German sport is groaning under the Federal Ministry of the Interior’s (BMI) plans to cut the budget for promoting top-class sport in this country. In the federal budget for the coming year, cuts of ten percent from around 303 to around 276 million euros are planned for top-class sport. The already meager medal tallies in various Olympic disciplines such as athletics, rowing, gymnastics, swimming and so many more sports are unlikely to be particularly beneficial due to these measures.
The two-time Olympic canoe champion Ronald Rauhe joined this discussion and therefore emphasized the social value and positive influence of sport. With regard to politics, Rauhe therefore asks fundamental questions: “Where should sport go in Germany? What status should sport have in Germany?”
USA: Financing from tuition fees
When you look across the border to other countries, you can see fundamentally different financing bases. A few examples: The largest investments in top Olympic sport in Western countries are made in the USA – against the background of a completely different organizational structure. “The central driving forces behind the funding there are universities and colleges,” says Christoph Breuer. The total volume of the sports budget available overseas for sports is around 13 billion US dollars, says the head of the Institute for Sports Economics and Sports Management at the German Sport University in Cologne.
The reason: In contrast to the state universities in Germany, the universities in the USA are financed primarily through tuition fees. A primary motive of schools is to showcase and advertise through sports teams to attract new students. But: The quality of sport also plays an important role in the ranking and reputation of a university.
“A separate market has emerged in team sports,” says Breuer. Around seven billion US dollars are earned from TV broadcasts in this area alone. “It looks different in individual sports,” says the institute director. However: Compared to German sports, universities also have gigantic sports budgets for individual sports. Texas Athletics alone – an independent branch of the university in Austin – said it had a total budget of $187 million for the 2019/20 fiscal year – and the number is rising. There is a national athletics program there that receives no revenue from tuition, institutional or government sources.
Best training conditions
What all facilities have in common: “All top athletes have excellent training conditions, highly qualified trainers and they train together in groups, while in Germany many athletes train individually,” says Breuer. And there are sports scholarships for top foreign athletes, which are also lured to universities.
In a Scandinavian country the approach is completely different. It’s more like starting at the roots. “In Norway, school sport has been clearly regulated by law through state intervention and also provided with financial resources. There, every student from the first school year to the last has a legally guaranteed right to 60 minutes of qualified physical education lessons per day – not per week. There are sports teachers properly trained. But there are also programs for the expansion of swimming pools,” says Martin Engelhardt, chairwoman of the board of directors of the Institute for Research and Development of Sports Equipment (FES) and the Institute for Applied Training Science (IAT), which are particularly affected by the cuts in Germany. .
Medal factory Papendal
Our immediate neighbors, the Netherlands, have taken a completely different approach to financing and developing top-class sport. The Papendal sports center is located there exemplary of an innovative form of education and training opportunities. The initiator is primarily Jochem Schellens, who is a hotel expert but above all a big sports fan. 16 years ago he recognized the opportunity to use his know-how to shape the beginnings of Papendal. “We started with three men,” he tells DW. The small town near Arnhem has now developed into a sporting success story and a medal factory. Sprinter Femke Bol, for example, won gold in the 400-meter hurdles at the recent World Championships in Athletics. Sifan Hassan, Tokyo Olympic champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, also often trains in Papendal, as do other top Dutch athletes.
In Papendal there is not only an athletics field, but also a BMX track, several weight rooms, halls and also an indoor running track. Everything within walking distance. Over 100 athletes in various sports and age groups and also parasportsmen are now training near the German border. A total of more than 500 athletes from various sports work together at this performance base. The best training opportunities, high-quality training groups, highly qualified trainers and physiotherapists are there on site. And: all athletes work closely together in their respective sports. Things were different in the Netherlands before.
The Papendal sports center is financed from a mix of public funds and private-commercial commitment: 25 percent of the money comes from the Dutch government, 25 percent from the National Olympic Committee and 30 percent from the hotel business. And the rest comes from the regular events that happen locally and that anyone can host there. In any case, the performance center is open to the public. “We were initially met with skepticism, of course. But we implemented it. And we are very proud of what we have achieved so far,” says Schellens.
Role model for Germany?
A concentration of the best athletes in a central location so that they can train together under the best conditions, instead of being distributed among individual clubs, performance centers and Olympic bases as in Germany – this might also be a path that could be taken in Germany to achieve success be. “We know that professional training is done differently abroad,” said German walker and athlete spokesman Christopher Linke in an interview with ZDF after the overall disappointing World Athletics Championships in Budapest. He himself had to prepare under “very amateurish conditions”.
However, the successes that German track and field athletes are currently achieving at the youth level at the international U18 and U20 championships gave him hope. What could they only achieve if they were better equipped financially and their training conditions improved?