A numbers game: Being a funded vs unfunded British Judo player

Guest post from Danny Williams, British Judo Olympian and Coach at Camberley Judo Club

At the time of writing I am one of Great Britain’s current longest standing Judo players operating in a full time setting.

When you don’t achieve everything that you initially want to I suppose those are the titles that you cling to! Anyway, in my time as a full time athlete, I have been both funded and unfunded by the national governing body. I have had trips covered by British Judo and I have spent time as a self-funded athlete.

Aside from my own personal enjoyment of writing, an aim I have with this blog is to give those not involved in the tiny percentage of our Judo community that are full time players and coaches, some insight into that lifestyle. Or, at the very least, one person’s experience of it.

I enjoyed chatting to my friend and former training partner at Camberley Judo Club, Vince Skillcorn, for his Judo Talk podcast a couple of weeks back. The main topic of discussion being the ins and outs of a full time Judoka. We also very briefly touched on the self funded athlete lifestyle.

There has been a lot of discussion on the Facebook Judo forums, GB Judo Underground and GB Judo Community about athlete support and selections. Over the last few years I have received a fair number of messages from people asking questions about it. The most common one I’m asked is:

What is the difference between a funded and an unfunded athlete?

I think to answer that question fully it actually requires a much more multidimensional and in depth answer than what I present here. I see this post as the ‘surface information’.

Financial Support

Before I continue I’ll briefly discuss what information I’m presenting here. I have previously discussed in detail many times before the expectations to commitment to training for full time Judo players, I’ll not repeat that here.

I’m going to lay out financial support I have received from British Judo. That support being in the form of both the trips (tournaments and training camps) that were paid for and APA Award (athlete personal award), which is basically personal financial support. When an athlete is on an APA they are also covered medically; physio treatment, scans and surgery provided if required.

Typically, up until 2013, most members of the British squad received trips, the better ones in the country receiving a higher volume and level of these. If international results were good enough then APA awards could be given to athletes to aid them with daily living costs.

I will use 2011 and 2012 here as an example of a being largely a fully supported Judoka. In this period I got onto APA funding (£568 per month) in October 2011, which I remained on all the way through 2012 and then removed from later in 2013. I was fully supported but had a very quiet rest of the year on the tournament front post London Olympics in 2012.

During 2013, because I chose not to centralise, I then had to self fund nearly all trips and had my APA Award removed. I was on one of the lowest APA awards, they grow in amount with improved results. 2011 is probably the best example of a fully supported year regarding selections that I can personally give. Through these first two discussed years, leading up to the beginning of the current centralised system in 2013, I was British number one in the -73kg weight category. For a number of years after the current centralised system was established I also operated as British number one in that same category. I was 23 years old when the current centralised system began.

It is worth stating that, before London 2012, the International Judo Federation’s calendar looked slightly different, there was only a few Grand Prix, Grand Slam events per year, the title World Cup was more commonly used. For example, notice that the tournament that was this year called Grand Slam Georgia was titled World Cup Georgia back in 2012.

I have included dates up to the time of writing as I am still training and operating in a full time setting with aspirations to compete internationally again. Worth mentioning that I chose to cease fighting at -73kg towards the end of 2019. I did not compete at the British Championships in the December of that year so, 2020 was the first year since 2009 that I was not officially a member of the British Senior Squad. A player has to be a member of the British senior squad to be selected to represent Great Britain at most international events. I had planned to begin competing again, at -81kg, in the back half of 2020, which has obviously been delayed due to the current pandemic situation.

I was, and am, one of many full time British Judo players operating across a number of different centres throughout the country.

So, to be absolutely clear, I was sent to 20 events in 2011 and 14 events in 2012 by the performance teams at British Judo only. I have been to only 1 single event in 2013, 2015, 2016 & 2018. The years not mentioned are events that I was selected for and not sent to. Particularly 2013 onwards, takes into no account for all the events that I self funded.

For those self funding tournaments judo players can obtain monies through private sponsorships, running guest sessions/seminars and paid work, I have done all in my time. For many of the events in the Rio 2016 Olympic qualification period, for a small number of us, Camberley Judo Club spent all the money saved towards a new dojo to try and get us to as many events as possible, to give us a greater chance of going to the Olympics.

Being funded was beneficial to the exposure it can bring to your career, enabling you to travel and compete in events and eases the path to the Olympics. However, when self funded, if you have the support I have received in my career then the difficulty does pay off and can achieve the desired end result. As difficult as all the self funding has been at times, personally, I’ve had some brilliant supporters. It’s not cheap being in Argentina the one week to a fortnight later fighting again, in China. Being completely funded by British Judo for instance, or other sports is never a guaranteed mainstay for the length of your career. Being able to generate your own funding is a great skill to have if you need it.


You can connect with Danny here:

Website – https://dannywilliamsgbr.com/

LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/danny-williams-a2a5b1201

Instagram – dwilliamsjudo

Twitter – @dwilliamsjudo

LAPS Members can discuss Danny’s post on our Community page.