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Battle between Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Institute of Sport fought in the media spotlight

Battle between Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Institute of Sport fought in the media spotlight
February 22, 2020

An ongoing battle between Australian Olympic Committee President, John Coates and Sport Australia Chairman, John Wylie has this week seen national media focus on issues of sport funding, governance and a longstanding personal feud between the pair.

Coates, who reportedly blames Wylie for interfering in the AOC’s elections three years ago, when he sought to further extend his Presidency, has used the current vulnerability of Sport Australia to repeat his call for more funding for Olympic sports in the year of the 2020 Games and for that funding to have less oversight from Sport Australia.

With Sport Australia having been in the spotlight over former Federal Minister for Sport Bridget McKenzie seemingly ignoring its advice over the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program, Coates, an experienced operator in international sport has seemingly looked to take advantage of the Federal Government apparently looking at new ways to back elite sport.

Using friends and networks in the media and among opinion-formers, Coates has advanced his arguments during the course of the week, following revelations about Sport Australia’s internal spending.

Writing in Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph, talkback radio host, former Wallabies coach and Coates ally, Alan Jones this week referred to “Olympic-sized salaries given to sports bureaucrats” and how “the boffins of sports bureaucracy are earning huge salaries while doing next to nothing to help athletes achieve sporting success”.

Coates has been a long term opponent of Sport Australia’s Winning Edge funding formula which, when introduced in 2012, prompted a shift in the way monies were allocated to different sports to put greater emphasis on sports to produce world champions rather than rely on Australian Institute of Sport scholarships.

However, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has been unrelenting in its criticism of Winning Edge, and continues to make call for more money to go directly to Olympic sports.

AOC Chief Executive Matt Carroll added to the debate this week, again calling for the Federal Government to contribute an additional $60 million a year for Olympic sports, claiming a funding crisis ahead.

By contrast, Wylie, writing in The Australian this week has called for a "unity ticket to support (the) Tokyo Olympics campaign”.

However, under Wylie, Sport Australia new governance models require that directors of Australian national sporting federations have a maximum term of eight years - a move that is aimed at keeping governance fresh and removing the self-interest of the so-called ‘blazer brigade’.

Yet Coates, who has said he will stand down as AOC President - a role he has held for 30 years - in 2021 but will continue as a Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee, reportedly sees that as a further attack by Wylie.

What results from the lobbying remains to be seen, but with former Federal Sports Minister Rod Kemp having been asked in September to conduct a functions and efficiency review of Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), which is understood to have been tabled in Federal Cabinet there is much to play for.

Reports suggest that the Federal Government is looking for philanthropy to solve the problem while not ruling out the privatisation of the AIS.

Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck says he's "interested in" the ongoing debate over sports funding and "it's good those views are being aired".

Images: Johns Wylie and Coates (top) and Australia's Olympic swimmers before the Rio Games (below).

About the author

Nigel Benton

Co-owner / Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management

Nigel Benton is the co-owner and publisher of Australasian Leisure Management, Australia and New Zealand’s only magazine for professionals in all areas of the leisure industry. Having established the magazine in 1997, shortly after his relocation to Australia, he has managed its readership rising to over 11,500 and its acceptance as the industry journal for professionals in aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues.

As of 2020, he has launched the new Asian Leisure Business website.

Among a range of published works and features, his comments on a Blog (blogspot) from 2007 to 2011, when this website went live in its current form, may be interesting to reflect back on.

Click here to connect with him via LinkedIn.

Read more from this author

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6th May 2017 - John Coates wins vote to retain Australian Olympic Committee Presidency

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1st September 2016 - Australian Sports Commission commits to Winning Edge principles and further reforms

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