Our Slice of $120 Million

Last week the Australian Sport Commission (ASC) announced its funding allocation for 2013-2014. A large majority of this funding is for sports to deliver on the ‘Winning Edge’ high performance targets. Those targets include:

  • Australia finishing in the top 5 in the Olympics and Paralympics
  • Australia finishing in the top 15 in the Winter Olympics
  • Australia finishing 1st in the Commonwealth Games
  • A total of 20 World Champions every year

The Australian Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (AWWF) were allocated $161 000 from the Australian Sports Commission for 2013-2014, this is the same investment allocation the AWWF has gotten for the last 4 years.

I asked CEO of the AWWF, Gary Humphrey, how many divisions this is shared amongst. “It is shared across tournament, barefoot, wakeboard, ski race and we support show ski and cable from general revenue.”

“In essence Tournament Water Ski Australia (TWSA) gets $12 500 for each team heading to a Junior World Championships and Open World Championships and approximately $8 000 – $9 000 per annum for team training. That is around $20 000 per year.”

That means Australian teams going to high class international tournaments such as:

  • Under 21 World Championships
  • Over 35 World Championships
  • Asian-Australiasian & Oceanian Championships (AAO Championships)
  • Annual Aussie/Kiwi Water Ski Challenge

receive little to no money from the ASC.

Tournament water skiing has been a major contributor to the ASC reaching those ‘Winning Edge’ targets with Timothy Bradstreet being crowned Under 21 Mens Overall Champion and Under 21 Mens Jump Champion. Jacinta Carroll being crowned Under 21 Ladies Jump Champion. Not to mention how many AAO Championships and Aussie/Kiwi challenges Australia has won in the last five years. It’s a shame these teams miss out on a large amount of funding from the ASC.

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Australia’s Under 21 Team 2011. The team has three world champions in it – Jacinta Carroll, Timothy Bradstreet and Joshua Briant. Photo: Nicholas Wrenn

The AWWF only get that grant to go towards the high performance program. They miss out on the additional grant to go towards participation due to their “ability to get big numbers after school is very limited.” Humphrey said. “However we will keep trying.” Only six of the fifty-six ASC funded sporting federations don’t receive participation funding, the AWWF is one of them.

It was widely reported that swimming and athletics were paying for the poor performances at the last Olympics by having their Australian Sports Commission funding cut. What didn’t make the headlines were the sports that received significant funding cuts due to the prospect of not being in the Rio Olympics, they included Baseball and Softball. There funding was cut by 37.3% and 33.1% respectively but they still receive well over $1 million of funding for 2013-2014. This goes to show the ASC’s focus on Olympic sports.

Swimming Australia’s funding was cut to $8.1 million which is a 5.8 per cent drop due to their worst performance at an Olympics in 20 years. While Sailing received a 16.7 per cent increase to $6.3 million after being the best performing Australian team in London. AWWF hasn’t seen a boost in funding even after better performances at international events and more world champions in the last three years.

ASC chairman John Wylie said he had spoken to Australian sports officials before the announcement.

“The reaction wasn’t necessarily bursting with enthusiasm, but they do understand the reason why these decisions have been made,” he said.

“Sports understand in tough economic times that… the answer cannot be just to stick the hand out and ask the Government for more money every year.”

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ASC chairman John Wylie announcing the new funding allocation last week. Photo: The Queensland Times

I reluctantly agree with Mr Wylie, although I would like to see water skiing and wakeboarding receive funding that is proportionate to other similar sports. At the moment sports such as Tenpin Bowling, Table Tennis and Orienteering receive more funding from the ASC.

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The biggest Australian water skiing team ever to go overseas received less than $200 per person. Photo: Joshua Louder

Australia’s performances at the last four World Championships

(Tournament Water Skiing)

Australia came 2nd overall at the 2012 Junior World Championships (same as 2010)

  • Joshua Briant Boys Overall Champion, Boys Trick Champion.
  • Stephanie Griffiths 2nd Girls Jump.

Australia came 5th overall at the 2012 Over 35 World Championships (twenty-five places better than 2010)

  • Mark Louder 2nd Over 55 Mens Jump.

Australia came 4th overall at the 2011 Water Ski World Championships (three places better than 2009)

  • Ryan Green 3rd Mens Overall
  • Timothy Bradstreet 2nd Mens Jump
  • Jacinta Carroll 2nd Ladies jump
  • Karina Nowlan 5th Ladies slalom.

Australia came 3rd overall at the 2011 Under 21 Water Ski World Championships (one place better than 2009)

  • Timothy Bradstreet Under 21 Mens Overall Champion, Under 21 Mens Jump Champion
  • Jacinta Carroll Under 21 Ladies Jump Champion, 2nd Under 21 Ladies Overall

Australia’s Winning Edge Investment Allocation Document


The Price of Gold

Do you think $588 million for seven gold medals at the London Olympics is money well spend? We also won sixteen silver and twelve bronze medals, so with the 35 medals Australia won that acquaints to just over $16.5 million a medal. The Australian Government have entrenched in their sport policies that the Olympics is the be-all and end-all in sport. This means non-Olympic sports are left out in the cold, with the exception of Cricket, Aussie Rules, Rugby League and Rugby Union who each have large television and sponsorship deals. One sport that is severely underfunded is water skiing.

There are 9 competitive sports under the branch of water skiing. These include:

  • Tournament Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Barefooting
  • Wakeskating
  • Ski Racing
  • Cable Tournament Water Skiing
  • Cable Wakeboarding
  • Kneeboarding
  • Show Skiing

ImageCrowds haven’t been an issue at the Moomba Masters in Melbourne. Photo: IWSF

Think of water skiing like athletics in the way athletics has many different disciplines under the term ‘athletics’. Although all these sports are governed by the same body in Australia, The Australian Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (AWWF), each discipline is a different sport in its self. For example in Tournament Water Skiing there are three disciplines (slalom, trick and jump), this is substantially different to Ski Racing which is more of a hybrid between an athletic sport and a motor sport.

The sport I’m going to focus on, and one of the most popular, is tournament water skiing. In Australia Tournament Water Ski Nationals are hosted on a yearly basis along with Disabled Tournament Water Ski Nationals. For the past few years there has been over 200 athletes competing from all states and territories across Australia at this five day competition.

The Future of Sport in Australia, aka The Crawford Report, was released in 2009 by the Independent Sports Panel set up by the government. The purpose of this was to “review all aspects of sport in Australia and to chart a new direction.” It was also in response to John Coates (AOC Chief) requesting an extra $100 million a year for 10 years for elite Olympic sports. I can understand where Coates is coming from as he has witnessed firsthand the slide from 58 medals in Sydney 2000 to 49 medals in Athens 2004 to 46 medals in Beijing 2008 and now 35 medals in London 2012. To give $1 billion to elite athletes while the 9 sports of water skiing share $161,000 a year, would highlight the massive inequalities evident in sport funding in Australia.

ImageNo surprises there! John Coates has strongly rejected funding cuts from the elite program over the past few years. Photo: Herald Sun

While the AWWF was included in the research process of The Crawford Report, the findings are only recommendations. Many of these recommendations are still yet to be adopted by the government.

As Tournament Water Skiing grows stronger the screams for more funding will get louder and louder but these screams may be drowned out by the bellowing yell of a declining Olympic team begging for more money.

The Crawford Report –
http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/1DDA76A44E5F4DD4CA257671000E4C45/$File/Crawford_Report.pdf