USOPC opens books, gives more detail about sports funding

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — New financial reports from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee include unprecedented detail about money that goes to the sports organizations it oversees — a feature the federation is hoping will help followers decipher the U.S. Olympic system’s often opaque accounting picture.

The USOPC on Monday released its annual tax form, which showed $54 million more in expenses than revenues for 2019 — a typical overrun in a non-Olympic year following a Winter Games. The ugly numbers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic won’t appear until the 2020 data is released next year.

This financial statement is a reflection of what the federation said its priorities were in the pre-COVID world — namely, funneling more money toward athletes in different ways, and then doing a better job of letting them see how that money is parceled out. The USOPC is also moving for more oversight of the national governing bodies (NGBs), and this thorough accounting of their finances reflects that mission.

In the refashioned 2019 “Impact Report,” the USOPC included “sports benefit statements” for 61 NGBs it oversees. Inside those statements are line-item accountings of the funds each NGB received. In the past, the USOPC tax form would list the amount of direct support in the form of grants it provided each organization. But that didn’t account for millions more that was passed out but listed under different categories that did not itemize the amounts that went to each sport.

“Individually, these documents offer a great deal of very specific information that reflect the depth of the USOPC’s partnership with each of these critical partners,” CEO Sarah Hirshland said.

As an example, by looking only at the line item on the tax form, it can easily be seen that the USOPC gave USA Gymnastics $2.22 million in grant funding last year. But that does not account for the $2.02 million in “additional support” that’s listed in the organization’s sport benefit statement. That money helped cover athlete health insurance, money that went to athletes who won medals, funding for gymnasts at Olympic training centers and about a dozen other line items in the statement.

In other areas, the USOPC increased funding to the U.S. Center for SafeSport by $3 million, to $7.5 million, in 2019. It put $600,000 into a new athletes’ services division, with plans to increase that amount.

The federation spent about $23 million, or 9.8% of expenses, on administration. That’s less than the $31 million from last year, when costs rose because of multiple investigations triggered by the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal involving USA Gymnastics and others, but it’s still higher than the $15 million average from 2016 and 2017.

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has forced some severe cost-cutting in 2020 for the USOPC. The federation had to eliminate 51 positions in an attempt to cut about 20% of its budget — cuts made necessary without the income that the Olympics produce via TV and marketing deals. Hirshland has said that a full cancellation of the Olympics “would be devastating to our athletes, first and foremost, but also to our financial health and stability.”

Hirshland announced she was taking a 20% pay cut because of the pandemic. Her salary in 2019 is listed at $785,000 for a job that had paid more than $1 million for much of the decade before she arrived.