‘Future-proofed’: three-year budget boost for high-performance Australian sport

Australian high-performance sport has been “future-proofed”, according to those set to benefit from the federal government’s extension of funding through to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. A boost of $132.8m for high-performance grants over the next three years was announced in Tuesday night’s budget, with hopes the investment will enable longer-term planning with greater certainty.

The nature of the funding will also allow the Australian Institute of Sport, which is responsible for the development of high-performance sport, to focus on emerging athletes, with one eye even further ahead than Paris. Brisbane, having been named the International Olympic Committee’s preferred bidding partner, is in the box seat to host the 2032 Olympics.

“This budget helps future-proof Australian high performance sport as it also enables us to start laying the foundations for a potential home Games in Brisbane in 2032,” said Australian Sports Commission chair, Josephine Sukkar AM. “It is a huge show of support for our current Australian athletes, but also a wonderful commitment to developing our champions of the future.”

CEO Peter Conde said the AIS would confirm high performance funding to sports for the 2024 Paris cycle by the end of the calendar year. “This funding extension will have widespread impact,” he said.

The funding for sport announced in the 2021 budget includes $40.8m over two years for sport in schools, and a significant amount for anti-doping and sports betting measures. A further $14.9m will go to Sport Integrity Australia to maintain the agency’s anti-doping, criminal intelligence and administrative capabilities, while $3.4m has been allocated for a World Anti-Doping Agency accredited testing lab at the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory.

There is also $12m over two years for Football Australia, in part to support the Matildas in the lead-up to the Women’s World Cup in 2023, and $5m for Basketball Australia, to help deliver the Women’s World Cup in 2022.

“Hosting major sporting events like these on home soil will play a significant role in the nation’s recovery from the pandemic,” Sport Australia acting chief executive Rob Dalton said. “These two showpiece women’s World Cup events come after an incredibly successful ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020 and offer further opportunities to inspire our young girls and women to get involved in sport.”

The budget also includes a measure to make sure New Zealand teams that have remained in Australia to play in leagues for extended periods during the Covid-19 pandemic – such as the Warriors in the NRL and the A-League’s Wellington Phoenix – are not liable for the Australian tax that would normally apply.

Given the wide-reaching impact of the pandemic, which forced the postponement of the Tokyo Games by a year, the issue of athletes’ wellbeing will be prioritised as part of the renewed funding. The AIS has a number of established services and initiatives in that space, but the funding should enable a sharper focus on athletes’ mental health.

“Our focus on athlete wellbeing has never been greater and we want to continue enhancing those services. We want to support athletes to be successful in sport and life,” Conde said.

The injection of funds will also have a direct impact on financial support for individual athletes, with $14m set aside each year for direct athlete grants.