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Independent review calls for major changes to athletics in Australia

March 2, 2015

The management of athletics in Australia is “disjointed” and, as a result, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) may only guarantee only 60% of its funding to Athletics Australia until it implements significant reforms.

Key to these is the long anticipated merger of Atheltics Australia with Little Athletics along with the establishment of an oversight committee, made up of representatives from the ASC, the Australian Institute of Sport and Atheltics Australia.

The recommendations come from the just released One Sport review (the Independent Review of Athletics in Australia), a process chaired by former Australia cricket coach John Buchanan, and commissioned following Atheltics Australia's trouble-plagued Glasgow Commonwealth Games campaign.

Atheltics Australia Head Coach Eric Hollingsworth was sent home after he publicly criticised star hurdler Sally Pearson (pictured below), before resigning from his post in September.

In the review report Buchanan stated “the situation that the sport of athletics finds itself in is not new.

“It has been a fragmented sport historically.

"Poor governance procedures are central to this lack of an integrated and coordinated delivery of the sport."

"The opportunities for the sport of athletics are enormous if it can get its act together.

"That is, one sport, junior and senior, to provide the range of fundamental physical skills that benefit all people across most sports and activities, whether they are recreational athletes or have a desire to pursue a high performance pathway."

The review said the ASC should only guarantee 60% of funding for 2015/16 with the balance to be paid when the oversight committee is satisfied with the reform progress.

Welcoming the review, ASC Chief Executive Simon Hollingsworth said the recommendations would guide the sport to achieving its potential.

Hollingsworth stated “it’s clear from this review that a ‘business as usual’ approach is not an option for athletics in this country.

“The key theme of the report that athletics should be ‘One Sport’ is overwhelmingly endorsed by the ASC.

“The ASC remains firmly of the view that the merger of junior and senior sectors of the sport is critical for its long-term viability.

“The review concluded athletics was a disjointed sport and Athletics Australia had become increasingly reliant on government funding as corporate support diminished after the Sydney Olympics. For athletics to be sustainable, clearly this must change.

“This report provides an evidence base to support some of the key issues that prompted the ASC to commission the review. The research, interviews and submissions clearly identify long-term systemic problems around governance, leadership, high performance programs and funding.

“The implementation plan, as identified by panel chair John Buchanan, sets out a clear timeline for change which all stakeholders in athletics can follow.

“The athletics community is proud and passionate and the recommendations in this report provide a catalyst to make the changes needed to ensure athletics takes its rightful place in Australia’s sporting landscape.

“The Australian Sports Commission will work closely with Athletics Australia as it leads the sport through the changes that are required.”

Following the release of the review, Atheltics Australia's board of directors released a statement, outlining it is committed to implementing the recommendations

The statement read “we will now work closely with our key stakeholders, including Little Athletics Australia, our member associations and executive management team, to determine how to progress other recommendations of this review for the benefit of all involved with our sport into the future.”

The review received 51 submissions and conducted 136 interviews.

Little Athletics has previously resisted attempts by the ASC to have it merge with Athletics Australia.

Image courtesy of Melbourne Sports Hub.





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