Sports funding welcome but could have gone further
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) announced today it has welcomed funding initiatives announced in last night’s Federal Budget but believes more was needed to recognise the vital role sport can play in building an active, healthy and cohesive Australia.
AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll says the government is missing the opportunity for a modest investment in Olympic sport that can deliver great outcomes in fighting obesity, lifting education standards, contributing to social cohesion and also delivering good economic outcomes.
“We are concerned about where sport funding is heading for the long term and we believe this budget was the opportunity for appropriately funded sport to play its role.” Mr Carroll said.
“We certainly welcome the extension to the Sporting Schools Program of $41.7 million and the allocation of $29.7 million for community sporting infrastructure grants.”
“But in reality there is not really a lot of new money involved and that will be felt by the individual sports. Looking at the forward estimates, the funding falls away very quickly.
“While the Budget includes an emphasis on bespoke programs to deliver health outcomes, directly funding national sport organisations doesn’t take a lot of money in the context of a Federal budget.
“With Olympic sports you don’t need to build something new. They all come with a ready-made base of volunteers and networks that can ensure our children, young adults and seniors in some sports are fully engaged in healthy lifestyle choices, wellbeing and valuable life skills.
“We have arrived at a point where 10 million Australians live sedentary or low exercise lifestyles and that is leading to a health crisis.
“Today’s young person not involved in healthy physical activity is tomorrow’s adult at risk of serious health and wellbeing issues.”
“While the Australian Olympic Committee itself doesn’t seek nor receive Federal Government funds for our community sport activities or to send Australian teams to Olympic Games, the individual sports within the Olympic movement, if properly funded, can make an enormous contribution to health and community outcomes.
Mr Carroll said the AOC eagerly awaited details of high performance funding to accompany the Government’s National Sports Plan understood to be released next month.
“That’s the missing piece right now. Clearly, we are hoping the government will send a strong message that it is committed to high performance success which in turns drives participation at the grass roots. It’s a virtuous circle.
“The Government’s own research has recognised that sport is a great preventative health catalyst and that sports organisations can contribute to social cohesion, community building, improved educational outcomes as well as lifting Australia’s national pride and our standing in the international community.” Mr Carroll said.
Mr Carroll pointed to the work done by the Boston Consulting Group in 2016 for the ASC which flagged a serious decline in children’s fitness and their capacity to undertake basic skills such as catching, throwing, kicking and other skills defined as “physical literacy.”
“Our young people deserve a rich variety of sporting options that can engage them and address these issues. That’s why funding sports which don’t have the commercial revenues of professional codes, makes so much sense. It doesn’t take much money, but that money will go a long way.”
In its submission to the yet-to-be-released National Sports Plan, the AOC recommended:
- A Statement of Purpose - Clearly stating where sport sits in the Commonwealth Government’s national priorities. Committing to a diversity of autonomous sports, a vibrant schools sport system, recognition of the role sport plays in healthy lifestyles and national pride.
- Participation + Performance = Prevention – For Government to have sport being able to deliver on prevention it needs to support participation and performance. Enabling sports to better resource their participation initiatives to drive growth will have the desired effect of improving community health outcomes. Investment in Olympic sports provides a low-cost outlay for a high return through more people participating in sport driving down obesity, improving mental health and encouraging social cohesion.
- Investment in knowledge – Knowledge is a great enabler so investment to provide access to cutting edge research in coaching, training and technology, transfers learning from performance to participation supporting the broader health and social outcomes for the community.
- Direct investment in sport – The expectations placed on sport, its participants and organisations, go well beyond sport, yet the majority of sports are volunteer based with stretched resources. A modest increase in funding directly to sports will deliver the results government seeks in health and social wellbeing and ensure we remain a nation of sporting diversity.
- Partnership – the AOC wants to work with governments at all levels, bringing to the table our member sports with their sizable participation base, the Olympic athletes and participation in the Olympic Games, all of which can play a pivotal role in delivering the outcomes for government, including the preventive health.