team GB, forging a genuine team, and the fact that he spent much of his time, low profile at the medical and training facilities he helped instal in the athletes' village, rather than posturing, spoke volumes.
Yet the BOA rarely seemed certain what to do with Woodward. Had his chairman not thought this through? Woodward spent months developing a support system for athletes, but could not get the required backing, not least because UK Sport already funded athletes via the World Class programme. The BOA board then directed him towards coach development – another intrusion into perceived UKS preserves – and the board were ultimately not sold on that idea. Some at the BOA saw Woodward as a Trojan Horse, planted by UKS. A strained relationship between the two bodies was reflected in the animosity between Moynihan and UKS chair Sue Campbell.
The BOA has control of competitors only at Games time (otherwise that's the preserve of individual governing bodies) and it struggles to get its collective head around that. With UKS paying the pipers and calling the shots on medal targets, this is not going to change. Coe's charm and charisma would handle this more astutely.
Coe's views on Woodward being nudged sideways were manifest. He is understood to want Woodward to be chef de mission at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and the next two Youth Olympic Games.
Coe was invited to stand by the BOA board, and if he gets the nod, Woodward may yet do these jobs, possibly on a new contract. That would restrict hours, save the BOA money, and allow Woodward to return to lucrative rugby media work.
A Coe-Woodward partnership would address fraught sponsorship, provided potential sponsors have not spent their budgets signing medal-winning 2012 athletes for advertising campaigns.