Let’s hope extra sports funding is not purely political
The importance of sport in Australian society was clearly not lost on Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan when he handed down his ‘no frills’ budget on Tuesday night, not to mention the influence that sporting success has on public sentiment.
The Treasurer announced a total of $325 million in increases for sports funding over a four year period. ‘Grass roots’ sporting programs will receive $71 million, while $237 million will be invested in elite sports to “entertain and inspire us”.
The government could have easily put sporting success on the back burner, citing the recent Crawford review which recommended a redirection of funds away from elite sport and viewed Australian Olympic Committee goals for future success as unrealistic.
Instead, the decision was taken to prioritize sports in providing what Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis, is calling the “biggest funding injection to sport in our nation’s history.”
With an election looming and much of the world in financial disarray, the 2010-11 budget is one which will attract intense scrutiny, so why the choice to spend more than ever in an area which cannot be compared in importance to health, infrastructure, education or even tax relief?
While the investment in grassroots sport will have the additional benefit of improving the health and well being of the population; why the investment in athletic programs which will provide no tangible benefit for the voting public?
The importance of sporting success in raising morale and galvanizing a nation is something not lost on politicians who will take almost any opportunity to identify themselves with sport’s champions.
Sport offers us, as spectators and participants, many valuable experiences and has great potential to work for good. But sport is also easily and all too often hijacked.
The underlying good in the sports that we love is easily sullied in the name of commercialism or social control.
Maybe, like Karl Marx once said of religion, sport is now the opiate of the people and sporting successes keep us happily subdued.
I hope the intention of the funding is based on the good in sport and the value of sport as an inspiration, but the timing of the funding, in financially lean circumstances, could lead the more cynical among us to think otherwise.
Whatever the motivation, you might just hope it helps us beat the Poms in 2012!