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Gravy train slows for ‘tourist athletes’
By Chris Line
November 25, 2003

THE gravy train may be over for Australia’s `tourist athletes’ as the sport’s governing body directs funding to its elite at the expense of those making up numbers in national teams.

Athletics Australia’s annual meeting was told today there needed to be more targeted funding within disciplines and teams if Australia was to ever lift its wallowing ranking within the sport.

The re-organisation will also slash overlap between various institutes that would see more specialisation, meaning more aspiring athletes would be required to move interstate.

The overhaul of funding came after AA came under the grill from the Australian Sports Commission to justify funding.

It also came at a time AA was absorbing a $1.3 million loss recorded in the past financial year - principally caused by a very large revenue shortfall.

AA chief executive Simon Allatson today said the proposed changes “are recognised as being necessary and are likely to be supported”.

“We will be providing more support to those with a proven performance history than those down the bottom end of the team,” Allatson said.

"The system has been historically supporting a number of athletes that were not going to make it to the level we needed them to.

"There will still be support for those below (the top ten - we can’t do everything.

“We have to be accountable for the money provided by the Sports Commission and share that accountability with the athletes and coaches.”

A review of high performance programs showed about 70 per cent of all Olympic/World Championship medallists had relocated while 145 of the 222 coaches who had provided Australian team members over the past 10-15 years had provided just one athlete.

“We can’t expect to have every institute in the country running a full athletics program, so there will be a degree of specialisation,” Allatson said.

“If you’re really serious about being successful as an international-level athlete, then why wouldn’t you move.”

In 2002/03 revenue projections - upon which expenditure was based - proved optimistic, particularly in the post-Olympic sponsorship snooze and given a rain-affected poorly-attended domestic series.

There would be no major change to the domestic series in the short-term, with a “more prudent” approach to budgeting ruling out a marketing blitz or appearance fees for international stars.

“When you’ve hit a hurdle the way we have, you need to look at the best way to provide comfort to the constituents that it was a one off,” Allatson said.

“We’re all disappointed but we’ve dealt with that and we are going to work within more conservative means.”

Very disappointing indeed. Means more cutback for the lower levels unfortunately.

I can handle a deficit. But turnover of 8 million and making changes to reduce this at time when it was pretty obvious to others outside of AA that there was a problem.

I hope that the CEO does what he was employed to do and run a business and not egos.