Sports editors of national newspapers are to blame for Winter Olympians' struggle to lure in sponsors and improve their performances, according to Great Britain’s sole medal winner at the last Winter Olympics Amy Williams.
Williams, who won gold in the Skeleton at Vancouver 2010, has described her own bid for sponsors when she started out as a “battle” and has now called for change.
She believes that newspaper sports editors unfairly discriminate against athletes competing in the Winter Olympics.
“Newspapers editors should stop putting football managers who are swearing on the back pages and put [on] Winter Olympians who win medals,” Williams said.
Asked about her ability to attract sponsors, Williams said “it was a battle... when you are not on TV or on the back pages of newspapers”.
The Winter Olympics are of marginal interest in the UK, but the BBC is sending a substantial team out to Sochi, including Williams herself as a pundit, while national newspapers are sending out dedicated teams.
But critics argue that the all-consuming popularity of football has squeezed out coverage of those competing in Sochi in the run-up to the games which start in less than two weeks.
This in turn has undermined their sponsorship opportunities.
UK Sport, the body that funds elite sport, has given Great Britain the target of winning between four and seven medals in Sochi.
Favourites for these medals include Skeletoners Lizzy Yarnold and Shelley Rudman.
Funding for Skeleton, which has become Great Britain’s signature Winter Olympic event, has improved because of Williams’ victory in Vancouver
It now receives £3.45m funding from UK Sports in the Olympic cycle, out of a total of £14m of money going into Winter Olympic sports.
Skeleton’s status is a world away from what it was when Williams started out.
In her first five or six years in the sport, Williams had to fit her training around a full-time job, working in Thorntons.
“If you are standing on your feet all day are you putting 100 per cent into your training?” she questioned.
Her sponsorship deals were low-key and local, such as free haircuts from a salon in exchange for any publicity Williams could return.
Her success in Vancouver prompted sponsorship from BMW and Williams admits “a lot has changed since she started” in her particular sport.
But she still believes there is football overkill in national newspapers, and it is to the detriment of Winter Olympians.