Sport bosses call for more Government funding to maintain Australia’s global sporting reputation
Sports leaders say the nation’s world-beater sport reputation is at risk. (AP Photo: Matt Slocum)
The new year is less than one week old but the agenda for two of Australia’s most powerful sports administrators has already been set.
- Sports bosses argue that Australian athletes and facilities are struggling for funding
- They say it would be an investment in health costs for the community
- AOC chief executive Matt Carroll says foreign athletes will be better supported at Tokyo 2020
John Wylie, the chair of Sport Australia, and Matt Carroll, the chief executive of the Australian Olympic Committee, say without increased Federal Government funding the nation’s global sporting reputation will be lost.
Mr Wylie believes the time for a national discussion on the issue is now.
“At the Sports Commission (ASC) we’ve had seven years of funding cuts … when you look forward to 2022 the funding to the ASC will be down by about 25 per cent in real terms,” he said.
“Obviously there is an election coming up and we think this is an important issue nationally, we think it’s an important time for Australia.
“This is an organisation that forms a very important service to Australian sport.”
The ASC is the major funder of all Olympic and Paralympic sports and provides grants to 65 sports bodies for improving grass roots and community participation.
While Mr Wylie recognised a “significant” one-off investment in the most recent budget to put towards athletes preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, he said Australians will be competing “against the odds”.
“Our Australian sports stars are competing against better-funded competitors with better resources at their disposal,” he said.
“They are not doing it for the money, they are doing it for individual and national glory and a sense of achievement … we should celebrate that, support it, and continue to invest in it.”
Australia won eight gold medals at Rio 2016, but will be competing “against the odds” in Tokyo. (AAP Image: Lukas Coch)
Mr Carroll said every dollar invested in sport by the government pays a $4 dividend.
“Participation breeds the champions of the future but participation also provides great health outcomes,” he said.
“For a lot of Olympic sports, which represents about eight and a half million participants across the country, very little investment is made.
“If you look at the size of the federal budget, what they invest in sport is quite small.”
Sport Australia said every dollar invested in sport returns fourfold. (AP Photo: Natacha Pisarenko)
Sport sits inside the health portfolio with a budget of over $99 billion.
Sport Australia gets $230 million to distribute — an investment of less than $10 per Australian.
“It’s gone backwards by about $60 million over the last eight years and the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra is in trouble in terms of being able to look after its facilities,” Mr Carroll said.
“They are getting rundown so that’s an investment by many previous governments into sport that is being squandered.”
Champion para-athlete Kurt Fearnley is a new commissioner on the ASC board. (AAP, Dean Lewins)
Bridget McKenzie, the Minister for Sport, today named four new commissioners to the board of the ASC — including three-time Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley.
They are expected to meet for the first time later this month with future funding as their top priority.
Mr Wylie says the positive repercussions of investing in sport are significant.
There are many countries which want increased internationals sporting success. (AP: Martin Neissner)
“If Australia wants to be the agricultural food bowl for Asia over the next 20, 30 or 50 years then we really do need to have an image and be regarded as a healthy and successful sporting country,” he said.
“We won’t be able to sell our superfoods to Asia without that image.
“We think it’s a self-financing investment in the reduction of long-term health costs for the community; it promotes social inclusion and with the increasing fragmentation of our community these days that’s a good thing; it promotes better mental wellbeing; and it’s good economically for the country.
John Wylie said Australia faces a more competitive environment in international sport. (Reuters: Alessandro Bianchi)
“There’s no doubt we face an increasing challenge to maintain our place at the top table of world sport … there are many countries — both traditional players at the top of world sport but also a lot of developing countries — that want increased success in the international sporting field and are prepared to invest in order to achieve that.
“Over the next 20 or 30 years Australia faces a very different and much more competitive environment in international sport than it’s faced in the past and we need to react to that, and anticipate that, and change our strategies.”
Ms McKenzie was unavailable for comment.