Reflections on the 2021/22 Commonwealth Government Budget for Sport

By Greg Blood

ASC Budget Accountability

Up until 2015/16 Commonwealth Government budget, the public had some idea about the division of Australian Sports Commission (or Sport Australia) funding between high performance and participation/sports organisations management. Budget papers stated appropriations for two ASC outcomes:

Outcome 1 – Improved participation in structured physical activity, particularly organised sport, at the community level, including through leadership and targeted community-based sports activity.

Outcome 2 – Excellence in sports performance and continued international sporting success, by talented athletes and coaches, including through leadership in high performance athlete development, and targeted science and research.

However, from 2016/17 budget there has been only one ASC outcome –

Increased participation in organised sport and continued international sporting success including through leadership and development of a cohesive and effective sports sector, provision of targeted financial support, and the operation of the Australian Institute of Sport.

As a result, it is now difficult to determine what funding is allocated to high performance and participation. Whilst budget allocations to Outcomes 1 and 2 up to 2015/2016 might not have been totally accurate due to blurred lines between them it still provided a sense division and importance in government objectives.

ASC has always published in its annual report funding to national sports organisations (NSO’s) and the distribution between high performance and participation. In 2019/20, it allocated $170m  out of its $418m budget to NSO’s. What we do not know is how the remaining $248m was spent by the ASC. In 2009-2010, the ASC annual report reported how its funding was distributed as a percentage of its budget. A return to publishing this information will improve public accountability of Commonwealth Government expenditure on sport.

ASC Budget Breakdown 2009-10

Finally, some argue that the Commonwealth Government should only fund high performance sport and the state and local governments fund participation which includes community sport facilities. This division of functions needs to be debated.

Cost of Athlete Welfare and Integrity

As someone, who spent nearly 30 years in assisting athletes and coaches at the AIS, I now worry about the direction of high-performance sport and its subsequent financial and human costs.

The 2021/22 budget committed $44m to Sport Integrity Australia including an $3.4m over two years to UNESCO and the World anti-doping Agency and $1.8m in 2021-22 develop policy options for an Australian Sports Wagering Scheme and for charging arrangements for sports integrity services. In addition, Sport Australia was allocated $82.2m over three years to extend funding for the Athlete Performance Pathways program and for Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement services.

Current day high performance sport has led to greatly increased funding for athlete wellbeing services through the AIS and endeavouring to keep it ethical and safe through Sport Integrity Australia.  Community sport which most likely has more desirable outcomes for Australian society missed out on this funding. Is the community interest in high performance sport starting to wane due to the numerous integrity issues?

Community Sport

One of the early outcomes of Sport 2030 was the Move It AUS’, a campaign to get more Australians active. This worthwhile campaign needed to be run over many years like Life. Be in it. in the 1970’s to have a long-term impact.

Community Sport Infrastructure Grants program needs to be an ongoing program. Community sport desperately needs additional and in many cases upgraded facilities. For instance , Basketball ACT stated that it needed to find more than 50 hours of court space every week just to run competitions to accommodate the influx of teams. Just remember NBA basketballer Paddy Mills developed his early skills on Canberra basketball courts. An ongoing Community Sport Infrastructure Grants program combining Commonwealth and state financial resources would give the community hope of developing their facilities in the short and long-term. Community Sport Infrastructure Grants program’s short budget cycle and decision-making processes has damaged community confidence in applying for sport facility grants.

Australian Institute of Sport Site (AIS) in Canberra

The future of the AIS site has had considerable media coverage in Canberra since Winning Edge policy in 2012 removed AIS athlete scholarships. The Canberra Times reported that Sport Australia was granted $2 million to develop a blueprint for AIS redevelopment to be delivered by June 30 2019. This delay has now led to the temporary closure of the AIS Arena – Canberra’s primary indoor stadium for indoor sports, concerts and other events. This Commonwealth Government indecision has impacted on the AIS and Canberrans. A decision on the future of the AIS Arena and Canberra Stadium – owned by the Commonwealth Government needs to be made so that Canberra can plan its plan its future development of major sports facilities.

Legacy of International Sporting Events

Two major international women’s sporting events – FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 and FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 have been allocated funding for legacy programs. The lack of a legacy programs after the Sydney Olympics/Paralympics is often regarded as a negative outcome. The budget allocated –  $12 million over two years from 2021-22 to Football Australia and $5 million  in 2021-22 to Basketball Australia. Two women’s sport benefit from this funding. Maybe funding could have been directed for a legacy program for all women’s sport in terms of participation, coaching, officiating and administration.   When will smaller but important women’s sports such as volleyball, softball, water polo, hockey receive this type of funding?

Final Thoughts

Commonwealth Government funding to sport is always welcome. From my viewpoint, areas that needed to be better explored are:

  • the division of funding between high performance and community sport needs to be critically analysed in terms of costs and benefits to the community
  • sustainable long term government programs – if Sporting Schools is so important why is it only ever funded for a few years at a time? Many programs that are considered as important only have short future windows of Commonwealth sport funding.
  • community sport facilities should be a high priority for governments of all levels and there should be long term funding approach based on evidence-based data. Commonwealth and State governments in recent years have funded high performance facilities for AFL and NRL clubs – these should have been funded totally by the AFL and NRL. Let’s take this type of funding away from election promises.
  • since the early 2000’s coaching and officiating has declined in importance in terms of funding, information development and promotion. It would be a good outcome if Sport Australia devoted additional resources as they are a critical backbone of sport particularly at the community level. The recent Australian Human Rights Commission report into gymnastics has raised many issues in relation to high performance and community coaching. I’m sure these issues occur in other sports.

Hopefully these thoughts stimulate debate that will help lead the Australian sport system into making a significant contribution to Australian society.

Dept of Health Budget documents

Sport – High performance sport – 11 May 2021Fact sheet

Sport – Supporting women in sport – 11 May 2021Fact sheet

Sport – Safeguarding sporting integrity – 11 May 2021Fact sheet

Sport – Sporting schools – 11 May 2021Fact sheet

Sport Australia / ASC documents

Sport Australia welcomes Sporting Schools funding boost

AIS welcomes extended funding certainty for sports

One response to “Reflections on the 2021/22 Commonwealth Government Budget for Sport”

  1. Hi Greg Just catching up on things. This is another good contribution from you.

    Once again, thank you for your tireless championing of the need for coaching and officiating to be recognised, supported and appropriately resourced.

    Regards Gene


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