OP-ED: Popular Sport Needs a Fair Go with Funding
Thursday 30 October 2020, The Examiner
In Tasmania, the largest participation sport is football (known as soccer in some parts of Australia) according to Sport Australia’s participation figures. Despite this, it receives less government funding than many other sports in this state.
With the announcement from FIFA earlier this year that Australia and New Zealand would co-host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, we were rightfully elated. Significant opportunities like these are few and far between, and given football’s popularity, we owe it to our communities to ensure that we are properly investing in the game.
Football Tasmania is the governing body for soccer in Tasmania and represents nearly 40,000 players, their clubs, families and communities and is calling for a Fair Go for Football. Tasmanian facilities and school programs support a large number of football players throughout Tasmania, with Sport Australia estimating that 7.4 per cent of Tasmanians play the sport.
Independent research also shows that one in five Tasmanian households are actively involved in football, further expanding the reach of social, health and economic benefits that football brings to our communities.
A Fair Go for Football is asking, very simply, for greater support for the sport and for those who play it. It makes a compelling case for greater investment in the sport to ensure that the opportunities presented by Australia hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and the legacy it will leave, are adequately catered for.
It means that those who already play it will be supported and those who want to take it up will have the opportunities to do so. The benefits that would flow from this are undeniable, the opportunities are plain to see and the demand for access to play the game already exists.
Ticket to Play, a State Government initiative designed to reduce the cost of participating in club sporting activities for Tasmanian children, provides vouchers to assist with the associated costs of sport. In 2019, football recorded the highest uptake of Ticket to Play participation of any team sport in Tasmania, with 35 per cent of all vouchers used to play.
This emphasises the need for further, dedicated financial support for this sport. The opportunities presented by the 2023 Women’s World Cup are clear. If we are able to host any of the games during the World Cup, we can market Tasmania to the world, by showcasing everything that Tasmania has to offer in one of the world’s most popular sporting events.
The Tasmanian Government has an agreement with FIFA that it will provide an investment of $1 million should we secure three group-stage matches and the option of two base camp training venues. Confirmation of final host cities and venues is expected to be announced between December 2020 and June 2021.
York Park, having hosted A-League games in the past, has the potential to be broadcast as a leading sporting venue to the entire world and we have only three months or prepare for this window of assessments by FIFA. We cannot let this opportunity pass us by.
Football Tasmania, under the Fair Go for Football campaign, has made a submission to the State Government for the forthcoming state budget, due to be handed down in mid-November. Among the specifics, the submission asks for investment to upgrade existing playing facilities, with football clubs already struggling to find enough parks for the number of players it has now.
If nothing is done, this will only become more challenging with the Women’s World Cup set to make the sport even more popular, with the result being that many new players – particularly children – will be locked out of the sport.
Regarding funding, Football Tasmania is also asking for a reassessment of how Government funding is allocated to sports and for greater consideration to be given to funding based on the number of players a particular sport has. The demonstrably growing number of players of football in Tasmania means that, if we do nothing to remedy this, the associated benefits of social connection and the physical and mental health benefits that playing the sport has, will be lost, to great detriment.
Of course, there is only a finite level of public resources that can be handed over to our sporting organisations, and football isn’t the only sport that Tasmanians play. But what is being asked for is nothing more than A Fair Go.
Australian Rules Football, cricket, hockey, softball, bowls and all manner of sports are just as deserving of funding and support. However, we shouldn’t be blind to the compelling argument that Football Tasmania makes and the opportunities which present themselves.
An investment in quality football services and facilities is an investment in our communities and their future. It would signal support for players and their families and boost Tasmania’s goals of becoming fitter, healthier and more socially connected.
Independent Launceston Legislative Councillor
Rosemary Armitage MLC