UK Athletics is set to announce record losses of £3.7m for the financial year after failing to secure a title sponsor or television deal in the buildup to the Paris Olympics.
The latest accounts from athletics’ governing body will show that it lost nearly £800,000 in one day when it hosted last year’s Birmingham Diamond League and another half a million by staging the World Indoor tour in February. But while losses leave the organisation £3.2m in the red, UKA’s chair, Ian Beattie, denied there was any risk of bankruptcy or that GB’s best athletes would have their preparations for Paris interrupted.
Beattie also stressed that UKA’s financial position was now less perilous after it renegotiated its kit deal with Nike from 2030 to 2040 and got a significant part of it upfront. “We’re coming through a very tough period where ultimately revenues have just disappeared,” he said. “We’ve lost sponsorship money and broadcasting money.
“The model hasn’t been changed quickly enough to reflect that. And then we’re left with a cost base that’s too high for the income coming in – being blunt.”
“But we’re not having sleepless nights. Everybody’s working very hard to keep us resourced, and we’re moving in the right direction.”
UKA has been hit hard by losing Müller as its title sponsor in 2022 and failing to persuade the BBC to renew its £3m-a-year deal when it ran out in 2020. But Beattie said the latest accounts did not tell the full story. “We’ve closed the year on 31 March 2023 with cash in the bank of £6.5m. Now that’s going in quite the opposite direction from the accounting loss. And that was due exclusively to Nike. We renegotiated our agreement and they made a significant cash payment to us.”
Under accounting rules, UKA is not allowed to take all the upfront Nike money into the profit and loss account. However, Beattie said its cash position left him confident UKA had “time to move back into profitability before we run out of cash.
“If every organisation that was hit with net liabilities was to give up and go into insolvency we probably wouldn’t have many football clubs or anything around because that’s where they are.”
UKA still faces substantial problems, with Beattie confirming that even July’s sell-out Diamond League in London, which attracted more than 50,000 fans, lost between £100,000 and £500,000.
Beattie also said that GB athletes who “sit in the periphery of the world class performance remit, such as cross-country competition and teams at junior championships” may have to find some of their own funding in future.
“This year GB ultra teams in the world championship succeeded in doing some funding for themselves and we expect that model is going to continue, to make sure we do have British and Northern Ireland teams at these championships,” he said.
UKA is projecting a loss of £1.6m for 2023-24 and £400,000 for 2024-25. Beattie says the organisation is hoping to break even by 2025-26 after substantial cuts in staff and pension contributions.
For the past nine months, UKA has also been working with London Marathon Events and the Great Run Company regarding a potential collaboration Beattie hopes could persuade more sponsors to come on board. “We see that as a positive, although nothing is signed yet,” he said.
“We’re also coming off the back of one of our most successful world championship performances. And the fact that next year’s Olympic and Paralympic year brings itself increased coverage and hopefully improved commercial viability to the sport.”