What is a minority sport? In Scotland, you could argue it is any sport outwith top league football and rugby. So, this includes hockey, cricket and amateur club rugby, three sports that I have been involved in for much of my life.
But did you know that while our minority athletes, such as the senior Scottish women’s hockey squad, are asked to compete on the world stage against the strongest nations, almost all of whom are full-time, they can afford to train only part-time?
The same is true of the senior men’s hockey programme and, while cricket has a small number of full-time professionals, they are consistently asked to perform at an elite level against nations where financial support in the form of sponsorship and investment comes easily.
Most people have no idea that success at international level for an athlete does not necessarily mean fat salaries and full-time commitment to their sport. The wages of minority sport stars, whether full-time or part-time, pales into insignificance when compared to their “non-minority” football or rugby peers.
I was a board director of Cricket Scotland for many years and through my children I have become involved in the sponsorship of hockey and amateur rugby. While I’m impressed with the dedication and numerous achievements of many Scottish athletes, I’ve been equally shocked at the lack of commercial support from the corporate world. I say that, however, acknowledging there are some fine examples of businesses and entrepreneurs who do provide tremendous support.
I have witnessed several young talents having to choose between more financially rewarding careers or to chase the dream of representing their country. They struggle to juggle part-time employment with full-time commitment.
In a bid to balance the books of normal life and a sporting career, many athletes require personal sponsorship. While lottery funding is available and organisations, such as sportscotland, do what they can to support national governing bodies, individual athletes still need sponsorship.
Scotland is a proud nation and takes great delight in seeing home-grown talent excel internationally. I was poolside when Ross Murdoch won the 200m breaststroke gold at the Commonwealth Games 2014 and the atmosphere was incredible.
All of this has given me reason and motivation to support several Scottish athletes and clubs. As well as sponsoring Ross, my business supports two Scottish hockey players, Kaz Cuthbert and Robyn Collins, as well as Scottish rugby Premiership club Glasgow Hawks and Greenock Cricket Club.
As a small business, we do not have vast profits to set aside for sponsorship, but we are proud to be helping our athletes where we can. Our sponsorship of Kaz and Robyn allowed them to spend three months in full-time training prior to important world stage tournaments and helped Scottish Hockey in a small way.
I think many businesses and individuals would be surprised at how far a little financial support can be stretched, and what a difference it can make.
Ken Godsman is managing director of Glasgow-based ACT Construction (UK) Ltd