Most sports federations need public money to survive
Your neighbor’s canoe may have been paid for by all of us. The canoeing federation is the one that depends the most on subsidies from the Higher Sports Council (CSD) to survive, up to 88% of its income comes from public money. Although this is the most paradigmatic case in the sector, it is no exception: only nine federations, including the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), have a dependence on state subsidies less than 30%.
In 2021, the CSD distributed grants to the Spanish sports federations current expense of 79 million euros, a figure that for some is little and for others a lot. The Spanish Sports Association (Adesp) claims that the budget for Spanish sports must be increased to get more medals. Specifically, the association claims up to one hundred million euros more in subsidies to keep up with neighboring countries.
The investment in canoeing, at least, has translated into triumphs. The World Cup held in the Canadian city of Halifax in the summer of 2022 was Spain’s best performance in its history, leaving first in the medal table with eight recognitions. The year before the triumphs in the Canadian lake, the federation of athletes such as Saúl Craviotto and Carlos Arévalo received 5.6 million euros in subsidies between aid from the CSD and those from the ADO program, which prepares athletes for the Olympic event. .
The state subsidy accounted for 88% of the federation’s total budget, which amounts to 6.4 million euros. Closely in degree of dependence follows fencing, which in 2021 received 1.3 million euros in subsidies, 85% of its budget. The discipline is not one of Spain’s veins to win medals, historically, it only has an Olympic bronze won by José Luis Abajo ‘Pirri’ in Beijing 2008.
Among the Spanish federations with a greater dependence on public money, Swimming is the one with the largest game, with 7.2 million euros in subsidies, 76% of its budget. Despite the budget push, swimming signed the biggest failure of modern Spanish swimming in the 2022 World Cup. A performance saved with an in extremis bronze medal obtained by the artistic swimming team.
On the other side of the scale, and beyond football, which has the largest budget item of the federations, sports such as golf, shooting or motor racing are among the least dependent. The RFEF, despite being the federation that receives the most from the treasury, up to 8.6 million euros, is the least dependent, with 2.4% of its budget. In addition, much of the public funding goes to women’s football and semi-professional football. In the case of basketball, dependence on aid amounts to 16.5%. The CSD contributed 3.8 million euros to one of the most popular sports in Spain.
The shot, with a smaller budget of 266,385 euros, barely receives 9.3% of public support. For its part, golf, with a larger budget of up to 10.4 million euros, barely receives 11.9% of public money. Something similar occurs in motor racing: it has a budget of 7.2 million euros, of which 14.8% comes from public coffers.
The Sports Law changes the rules of the game
After months of negotiations, on January 1, 2023, the new Sports Law came into force in Spain, which replaces the legislation that dated from 1990. The new regulation provides for the creation of a economic control commission of the federationsof which the federation itself can lead its executive management.
This body is made up of a maximum of five “independent and impartial” members, according to the law itself, who have experience of an economic, financial and auditing nature. In addition, professional leagues will be forced to draw up an economic control plan “preventing the insolvency of entities that participate in the competition.” The new law sieges the federations to exercise financial control with more tools, although from some sectors it is pointed out that it condemns the federations to a more iron dependence on public money.
The federation’s dependence on public money has also become the focus of the debate outside of Spain, although there are few cases in which public support is reduced. Throughout Europe, only soccer is independent, although there are other financial success stories such as volleyball in Italy and tennis in France.