“Federal government abandons plan to keep track of local sport needs, despite lessons from ‘sports rots'” by Jack Snape (ABC News – 2 June 2021). 

The reported demise of the Federal Government’s commitment to leadership and support of Australia’s future community sporting infrastructure needs is very disappointing. This move contradicts the aspirations of the National Sport Plan Sport 2030 for “Australia to be the world’s most active and healthy sporting nation”.

Even if this goal is an aspirational one – please note the five ‘Target Outcomes’ of Sport 2030 

  • Improve the physical health of Australians 
  • Improve the mental health of Australians 
  • Grow personal development
  • Strengthen our communities
  • Grow Australia’s economy

All of the five target outcomes rely to a large extent on the community having access to adequate sporting facilities.  

In 2018 KPMG conducted research on behalf of the Australian Sports Commission – ‘The Value of Community Sport Infrastructure’ which showed a $16.2b contribution to the nation.

Key statistics: 

  • Economic benefit $6.3b, 
  • Health benefit $4.9b, 
  • Social Value $5.1b. 
  • Over 8 million users, 20,000 clubs, employment for 57,000 and supported by 56.5m volunteer hours.

Depending on which study you refer to, investment in sport gives between a 5:1 and 7:1 return on government funding.

State, Territory and local Governments contribute to sporting infrastructure but Federal Government funding and leadership is essential. 

The fact that the 2018 Community Sport Infrastructure Grant program (CSIG) received over 2,000 applications for a total of $400m for projects shows there is a significant need in the community for funding support.

The second part of the Confederation of Australian Sport’s proposal to the Federal Government was that it should lead and facilitate a national audit and database of sporting facilities.  

Conducting an audit of existing sporting facilities would require collaboration between the Federal and State/Territory Governments, and also liaison with the Local Government as a major provider of such facilities. Some of the work in Victoria has already been done under Vic Sport and Recreation Spatial.

Once a National Sporting Facilities Audit was completed a needs assessment could be undertaken to establish the physical and financial requirements.  This assessment should ideally encapsulate existing facilities and also new facilities required for emerging priorities.

This assessment would inform the Government of the level of resourcing required for providing Community Sporting Facilities that were functional, well maintained, safe and that catered for all users in order to encourage physical activity and maximise the use of the facilities for the benefit of the user and the broader community.

The roll-out of funding support for facilities could be done in a planned and strategic manner without political intervention.

Why has the Federal Government abandoned a central foundation of the Sport 2030 Plan?

There is arguably more need than ever before for this vital support for community sport.  Community sport is struggling to rebound from COVID-19 with millions lost in scarce resources at club level, even greater stress on dwindling volunteer stocks and external pressures on players, coaches and officials.  

Millions of Australians rely on community sport for major contributions to their physical health, social connectedness to teammates, and club friends and for fun and enjoyment.

With mounting pressure on the physical and mental health of our community – why reduce support to vital sport projects.      

It seems that the Coalition Government has abandoned the CSIG program because of the bad press it received over the 2018-19 program, particularly from the Senate Committee report released earlier this year.

There have been shortcomings in the process, but the story should be about the bigger benefits the program has contributed to. Over 684 projects across Australia were funded and $100m was granted to assist community sport – this is significantly more than ever before.

Clearly if there were over 2,000 applications for funding then the job is not done and more support is needed.  

Overall the National Sport Plan Sport 2030 is a good plan. It covers the major areas of endeavour and future needs, it positions sport as a weapon in preventive health and it sets realistic targets that embrace all stakeholders in Australian sport.

Sport 2030 was more highly funded than any previous Australian Sports Commission strategy when it was released in 2018 –  up by more than $140m or $200m if CSIG included. Sport 2030 was cause for cautious optimism that the Federal Government had finally acknowledged the health, social and economic contribution that sport makes to our nation. But it will only succeed if the Federal Government maintains the funding commitment for the full duration of the plan.

Now is not the time to rip out one of the foundations from under Sport 2030.

Rob Bradley AM
President and CEO
Confederation of Australian Sport