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Australia’s Sport Participation Public Policies Essay

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Updated: Mar 26th, 2021

How to improve Australia’s participation in sport to increase international success?

The policy problem refers to the lack of people participating in Australian sport due to demographic changes, electronic gaming, and an inactive lifestyle (Stewart, Nicholson, Smith & Westerbeek, 2004). This has created a need to implement key measures and strategies to increase participation and increase Australian sporting success on the international stage.

The Australian Sports Commission’s Working Together for Australian Sport 2011–12 to 2014–15 Strategic Plan was established to deliver the outcomes of the Pathways to Success sporting policy as it was not achieving its desired outcomes to increase Australian sport participation rates (Australian Sports Commission, 2011). Thus, the ASC has implemented certain strategies into their plan, such as re-aligning academies of sport and putting sports back into education, as well as other key objectives in directing the Pathways to Success policy (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010)

The scope of the policy problem is vast. As there are low participation rates in Australian Sport, organizations such as the ASC, AIS, and NSO’s are failing to achieve their goals in developing elite athletes. Low sporting participation rates are affecting coaches and local clubs as there aren’t enough people participating to keep the clubs running. Parents and children are also affected as obesity and a lack of opportunities, for example, not enough players to form a team are becoming prevalent.

The Australian Government has committed funding to develop the sport pathway via the ASC. The ASC is central in the plan’s delivery and will achieve its role via three divisions; the AIS, Participation and Sustainable Sports and Corporate Operations. The reform (strategic plan) will be backed by a record $1.2 billion in Australian Government funding over the next four years. The ASC will use NSOs as well as state and territory sports federations, academies of sport, and departments of sport and recreation in achieving their objectives of increasing participation rates and international success (Australian Sports Commission (ASC), 2013).

How to utilize sport to reduce the obesity epidemic in Australia? How to increase the level of participation in Australian Sport?

Participation rates are low in junior sport; thus, resulting in obesity due to changing lifestyles such as the growing electronic gaming trend amongst our children (ASC, 2013, p. 9). Therefore, to reduce such issues as obesity, it is important that participation rates in Australia increase.

The ASC’s 2011–2012 to 2014–2015 strategic plan, ‘Working Together for Australian Sporthas set the direction to address the policy problem. Their strategy is based on giving children a positive introduction to sports as part of their education, improving the capability of NSO’s so that organized sport is readily available, and working with the State Sport and Recreation departments to implement National strategies to grow participation (Australian Lacrosse Association (ALA), 2012)

The lack of participation in sport, and the subsequent effect of obesity, have massive effects on multiple levels of statuary bodies, communities, and families. Low sporting participation rates affect coaches and local clubs in the day to day running, as well as presenting problems for parents and children with rising obesity levels and fewer opportunities with low team numbers becoming prevalent due to low player participation.

The ASC is funded by the Australian Government; according to the ASC (2013, p. 16), $108 927 000 was committed to participation in sport and running the various agencies and programs. The Office for Sport, the Australian Government’s Department of Education, and the ASC will deliver the sports programs to schools and local communities. Additionally, The Active After-school Communities program operating in 3270 primary schools and out of school hours care services will provide opportunities for children to participate in sport (ALA, 2012).

How to protect the integrity of the sport? How do we regulate gambling in sport? How do we see some of the benefits of the gambling/sports relationship come back to sport?

Betting is now part of the professional sporting environment, often dominating the advertising space, fan experience, and distracting the sport from its core responsibilities. Therefore, the government and respective sporting bodies must regulate and control all forms of sports betting to ensure the integrity of sport is protected and that gambling in sport is regulated.

The major professional sporting codes in Australia formed the Coalition of Major Professional Sports (COMPS) in late 2003 to provide a collective voice for those sports most affected by sports betting policy. The AFL is not part of COMPS but is fully supportive of its objectives. COMPS ensures that sports obtain a fair share of revenue wagered on their respective sports and a more effective regulatory regime for the sports betting market to ensure the integrity of sport and sports betting (Coalition of Major Professional Sports (COMPS), 2006).

This policy problem has had an effect on a wide range of stakeholders; the Federal and State Governments Betting departments through the acts that they enforce and all Professional Sporting Bodies. The fans, officials, administrators, players, and sponsors of professional sports, as well as wagering providers such as Betfair, are also affected.

The governments have employed a wide range of resources about their intervention into the relationship between gambling and sport (Hoye, Nicholson, & Houlihan, 2010, p. 59-73). This organizational and human resource commitment includes maintaining and controlling (via legislation) the integrity of sports, the distribution of profits, franchising, and disciplinary action. Additionally, professional sporting bodies commit resources to manage sports betting in their respective sports (COMPS, 2006) with total gambling turnover increasing in Australia from $168,615.613 in 2010- 2011 to $174,568.421 in 2011 – 2012 (Queensland Treasury and Trade, 2014).

How to ensure access to sport for all citizens? How to prevent anti-competitive behavior by sports broadcasters?

A major problem that the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 seeks to address is that of anti-siphoning to ensure that all citizens have access to sport, ensuring that no on-one TV broadcaster dominates coverage of major sporting events that some users may not have access to.

Under the current anti-siphoning scheme, free to air broadcasters cannot premiere anti-siphoning events on their digital multi-channels. However, once premiered, the digital multi-channels can repeat the broadcast (Hoye, Nicholson & Houlihan, 2010, p. 75-95). The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 anti-siphoning scheme also prevents subscription television providers from acquiring the right to televise an anti-siphoning event unless the rights are held by ABC or SBS and a national or commercial broadcaster has not obtained the rights to broadcast twelve weeks before the event (Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), 2013b, para. 1).

Anti-siphoning is a global issue; for example, in the UK, sports broadcasts are classified as a Group A or B event. These Group A events such as the Olympic Games must be made available for acquisition by a free-to-air broadcaster with a minimum of 95% penetration (Hoye, Nicholson & Houlihan, 2010, p.75-95).

The policy problem reaches four key sectors; free to air and pay-TV broadcasters ensuring they always comply with the policy. Secondly, the Government, and its agency ACMA, who ensure legislation and amendments are up to date with social and technological changes of consumer sports, the consumer who absorbs the content on their chosen platform, and the sports themselves.

The Australian Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and its amendments are the primary mechanisms by which the Australian Federal Government has regulated sports broadcasting (Nicholson, 2007, p. 87). The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), being responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, receives funding (approx. 99 million in 2013) predominantly from the Federal Government (ACMA, 2013a).

How to ensure the integrity of the sport? Is the prohibition/punitive approach effective? How to minimize the risk of drug use in sport?

The policy problems relating to drugs in sport are the need to ensure the integrity and fairness of sport is maintained at all levels by minimizing drug use in sport. There is a need to educate athletes about the anti-doping policy, as well as the punishment and repercussions that come with taking drugs to enhance their performance, to cut drug use out of sports altogether.

The Australian Sports Anti Doping Policy has been implemented to address the issues of drug use in sport. The main objectives of the policy are in protecting athletes’ rights to participate in doping-free sport; thus, promoting health, fairness, and equality for athletes around the world via coordinated anti-doping programs (ASC, 2010).

The anti-doping policy holds athletes and the government via the ASC and ASADA at the forefront of its scope, but the policy will also affect athlete support personnel and NSO’s with whom they represent. Additionally, when an athlete is found guilty of drug use, a ban from their sport does not just affect them, instead, it affects a wide range of stakeholders, including the fans who at times idolize these athletes (Smith & Stewart, 2008, p. 123-129).

The Anti-Doping Policy is implemented by the ASC and ASADA on behalf of the Australian Government. ASADA staff is responsible for implementing anti-doping rules, directing the collection of samples, the management of test results, and conducting hearings. In 2013/14 ASADA received $14.05 million from the government and had a total budget of $17.99 million to implement their policy (Lane, 2014).

Sports Stadia Policy

Sports is at times the secondary consideration when governments use sport as a driver for urban regeneration and economic/social development. The political value and notoriety governments gain by building a sports stadium in an otherwise unused area are placed above the value of sport (Loftman & Nevin, 2010). NSO’s are often barely consulted when a Government decides to implement an urban renewal and economic regeneration plan (Hoye, Nicholson, & Houlihan, 2010, p. 133-153).

Sydney Olympic Parks Authority (SOPA) is responsible for the Olympic Stadium in Sydney having addressed the problem of finding a balance that works for sports and the government. Before the Sydney 2000 Olympic games, the now SOPA site was unused swampland. While Sydney needed a large sporting arena to host international and national sporting events, the government at the time certainly prioritized the Olympics and the associated urban development of that area as the primary focus. However, today the outcome is an excellent example of how to overcome the policy problems; the site of the Olympic Park is now a multi-sport venue, NSO home, and a hub for business and residential living. (“Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA),” 2014a).

SOPA employs around 200 full and part-time employees in roles that range from event and venue management, environmental rangers, exercise specialists, and property developers. They also engage with many stakeholders located on-site such as ANZ Stadium, Olympic authorities, and NSO’s.

SOPA is responsible for promoting, coordinating, and managing the orderly use and economic development of Sydney Olympic Park, including the provision and management of a $1.8 billion infrastructure (SOPA, 2014b).

How to ensure ‘member protection’ by preventing abuse, harassment, and discrimination?

Abuse, harassment, and discrimination are significant issues in Australian sport; therefore, the government, various State departments and individual NSO’s must implement member protection policies to ensure that all participants feel safe, are not offended, humiliated, or intimidated whilst playing their sport (Symons, Sbaraglia, Hillier & Mitchell, 2010).

Although funded by the Australian Government, each NSO must develop and implement its policy with the help of the ASC to ensure their sport is safe, meeting legal and ethical obligations required by government legislation (Hoye, Nicholson, & Houlihan, 2010, p. 43-57). The AFL National Vilification & Discrimination Policy is an example of an NSO taking a strong stance and initiative to install their own “member protection policy”. The policy complies with necessary member protection policies addressing harassment, discrimination, and child abuse (ASC, 2009).

This policy problem affects the whole Australian sports society, including children and adults that participate in sports, players, coaches, administrators, and even spectators (Child Safety Commissioner, 2006). Also affected are the Australian Government and departments such as the ASC/AIS who must ensure that appropriate legislation is implemented (State Government of Victoria, 2008).

The AFL National Vilification & Discrimination Policy was established by the AFL and implemented by their State-affiliated bodies and staff. The Australian Government funds such member protection policies, with departments such as the ASC offering sports like the AFL guidance on the implementation of an effective policy (Australian Football League, 2013).

Was the implemented policy an incremental change, or a transformative one?

The common trait with all 7 sports policies is that they were implemented to resolve a policy problem in Sport; however, some were incremental and others transformational in their approach. Sports participation and elite Sport pathways are policies that are in a stage of incremental change for the overall betterment of Sport in Australia; this is also the case for the ‘Sporting Broadcasting Policy’ as it’s constantly updated, adding legislation enabling it to adjust to the Australian Broadcasting landscape. ‘Stadia and Event Policy is also constantly modified as governments assess the economic and social impact of Sporting stadia developments against their political strategies.

In contrast, ‘Drugs in Sport and Harassment and Discrimination Policies’ have made transformational changes to address serious issues that affect the integrity, participation, and the overall makeup of sport in this country.

The ‘Betting in Sport Policy’ is an unusual one, whereby transformational change was required when betting very suddenly appeared in more of Australian sport. Today, it is more in the incremental phase as the transformational policies have addressed the initial problem and now updates to the policy are made. The assistance and history of overseas models have ensured this process to be relatively smooth.

Which policy problem has been the most important to address? Why?

The ‘Harassment and Discrimination Policy’ is the most important, as without strict guidelines for harassment and discrimination and their enforcement; participation in sport at all levels would be tested. Without this policy, a lack of confidence, integrity, and safety in sport would prevail.

Which policy problem has been the most difficult to address? Why?

The ‘Stadia and Events Policy’ is probably the hardest to address. It is hard to deny the tangible benefits that come out of developing a sports stadium and the associated commercial and residential infrastructure. In Australia, there are few examples of where this hasn’t succeeded, but at what cost? Governments will always “spin” their reasons and create a compelling argument as to why these stadiums are so important for the “community” and “spirit” of the state or nation. But, it can be argued that the developments are more about political strategy rather than the most appropriate allocation of funds to improve our sporting infrastructure.

Reference List

Australian Comunications and Media Authority (ACMA). (2013a). Annual report 2012-13. Web.

ACMA. (2013b). Sport (anti-siphoning). Web.

Australian Football League. (2013). National Vilification & Discrimination Policy. Web.

Australian Lactrosse Association (ALA). (2012). Operational plan report to Australian Sports Commission, November 2011-September 2012. Web.

Australian Sports Commission (ASC) (2013). Annual Report 2012 – 2013. Web.

ASC. (2011). Strategic Plan, 2011-2012 to 2014-2015: Working Together for Australian Sport. Web.

ASC. (2010). Australian Sports Commission Anti-doping Policy. Web.

ASC. (2009). Annual report 2008-2009. Web.

Child Safety Commissioner. (2006). A guide for creating a child-safe organization. Web.

Commonwealth of Australia. (2010). Australian Sport: The Pathway to Success. Web.

Coalition of Major Professional Sports (COMPS). (2006). Sports Betting: A new regulatory regime? Web.

Hoye, R., Nicholson, M. & Houlihan, B. (2010). Sport and Policy: Issues and Analysis. London: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.

Lane, S. (2014). Sports Minister Peter Dutton promises no let-up from ASADA despite budget funds cut. The Age. Web.

Loftman, P., & Nevin, B. (1995). Prestige Projects and Urban Regeneration in the 1980s and 1990s: a review of benefits and limitations. Planning Practice & Research, 10(3-4), 299-316. Web.

Nicholson, M. (2007). Sport and the Media: Managing the Nexus. London: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.

Queensland Treasury and Trade. (2014). Australian Gambling Statistics, 1986–87 to 2011–12, 29th edition. Web.

Smith, A., & Stewart, B. (2008). Drug policy in sport: hidden assumptions and inherent contradictions. Drug and Alcohol Review, 27(2), 123-129.

SOPA. (2014b). Human Resources: Working at Sydeny Olympic Park. Web.

State Government of Victoria. (2008). Keeping Junior Sport Safe. Web.

Stewart, B., Nicholson, M., Smith, A., & Westerbeek, H. (2004). Australian sport: Better by design? The evolution of Australian sport policy. London: Routledge.

Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA). (2014a). Web.

Symons, C., Sbaraglia, M., Hillier, L., & Mitchell, A. (2010). Come Out To Play: The Sports experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in Victoria. Web.

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