It’s a FIFA World Cup year!
The Greatest Sporting Event on Earth is around 120 days away, and we’re sending the Australian squad for the fourth consecutive tournament after the hellish saga that was Asian qualifying.
There’s zero chance we win the tournament, but (despite all the naysaying) it really is remarkable that Australia made the tournament at all with the squad we have and the lack of support it receives.
Oh, no, I don’t mean supporters. The Australian football-loving public fully support the squad (unless the game is in Sydney, where people are apparently allergic to attending sports and creating atmosphere).
We buy the scarves, get up at stupid-o-clock to watch qualifiers and use our green-and-gold tinted glasses to declare every Aaron Mooy basic short pass as Messi-like.
The Australian National Football Team gets support from us.
It just doesn’t get anywhere near enough support from our Federal Government.
While sports are free to generate their own revenue for High-Performance Squads, one major stream of income is from Government funding. It helps put frameworks and programs in place to allow our National Teams to be the best they can be.
So let’s take a look at the 2017-18 Australian Sport Commission (ASC) funding for High-Performance programs.
- Swimming $8.4m
- Cycling $7.8m
- Sailing $7.6m
- Rowing $7.4m
- Athletics $6.6m
- Hockey $5.7m
- Basketball $4.8m
- Canoeing $4.7m
- Winter Sports $4.2m
- Water Polo $3.1m
- Gymnastics $2.3m
- Diving $2.3m
- Triathlon $2.1m
- Equestrian $2.1m
- Volleyball $2.1m
- Netball $2.1m
- Shooting $2.1m
- Rugby Union $1.5m
- Softball $1.2m
As I see it, these funding allocations have been based upon:
- Nationalist fervour and the enduring myth that Australia is a swimming powerhouse… which we no longer are and may never be again.
- What ASC leaders like to watch through their polished monocle while dining on caviar at the yacht club.
- What ASC leaders’ kids are practicing on their finely-curated lawns and fully-decked private swimming pools at their elite Boarding School.
To see if they could justify these bizarre figures I checked their website. The ASC’s own mission statement says that the “ASC aims to strengthen Australian sport – to enable more people to play sport and Australian athletes to succeed on the world stage.”
In that regard, based on these funding allocations, the ASC is failing miserably.
They’re pumping funds into sports where Australia may (possibly, hypothetically, fingers-crossed) win an Olympic medal. I get the theory, but it’s essentially the same as the ‘Winning Edge’ program that failed so spectacularly at the Rio Olympics.
And they’re doing this at the expense of “enabling more people to play sport” because I am yet to hear of the huge rush of Aussie kids registering for modern pentathlon training after Australian won gold in that event at Rio 2016.
I do, however, remember reading about Junior Football Clubs having to be created from scratch to meet intense demand after Australia made the Round of 16 at the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
It’s absolutely clear to anyone listening that football inspires sporting participation in a way no other sport can match in this country, but the ASC overlook it for significant funding, because… well…
… Because the ASC is almost comically bias.
The Board and Executive of the Australian Sports Commission has people with backgrounds in Cycling (x2), Athletics (x2), Sailing (x2), Hockey (x2), Cricket, Skiing, Tennis, Netball, and AFL.
Put simply, Football isn’t even at the table when ASC funding is being discussed, despite being the sport with higher participation rates than any other sport in the country.
This is a problem. It’s a problem when representatives from niche sports like hockey and sailing are handed the carving knife and told to distribute the funding pie.
For Australian Football to get its fair share, the Australian Sports Commission will need a voice in their Canberra hallways spruiking football.
We need (and DESERVE) someone in the room when two Sailing nerds declare that Australian High Performance Sailing deserves $7.6m in a non-Olympic year, or when everyone in the room agrees with giving Canoeing $4.7m… we need someone is there to disagree and argue for Football instead.
In short, we need Craig Foster.
Come on Fozzy. We need your help. We deserve more pie.