A group of Britain’s top athletes have been warned they would lose their National Lottery funding if they fail to justify their worth.
UK Athletics, the sport’s national governing body, announced 38 names who have been recommended for funding for the next 12 months.
But as the sport digests one of its most disappointing years, national performance director Dave Collins insisted as many as 17 of those chosen need to improve their performances.
Paula Radcliffe, in the marathon, won Britain’s only gold medal at the World Championships in Helsinki in August where the team had only a handful of finalists, while the men’s team were relegated from the European Cup Super League, only to be re-instated on a technicality.
Though Jason Gardener won a third successive 60 metres European Indoor title in Madrid in March, most British success came at youth and junior level.
Collins is assessing the 38 names on a yearly basis but he does have the facility to drop people’s funding after six months if he does not see an improvement.
He said: "There are 16 or 17 of them where we are saying that we know you have produced in the past but you need to demonstrate to us that you really are working towards long-term performance.
"There are other individuals who are not on that list who need to do the same and if you are not, you are gone.
"It says the sport needs to change direction and is not doing well. If I was to say the team is doing well, you would doubt my sanity. We are not doing well.
"We have had, for a variety of different circumstances, a number of athletes who have not performed to the standards they would like. In that list of 38 are people with the potential who have not done as well as they should have done in the last year and they now have the chance to turn it around.
“I would not want to remove people who have had one bad year. They know that and it has been stated pretty clearly to them.”
The world class performance programme funded by UK Sport from the National Lottery starts on December 1 and the grants are structured into three tiers based on previous success.
Those in the A category, such as Olympic winners, will receive £21, 830; B category receives 17,830, while C receives 8,915.
There are seven more names that could be added to the list during the year, depending on how they perform during the winter season which includes the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and World Indoor Championships in Moscow.
Collins added: “We have picked a variety of people; some who are performing very well, some who are on the way up and some who very clearly we have taken the opportunity to say you need to raise your game and you have a year to do it and that is why you are there.”
There were no major surprise omissions, and though the programme is geared towards the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, it includes senior athletes such as Darren Campbell and Gardener.
Rhys Williams, who won gold at the European Under-23 Championships in the summer and then performed well at the World Championships, is not on this list. But he will receive funding - which can include medical support and warm-weather training costs - as part of the world class development programme.
Collins remains insistent age should not deter the possibilities of a champion and said: "There are athletes here who have a record of success. We need to get more success; I do not want to lose maturity from our programme.
“Across the programme we have to focus what is happening in 2008. We need success. If they can start producing that at the Europeans and the worlds, it will help the younger people coming through.”
The 38 athletes on the world class performance programme are: Sprints/hurdles: Tim Benjamin, Darren Campbell, Malachi Davis, Marlon Devonish, Donna Fraser, Jason Gardener, Graham Hedman, Chris Lambert, Mark Lewis-Francis, Lee McConnell, Christian Malcolm, Christine Ohuruogu, Abi Oyepitan, Nicola Sanders, Robert Tobin, Andy Turner.
Field/Combined Events: Nathan Douglas, Ashia Hansen, Phillips Idowu, Jade Johnson, Dean Macey, Germaine Mason (to be confirmed), Nathan Morgan, Greg Rutherford, Goldie Sayers, Steven Shalders, Kelly Sotherton, Chris Tomlinson, Shirley Webb.
Endurance: Jon Brown, Kathy Butler, Helen Clitheroe, Michael East, Jo Fenn, Karl Keska, Nick McCormick, Jo Pavey, Paula Radcliffe.