Funding for sports professionals

31st August 2016

Not all sports stars can earn the millions in sponsorship and salary that the big names at Rio 2016 command. This is especially the case if they excel in what may be considered a ‘minority sport’. Thus external funding is essential for anyone gifted enough to pursue a sporting career.

UK Sport

There are a number of organisations which fund sportsmen and women in the UK. The main funding body for sport in Great Britain is UK Sport.  

The £543 million (between 2013 and 2017) that they invest and administer in the form of grants comes from The Department for Culture and Sport and the National Lottery.  

There are 2 main funding channels within UK Sport which distribute 70% of their income:

1. Funding for sporting national governing bodies
2. Direct funding for athletes (the Athlete Performance Award)

The funding for sporting bodies allows them to run the World Class Programme which funds support and training for athletes who have medal winning potential at an Olympic or Paralympic Games.. 

To apply for this funding an athlete must prove that they are eligible and will generally apply via their sport’s governing body.

Direct funding is means tested and is capped at £65,000.

Initially athletes must contact their sport’s governing body to see what funding is available and how to apply. Funding and application process will differ between sports. 


There are some charities such as the Joanna Brown Trust, in the UK which will award grants to individuals. They do not tend to award large sums of money and all have different methods of applying for funding. 

Some funding is taxable and it is recommended that any sportsperson applying for funding seeks the advice of a specialist accountant when they receive funding. 


The tax regime for professional sports people can be difficult to understand as they are likely to have multiple sources of income. In addition sportsperson could find themselves working as both an employee and on a self-employed basis. 

In general all income (including Athlete Performance Awards) will be taxed. 

Tax on earnings as an employee should be deducted by the employer through PAYE. Self-employed earnings such as income from speeches or public appearances should be reported through self-assessment.

Get advice

Brebners works with a number of sportsmen and woman to make sure they don't pay more tax than they have to. Services include reviewing contracts to make sure that they are structured to make the most of funding. Contact us on to find out more.