Var­nish le­gal case threat­ens Olympic hope­fuls’ fund­ing

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - News - By Robert Dineen

A ground­break­ing le­gal case that be­gins next week could lead to more than 200 Olympic and Par­a­lympic hope­fuls los­ing their fund­ing.

For­mer Olympic track cy­clist Jess Var­nish is at­tempt­ing to sue Bri­tish Cy­cling for dis­crim­i­na­tion in a court ac­tion that could have far-reach­ing ef­fects for the coun­try’s elite ath­letes.

The case rests on Var­nish’s le­gal team prov­ing in the em­ploy­ment sta­tus hear­ing with UK Sport that she had em­ployee rights, rather than the dis­tinct sta­tus given to na­tion­ally-funded ath­letes.

Should Var­nish’s team suc­ceed in Manch­ester, sources close to the case say that up to 20 per cent of funded ath­letes will have their grants cut. UK Sport sup­ports around 1,100 po­ten­tial Olympic and Par­a­lympic ath­letes.

Var­nish is claim­ing she suf­fered un­fair dis­missal, sex­ual dis­crim­i­na­tion, vic­tim­i­sa­tion and detri­men­tal treat­ment as a re­sult of whis­tle-blow­ing while part of the Olympic pro­gramme.

If she is al­lowed to pro­ceed with her com­pen­sa­tion claim for lost in­come, UK Sport could be forced to re­struc­ture its fund­ing pro­gramme, pay­ing na­tional in­sur­ance on be­half of ath­letes and pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions for the first time. It could also lead to ath­letes mak­ing back­dated fi­nan­cial claims.

“The case could have se­ri­ous con­se­quences,” the source said. “Though what hap­pens will de­pend on the HMRC’s re­sponse; if Jess Var­nish was to win, it could force UK Sport to com­pletely re­struc­ture its fund­ing model.”

Olympic and Par­a­lympic hope­fuls are paid “ath­lete per­for­mance awards”, with the max­i­mum an­nual grant set at £28,000. It is ex­empt of tax, with ath­letes not given em­ploy­ment rights.

Var­nish was stripped of her fund­ing when she was dropped from the na­tional squad in April 2016 on the ba­sis that her per­for­mance was not at the level ex­pected.

The 28-year-old claims she was un­fairly dis­crim­i­nated against.

If Var­nish suc­ceeds next week, sources an­tic­i­pated it could lead to ath­letes pay­ing 20 per cent tax on some form of cen­tralised con­tract.

The hear­ing is due to take place from Dec 10-16. UK Sport and Bri­tish Cy­cling de­clined to com­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.