Here is a link to my presentation on Junior Sport and the Relationships with Local Council and The Australian Sports Commission. (Junior Sport on Business, Politics and Sport)
This essay will talk about the relationship between local sport, in particular junior sport, and the relationship it has with local councils and the Australian Sports Commission, and the varying policies and objectives in place within the jurisdiction of the council or councils, the sporting associations and clubs. It will look into funding and grants from local council and government, both for clubs and public facilities including equipment, playing and training facilities, spectating and hospitality facilities. I will also look into the interaction of local sporting associations where their region or competition lies over multiple council boundaries, where conflicting policies, rules and regulations are apparent. The essay will also cover the Crawford Report, and how the Australian Sports Commission is applying the report’s objectives of improving ‘grass root sport’, and how it is interacting with local councils and sporting clubs and associations in doing so. Another point this essay will cover is the use of multiple sporting facilities, such as cricket and football grounds, and how the local councils and respective associations interact and come to mutual agreements on the terms and conditions of use. Overall this essay will aim to show the impacts that council and government has on local junior sport, and how crucial this relationship is to the greater Australian sporting population.
Community sport, in particular junior sport, is the building block and the foundation of professional sports people in Australia and an integral part of the elite sporting community as all sporting stars begin their careers in junior sport. A focus of this essay will be on the revealing of the 2009 Crawford Report and how it has changed the administration of Australian sport and what the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) needs to do in order to fully implement the Crawford Reports findings. Another focus will be on how local councils interact with local and junior sport stakeholders and how successful these relationships are and the results and impacts this is having on future stars of Australian sport. Finally this essay will cover the crossover of local councils in local sporting competitions and how the sports are impacted by varying policies, funding and political games associated with local government. .
The Crawford Report and Junior Sport
Findings of the 2009 Crawford Report (2009 Crawford report: Investing in the future of sport) on ‘investing in the future of sport’, stated that “there is significant capacity for improved co-ordination and the allocation of government funds between agencies and levels of government”. This basically means that the federal government, in particular the ASC, needs to work and coordinate better with local council to improve junior sport, which in turn will improve Australia’s elite sporting success. Another one of the findings of the Crawford report (2009) was that previous government support to sport was mainly focused on funding to the elite level and a clear focus was on winning medals in Olympic and Commonwealth games. This ultimately led to sport being underfunded and neglected at a community level, which I have stated above as being an integral part to professional sport in Australia(Crawford Report 2009) . The statement that “There is a strong correlation between international sporting success and public funding for sport” (Crawford Report 2009) is an important finding of the report as it clearly shows the importance that local sport has within the professional sporting community. The report found that countries such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom and many others all have large populations, and are putting in large contributions towards their elite sporting programs, yet smaller countries, such as Jamaica, are taking more medals in elite competitions. There is obviously a clear need for a national program in which all tiers of government as well as independent agencies and community stakeholders have the same views, goals and motives regarding the handling and development of junior sport in Australia. Although the Australian Sports Commission, post Crawford Report, has clear objectives to improve junior sport to ultimately improve Australia’s elite ‘talent pool’, there is an apparent break down at the bottom, or local sport level, which I will explain in depth later in this paper. The Crawford Report (Crawford Report 2.1: National Sport Policy Framework 2009) presents the idea that although the Australian Sports Commission, and all state and territory departments of sport and recreation have the basic same objectives, “perform well at an elite level and increase participation”, “there is however no overarching strategy and very little coordination” and this is the reason there is a breakdown of national objectives at a local and junior level. The Crawford Report (2009) suggests that because a national sport framework would require coordination of all tiers of government, “it will be advantageous for the Australian Government, through the Council of Australian Governments, to include local government membership in the Sport and recreation minister’s council”. This would create a key link and feedback avenue between the national policies and the implementation of them at the bottom level.
Local Council and Junior Sport
As stated above, junior sport is the key foundation of success at the highest level, as all professional sports people begin their careers as junior athletes. Local councils play an active role in the delivery and development of local sport in their jurisdiction and thus play a key part in the infrastructural chain that is Australian sport. An interview with Mark Simpson, a key stakeholder of local sport in the Shellharbour City Council district in NSW, as a long term coach of junior and senior sport, as well as a board member of a local club, clearly laid out the relationship of junior sport and the local council in his area. As the head coach of the Illawarra Academy of Sport’s (IAS) cricket program he had quite a direct view on the inflow and outflow of funding received by local council, with the IAS drawing funding from the Shellharbour, Wollongong, Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee district councils. As the chairman of the IAS, was also the general manager for the Shellharbour District council, much lobbying was done by the chairman in order to receive continued funding from local councils, and he was able to ensure continued support to the various IAS elite junior sporting programs. The IAS also receives funding from bodies such as Cricket NSW, and the Department of Sport and Recreation. This, along with council funding enables the IAS to provide a program for talented juniors from the region to participate in elite training and offers a key stepping stone from junior sport to senior elite levels of competition. Another key aspect of the interview saw Simpson talk about the struggles of the Shellharbour City Council to provide consistent funding across the whole region across a wide range of sports and facilities. As the Shellharbour region has a huge range of sports and an ever growing population, the need for extended sporting facilities is difficult for the council and community to agree on a suitable course of action. Simpson says that “with lack of council funding being an issue in the expansion of sporting facilities, the onus will be put back on the clubs for funding and support and will ultimately filter down to the families participating in the respective sports”. This shows a glaring gap in the ASC’s priority of support in junior sport post Crawford report, and the reality of its execution. Clubs and the community alike are turning towards funding from independent sources, like the Oak Flats Cricket Club, whom Simpson is club coach and secretary of, who received a $42,000 grant to upgrade their turf wicket facilities off the Community Building Partnership Program, which is a private sector of the NSW government. Simpson explains that the harsh reality of the current situation of local sport in the Shellharbour region is, “that sport is becoming a ‘user pay scheme, where families are being forced to pay more and more for their kids to participate in junior sport”. This is ultimately causing the sports to suffer as participation numbers are dropping, and will eventually cause Australian sport at an elite level to suffer. This small interview clearly shows how the federal government needs to use the Crawford Report’s (Crawford Report2009) findings and suggestions in order to take control of sport infrastructure at all levels in Australia to allow a coordinated and ultimately successful junior sport program this country needs to excel at the top level.
Crossover of Local Councils and Effects on Junior Sport
Quite often junior sporting competitions extend over the borders, or jurisdictions of neighbouring councils, and the clubs or competitors, although in the same competition can have quite varying backgrounds to their sport. I will use an example, from a guest lecture by Greg Doyle at the University of Canberra on the 8th of September 2011 (Greg Doyle on Business Politics and Sport), about the Central Coast Surf Life Saving competitions and how its overlaps between the Wyong Council and the Gosford City Council. Many Surf Life Saving clubhouse and/or facilities were quite dilapidated and where in obvious need of an upgrade and as the Terrigal Surf Club had recently undergone an upgrade to a multi-purpose facility it shined as the benchmark of the community. Doyle explained how, as he was part of the central coast’s ‘beach management group’, he helped lobby and look into getting more clubs in the region being built. It resulted in the Gosford City Council creating a needs assessment plan for club facility upgrades along the coast and eventually a $10 million surf club upgrade package for the region was passed. As the Central Coast region is an area that is highly contested by Labour and Liberal political parties and quite often investment local sport in the area was seen as a good opportunity to win votes and support. However, Wyong council, who shares a comparatively lower socio-economic status that Gosford, did not support Doyle’s idea and plan to do a similar needs assessment plan of the surf clubs in their council region. Doyle then explained how he used the idea of political popularity to persuade the Wyong Council to do a needs assessment plan of the area and as Doyle explained “the rest became history” with the Wyong council developing plans to upgrade the regions Surf Life Saving facilities. Now after this all boils down, this political game that councils play is ultimately a ploy for votes and support, and on this occasion junior sport in the area became a beneficiary of the outcome. Yet if not for political pressure placed on the Wyong Council, the Central Coast Surf Life saving competition may have seen a large gap in the opportunities for junior athletes between the two council regions.
Overall this paper aimed to show how local council plays a huge role in the development and delivery of junior sport at a local level, and how this can positively or negatively affect certain clubs or sports. It also showed how the Australian Sports Commission is changing its priorities towards improved support towards junior sport in Australia, yet after the 2009 Crawford Reports (2009 Crawford Report) Findings and real life case studies, it showed how there is still a long way in the developing of a national junior sport framework in Australia.
- The Independent Sport Panel Report (The Crawford Report), Crawford,D. Commonwealth of Australia 2009 - Section 2.1: National Sport Policy Framework (Crawford Report 2009)
- The Independent Sport Panel Report (The Crawford Report), Crawford,D. Commonwealth of Australia 2009 - Section 2.7: Investing in the Future of Sport (Crawford Report 2009)
- Guest Lecture: Doyle,G. CEO of Australian Canoeing, University of Canberra, 8th September 2011 http://bps.ucniss.net/2011/09/open-water.html
- Interview: Simpson,M. Former Illawarra Academy of Sport Cricket Program Head Coach, Current Oak Flats Cricket Club senior coach and secretary. Interview conducted 30th November 2011.