Glasgow 2014: Channel Islanders face high cost to compete

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Glasgow 2014: The cost of qualifying for Channel Island athletes

With its reputation as a tax haven and a home to dozens of millionaires, many outside the Channel Islands might expect their athletes to be heading to this summer's Commonwealth Games in gold-plated tracksuits or diamond-encrusted trainers.

But the reality for sports people on these two crown dependencies is far from that, as they struggle to find the money to qualify for the biggest sporting event the islands compete in.

Long hours travelling by air and sea, balancing work and training is often the norm, and the recent economic slump has had just as much of an effect on sponsorship in the islands as it has elsewhere.

Former England badminton gold medallist Mark Constable made the island his home in 2006 and has qualified for this year's games in Glasgow.

But with flights and hotels it has been no mean feat, both in terms of his work-life balance and costs - somewhere in the region of £3,000.

"I'm originally from the mainland and to play tournaments it was just the price of putting some petrol in your car and driving up the motorway," he told BBC Channel Islands News.

"Over here it takes a lot of planning, especially if you're working as well, as you hope you can get back in time to get back for Monday morning.

"It takes a lot of origination and you are dependent either on some funding or a sponsor."

If you are something of an established island sports star, sponsorship can be relatively easy to come by.

Ann Bowditch has been one of Guernsey's top cyclists for more than 15 years, winning countless Island Games medals and raced in Delhi four years ago.

She believes getting your name in the minds of islanders is crucial if you're going to get financial help.

"One of the things is how the public perceives you," she said. "It's really quite crucial and it is having that good business sense and putting yourself out there.

"For some people that might be quite difficult if you are that bit more shy."

But one other island hopeful has taken a more modern approach.

Runner Gemma Dawkins turned to online crowd funding to help pay for a £700 warm-weather training camp in Florida after posting about it on Facebook.

"It costs a lot of money to be a full-time athlete," she said.

"I thought if I can get the help I can then it will be great to help fund this warm weather trip in Florida."

High costs for Channel Island athletes are nothing new, smaller teams were sent to the because of the increased cost of travel.

But whatever way the island's part-time athletes choose to fund their sporting endeavours, how much they can afford to in order to play is a constant pressure they all have to bear.

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