Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has praised SportsAid's contribution to British sport and the difference its supporters have made to ‘thousands of young people and their families’ in a special message to mark the charity’s 40th birthday today.

The Duchess became the Patron of SportsAid, the charity providing financial support and recognition to the next generation of British Olympians and Paralympians, in 2013.

She has spent time with young athletes supported by SportsAid, and previous beneficiaries of the charity’s help, at fundraising events, training days and performance workshops.

For four decades, SportsAid has helped many of the country’s biggest sporting household names at the critical early stages of their careers – long before they were widely known by the British public.

Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah, Tom Daley, Bradley Wiggins, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Chris Hoy, Steve Redgrave and Ellie Simmonds are just a few previous recipients of SportsAid Awards.

“In the last forty years, SportsAid has given a helping hand to talented young sports people across the United Kingdom,” wrote the Duchess. "I have been fortunate enough to meet many current and former athletes who have benefitted from the charity’s support. It is always incredibly clear how the help and recognition these athletes receive at such a crucial, formative stage of their sporting lives gives them that all important boost they need to fulfil their potential.

“As Patron, I would like to wish SportsAid a very happy 40th birthday, and offer my best wishes to everyone who has played a part in their success. Thank you to those who have, and are, supporting SportsAid. Your efforts make a huge difference to thousands of young people and their families.

“Everyone involved in this great cause should be incredibly proud of the impact SportsAid has had on the success of British sport over the last four decades.” 

When SportsAid was founded in 1976, as part of a plan from the UK’s first Sports Minister Denis Howell, the charity was the country’s major source of funding for most of its top athletes as they looked to compete against usually better-resourced overseas rivals. 

SportsAid, originally known as the Sports Aid Foundation, supported many of Great Britain’s athletes at the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games including Sharron Davies, David Wilkie and Duncan Goodhew.

The SportsAid Award they received, as it still does today, helped contribute to covering a range of costs such as training and competition fees, accommodation, transportation, kit and nutrition.

The money was raised by SportsAid from the private sector and the Football Pools back then. Since National Lottery funding arrived in 1997 to help Britain’s top athletes, SportsAid has focused solely on helping talented young athletes, the next generation coming through, and still seeks support from the private sector as well as the usual mix of other charitable fundraising sources.

Each year, the athletes are nominated to SportsAid by the national governing bodies (NGBs) of more than 60 sports. The charity is supporting 1200 athletes, the vast majority aged 12 to 18, in 2016.

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