This post is about my personal frustration with (official) sports sponsoring and sports-related scholarships in Germany. I needed to put my thoughts into words, for my own sake and to make it at least a bit more public.

This is my personal blog and therefore my opinion. In addition, I am personally affected by what I am writing about, so don´t expect a fully unbiased opinion. However, I am trying to be objective and am happy to be pointed out corrections. I also want to point out that I am certainly not the first one talking about this topic.

With official sports sponsoring for the individual athlete, I mean financial support from official sources and not private sponsoring, like from companies or individual private donors. In the case of Germany or North-Rhine-Westphalia (my home state) this is the Sporthilfe and NRW-Sportstiftung. This sponsoring can be attached to an ongoing education for the athlete in form of a ‘classic’ university-type scholarship or be just attached to sporting performances and successes. To be clear I am not talking about federation level funding which comes from the Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for sports.

A key difference in German sports funding is that they differentiate between Olympic-, Worldgames- and basically all other sports. This generally makes sense but at the same time is the difference in funding between Olympic and Worldgames sports huge which is only somewhat understandable. The latter point is especially true for the individual athlete in a Worldgames sport (like me) because it is basically impossible for me to get financial support from the Sporthilfe. This is because the requirements are quite high to be qualified for such support, namely the athlete must be part of the absolute top-level in the world of their sport for multiple years. Even then, there is still a formal process around this where the athlete and its federation have to apply for such funding, and it will then be evaluated by the funding organization. I got this information by writing a request to the Sporthilfe for more information about this topic, as I was unable to (easily) find any exact specification online.

While I understand that there is a formal process around it, I don´t understand the high level of requirements. I mean, being part of the top for multiple years is difficult in any sport but getting there without any prior support seems rather unrealistic in the first place.

As written in previous posts, I want to point out that I am not in for the money but ruining myself financially over time while officially representing Germany on the international level seems less and less attractive to me.

Another problem with the requirements is that they are in parts quite generalized which can benefit some sport over the other. For example, have different sports at the Worldgames different numbers of competitors as well as a different number of competitions/disciplines. This means that an 8th place in one sport is not the same as an 8th place in another sport. But this is another whole debate on its own…

I knew most of this already, or in big part expected it to be like that. I don´t agree with it but I used to just accept it. What tipped me off the edge in the last days though, was that the last option there was to get some kind of financial support in form of education-scholarships was changed in ways that it now impossible for me to receive it.

This is especially strange because in previous years there was the Germany-Scholarship where each university usually had a few spots reserved for national-team athletes and as far as I remembered there was no limitation on if the athlete was competing in an Olympic or Worldgames sport. Last year this changed, as the Germany-Scholarship had no athlete reserved spots anymore but a new NRW-wide sport-scholarship was introduced offering the same 300€ per month, however requiring an athlete to be part of an Olympic national-team.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you might remember my hope was to receive such support by the end of this year because they said they will make changes to the funding system. And they did, athletes (in/from NRW) from Worldgames sports who are also studying will now also be eligible for such support which is even 250€ (base-support) + 300€ per month. The catch though is, that they also introduced an age-limit or more specifically a limitation of the Kader-Level of the athlete. And thus, my chances of receiving any such support went from low to dead-zero.

So yes, this is super frustrating to me for two reasons the obvious one being that I am slowly digging myself a financial ditch [sic] and the other major point is that the financial support would have a lot of symbolic value – my efforts being officially recognized.

Title-photo by Janis Ligats at Lieldienu-balva, 28.08.2021

Categories: Orienteering


eunice carter · 3. April 2023 at 16:04

The situation is the same in the UK. Only Olympic sports athletes are centrally funded. Orienteers receive minimal support from British Orienteering, as they had funding stripped prior to the UK holding the 2012 Olympics. All GB athletes have to work to support themselves alongside their rigorous training schedules, and have to use annual leave or unpaid leave to compete internationally for their country. As amateur athletes they compete against professional athletes from other nations and do so admirably. Little recognition or understanding of orienteering is evident in the UK and media stations have little interest in promoting it as a result, as it seems does BO. Hopefully this situation will change with the world championships being defended in the UK in 2024. Very frustrating , as you say.

CK · 3. April 2023 at 20:51

I think it is a bit strange that this is the situation in two big and developed nations like Germany and the UK. Additionally, considering that new sports are added to the Olympic programme and therefore are ‘suddenly’ eligible for more funding makes me question certain things as well. While I respect every honest athlete, I have my trouble with national-team skateboarders being potentially able to receive more funding than me in orienteering which is Olympic-recognized for many years.

However, I wanna add for completeness that the German orienteering national-team overall has (again) received more funding which nowadays accounts to a reasonable level. I therefore really write only about the individual level of sports funding in this post.

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