Your heart’s beating at another door. I’m a damn fool to ask for more… in funding for the Olympics

Yeah, you never thought you’d see Jimmy Nail lyrics ever again, did you?

Australia sure likes its sport, doesn’t it? Mind! I don’t mean that Australia likes playing its sports. No, no. We still have tubby kids, after all.

In order to show how much we love our sport, we spend a miniature fortune each year on the sports industry.

Wait… by ‘We’, I of course mean ‘The Federal Government’. And by ‘a miniature fortune’, I mean ‘a miniature fortune of tax-payer funds’.

The history of funding sports in Australia is long and sordid. There’s  a rather famous story of the Minister who decided that we were wasting funds on the sports industry and so — correctly — reduced funding… only for his opposition to paint him (succesfully) as the horrible Minister that was trying to destroy Australia’s reputation as an elite sporting country.

A review of federal funding for sports was commissioned, called the Crawford Review. It contains such gems as:

‘The Panel believes that these matters need to be addressed if:

  • Australia is to continue to be successful at the elite level.
  • All Australians are able to participate in their sport(s) of choice.
  • The health and wellbeing of our population is improved.

The Panel believes that if the right structure and governance is put in place, there is every chance for a successful future for Australian sport. Without the right structure and governance, success will not result.‘ — Crawford Report [Source]

So what is the right structure and governance? Two bodies – one for policy (Australian Sports Commission) and one for service delivery (Australian Institutes of Sport). Everybody knows that programmes work best when you split the service delivery from the policies governing the service delivery. It sort of shows that the people writing the report were part of the sports industry and not, y’know, people who generally think about governance and policy.

In even funnier recommendations:

Australia’s high-performance sport system should be based on the principle that elite programs be delivered at optimal locations—and the system must facilitate the engagement of other providers such as universities and private organisations where appropriate.‘ — Crawford Report [Source]

It’s almost Yes, Prime Ministerish. Where should all the military officers be stationed? Right near Harrods. It’s the principle that the elite should be in the optimal locations, after all.

The Australian Olympic Committee aren’t happy with it, mostly because it means less money going directly to them. Their complaint is that less funding will mean less medals. It is a curious feature of our Olympics coverage that we don’t calculate how much each medal costs the federal government. When we’ve got crippled education, health, and emergency systems, exactly how much money can be justified in pouring into Olympic medals?

At the end of the day, there are votes to be lost if funding is diverted from sports to infrastructure and so no goverment will ever divert funding from sports to infrastructure.

Go, democracy!

Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based PhD student, writer, and policy wonk who writes about law, conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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