Former world champion marathoner and past AIS director, Rob de Castella, said, “It’s absolutely critical that we give the next generation athlete support to nurture them.
“It’s those formative years from 16 to 20 when all their development takes place. They don’t have the profile to be recognised (commercially with sponsorships). It’s important for the government to step in because they are not going to get outside help from anyone else.”
This means so much for Australia’s emerging athletes who have being doing it tough for some time, relying on the bank of mum and dad
Kim Brennan, Olympic champion rower
SA will receive $154m over two years for its projects, including $54m of new funding for athlete pathways with the aim of encouraging talented youngsters to progress from club sport to regional teams and on to state institutes of sport and hopefully to win medals at Olympic Games. Funds will be allocated to talent identification camps, as well as coaching for emerging athletes.
However, athletes training for Tokyo have not been neglected, with a boost to the Direct Athlete Support scheme which provides mean tested grants, freeing athletes to train during traditional working hours.
The $100m balance of Sport Australia funding will be allocated to Sporting Schools, community sport infrastructure and social inclusion programs in regional areas. The Sporting Schools program will receive another year’s funding of $46m, allowing national sporting organisations to send Development Officers to schools to impart skills and encourage participation in weekend sport.
Approximately $40m will be focussed on neglected areas of funding, such as changing rooms for female athletes and social inclusion programs in regional sports clubs, aimed at disadvantaged minorities.
Funds from a $19m social inclusion pool will be offered, for example, to cricket clubs for integrating members of the Afghan community in Shepparton and the Sikh community in Coffs Harbour into teams.
The other half of the $300m sports funding in the budget will be spent on infrastructure, principally upgrades of facilities. For example, the Carss Park swimming pool at Kogarah where Michelle Ford trained ahead of her gold medal win at the 1980 Moscow Olympics will undergo a renovation. Other community sporting facilities, such as tennis courts, can draw from this $150m pot.
It’s politically astute spending by the federal sports minister, Bridget McKenzie, playing the role of a sport fairy god mother, sprinkling money around the country, including regional areas.
While the debate leading up to last month’s NSW elections was focussed on spending on sports stadia which benefit elite sports (and the fans who attend the events), the federal spend, ahead of the coming national election, has been on grass roots.
With $27m per year invested in pathways for developing and emerging athletes; $46m in continued funding for established programs, such as visits by sports to schools; $40m in targeted infrastructure spending, including changing rooms for girls; social inclusion programs for migrant groups and $150m investment in community infrastructure, such as swimming pools, together with $12m in upgraded grants for current Olympic athletes, Minister McKenzie has sought to optimise the political capital of the sports dollar.
Wylie, a Melbourne-based merchant banker, describes it as “a good deal” for Australian sport, pointing out that $200m was allocated to the National Sports Plan in mid 2018, including $50m of short term funding for athletes preparing for Tokyo.
“It’s fabulous news,” said Wylie. “Overall, Australian sport has received $500m from the federal government in recent time. It has been an astute division of funding between the two arms of sport – high performance and participation.”
Roy Masters is a Sports Columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.