Engines Started: Responses to David Crawford's Review of Australian Sport

The publication of the Independent Panel’s Review of Australian Sport has stimulated enormous discussion. Yesterday I linked to the publication of the report. This post looks at some of the responses in the last twenty-four hours.

This was the Google News graphic at 7.00 p.m. EST on 19 November.

John Coates argued the case for funding Olympic sports in an article in The Australian. This was a report of his initial response to the Crawford Report and this an ABC report of his response (the ABC report includes video and audio items). The Australian Olympic Committee has appointed a study group to examine the Crawford Report.
Sally Robbins argues strongly for Olympic funding. The Canberra Times cites Cadel Evans, Anna Mears an Ken Wallace as supporters of Government funding for Olympic sports. This is an article in The Age expressing Cycling Australia’s concerns. This ABC post notes Archery Australia’s concerns. Wally Mason observes that “Clearly federal funding does not come out of a bottomless pit and every Olympic medal comes at a cost. It is a cost most of us are prepared to pay.” Andrew Southcott‘s response to the Report indicates that a Top 10 Olympics’ finish is not good enough.

Simon Crean was reported as observing that Australia’s sporting success was “a fundamental part of the Australian brand”. Jacquelin Magnay discussed the Report’s recommendation about the format of the Australian Sports Commission’s Board. In an earlier article she argued that the “sport panel has totally misread the nation’s love of the Olympics and the pride of beating bigger countries on the international stage.” Her first article summarises the Report’s main recommendations. This a video segment from athletes supporting funding for elite sport. This ABC post explores the ‘contentious nature’ of the Report. This ABC post reports the publication of the Crawford Report. This is the Canberra Times’ report of the publication under the headline ‘A sporting nation divided’.
Nicole Jeffrey notes that not all of the Crawford Report have been challenged. She notes that the Olympic sports have welcomed the recommendation that “the national sports federations should have primary responsibility for development of their own high-performance programs”. The sports have welcome statements about physical education in the national curriculum and the provision of funds to build sporting facilities. An ABC post noted that ‘Big Codes welcome Crawford Report‘. John Alexander argues that the “key to our health care costs which are crippling is preventative medicine in the form of physical activity. Australia needs a renaissance of our lost culture of the fun and exhilaration we enjoyed through active participation in sports.” Mike Hurst notes the importance of fitness in schools.
An editorial in The Age suggests that:

Australians will celebrate any gold medal won in 2012, even if it is in a sport they never think of between Olympics and even if it is won by someone they have not previously heard of and might never hear of again. Nor can anyone begrudge individual athletes their success. But, as the report notes, the present system funds such success at the rate of $15 million per gold medal. The nation’s self-esteem is surely neither so low nor so brittle as to require this level of investment, and it is money that in some instances could be more wisely spent. A shift to funding high-participation sports at grassroots levels might not result in the same surge of collective euphoria every four years, but it would contribute in a more sustained fashion to national wellbeing.

In the same paper, Greg Baum posits “Here is the nub. The Crawford report implies what we will say outright, that it would be poor reflection of our maturity as a nation if we continued to live and die exclusively by our Olympic medal tally.”

Richard Hinds argues that the AOC gravy train plan doesn’t have wheels. He concludes that when the Federal cabinet meets to discuss the response to the Report “In their hands will be a document that has the potential to prompt much- needed change in the impact sports funding has on the everyday lives of Australians – not just for those 16 chest-beating days every four years.” In an earlier article Richard Hinds observes that “It remains to be seen if the Crawford Report will be successful in its laudable intentions: to ensure government spending leads to increased grassroots participation, greater inclusiveness, the restoration of physical education in schools, a positive impact on public health and to improve and empower poorly administered sports.” Dan Silkstone explores the Report’s focus on participation sports and in another article discusses the gold medal stoush.
Ruth Brown, Charlie Happell and Trevor Cook provided a Crikey view of the Crawford report.
There have been some interesting comments in response to web based articles. As of 7.30 p.m. (EST) on 19 November, for example, there were 25 comments on John Coates’ article. One of these poses a question about the impact of investment in elite sport: “Has the advent of the funding of elite sport in Australia improved the health of young Australians over what it would have been without this funding? If so, it is money well spent. If not, then monies should be focused on participation rather than excellence. Before 100 million is given, this should be answered unemotionally and convincingly.”

Some links from 20 November via Peter Logue: a Sydney Morning Herald post by Malcolm Maiden and an interview with David Crawford on Radio National.
Australia Talks (Radio National) discussed the Crawford report 19 November


  1. That’s an awful lot of links! I think that this post should be required reading for any school subject which discusses the notion of ‘politics in sport’.
    I was quite astounded at the vehemence of the AOC response, though the more I think about it the more it made sense. Everyone knew what the report would contain and had a lot of time to prepare their responses in advance. Which brings me to my point:
    Its fair to say that there were no real surprises in the report to those involved even on the periphery. This suggests that there is a general understanding and acceptance from most ‘stakeholders’ (a word I hate) of the issues related to sport in Australia. That is, health of the population, child (and then lifelong) participation, the Olympics and exactly how much it means to Australians, professional sports and how they fit into a national sporting structure traditionally reliant on government funding.
    Unfortunately it seems to me that much of the politicking is related to getting a ‘piece of the pie’, even though no one knows the relative importance of each competing ‘piece’.
    Add to this the fact that no one knows how big that pie actually is, and everyone is in for some fun times. And all this only 3 months away from our next Olympics…..

    • Alexis, thank you for making time to read the post. My hope was that in sharing some of the links the debate could have a frame. I have been fascinated by the comments people have made in on-line fora. There is a very strong lead for elite sport to pull its head in.

  2. Keith,
    I have been looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the Crawford Report. However, after reading your Blog I still feel that I am interested in what YOU think of the recommendations suggested in the report. As a highly respected “thinker of sport” I think a lot of people would value your outlook in this highly topical area.
    I agree with some of the comments made by Alexis and I recommended to all of my Human Movement students that they read as much as possible about the Crawford Report and the associated articles, this report may shape the type of jobs available in the industry for them!
    Anyway, I wait with interest for additions to this blog that include your opinion and thoughts on the reports findings, especially now that you are one step removed in many instances.

    • Adam, I thought i would establish a context. I am writing today and am delighted you found this post! I hope the heat wave relents in South Australia.

  3. Similarly, Keith, I look forward to reading your views on the report. I suspect that many of the athletes and commentators have not read the full report. I thought Crawford put up an admirable defence of his report on Fran Kelly’s Radio National show this morning. I commend it to interested parties. Of course, a majority of the public does not realise that the AOC puts no, or very little, money into the development of sport nor does it fund athletes or coaches. This article put the Olympic movement in perspective this morning.

  4. Outstanding post Keith. I really don’t know how you keep abreast of so many things.
    For someone who is only just entering into this arena, this post gives me a snap shot view of just about everything I think I would need to know today relating to sport in Australia. As well as enticing photos into sport yesterday. Lovely.
    I look forward to your next post, but from this one I wager you er on the side of socialising sport more…(?)
    I would too I think. 15million for a gold medal seems an awful lot. Even 1 million would be! I’d prefer to see my kid have access to well supported sporting facilities throughout their life wherever they be in Australia, and 15 million buys them a lot. Admittedly the success of elite athletes has some impact on my kids motivation in sport, but I think I’d prefer more of that motivation being sourced from some other channels in the sporting spectrum.


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