What are the funding priorities in the ACT and where does sport fit into the mix?

Tim Gavel 23 September 2019 49

Sport, like the arts, is part of the culture of a place, Tim Gavel argues. File photo.

Why is it in Canberra every time ACT Government money is spent on elite sport or sporting facilities there is somewhat of a backlash?

I am writing this column in the wake of a campaign against any proposal to spend government funds on a new indoor stadium in Civic to cater for the Raiders, Brumbies and an A League team and other teams, in the future.

Some of the public comments suggested money would be better spent on health, education, the arts and roads. This is not a new response to sports funding. We have been through this in the past with spending on the upgrade of Canberra Stadium for the Olympics in 2000, the V8 Super Cars, GWS, the Raiders and the Brumbies.

Most professional clubs run at a loss and at best break even. Yet there is a perception that government funding is not justified. In most instances the government funding helps clubs break even.

That perception isn’t confined to the Raiders and the Brumbies with questions raised about using government funds to attract top level men’s and women’s cricket to the ACT or the Illawarra Hawks NBL side.

Many studies have shown the benefits of having major sporting events in Canberra. The most obvious benefit is that it improves the quality of life in the ACT for many wanting to see major events in their home city without having to travel. Sporting events also attract people to the city. Canberra offers a great alternative to many who might not want to navigate the traffic of Sydney, Melbourne, or even Brisbane. Sport can also generate business.

The growth in sports-based tourism businesses can’t be underestimated. We have experienced it first-hand with the considerable number of people coming to Canberra to watch the Raiders, Brumbies, GWS, the Socceroos, the Matildas, the Big Bash and international cricket.

There are also the aspirational and inspirational qualities associated with watching sport ‘live’ at the top level, inspiring some and entertaining others.

And sport, like the arts, is part of the culture of a place. It builds on our experiences and can bring enjoyment, pride and a host of other emotions. It can help bring about a ‘sense of place.’

Watching some of the young local athletes in numerous sports reach their goal, is incredibly fulfilling; particularly if you’ve seen them as tiny kids chasing a ball around on a chilly morning, to emerging as young highly proficient sports people. And watching them play their chosen sport at the highest level at home really does bring a sense of pride.

Then there is the flow-on influence of having major sporting teams and events in the ACT with every major sporting team funding junior development programs. This, in turn, improves the health of the next generation as they actively engage in a sport that has a recognisable pathway from juniors to elite. Along the way, recreational opportunities grow, keeping more people in a sport for longer. The social benefits, as well as the health benefits, are difficult to calculate.

Apart from the new indoor stadium, the priorities for sport include a new ice sports facility and a smaller multi-sport facility catering for events, not just sport, with a seating capacity of around 3,000.

Let the debate continue!

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49 Responses to What are the funding priorities in the ACT and where does sport fit into the mix?
Liz Barrington-Smith Liz Barrington-Smith 7:16 am 21 Jun 19

Well said Pen Gwyn!

Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 4:58 am 20 Jun 19

The clue is the word elite. It only serves a small percentage of the population.

Grant Grant Grant Grant 8:40 pm 19 Jun 19

Julian Hayes - check out some of these comments made by numbskulls they've never been to a sports event nor have any idea that Bruce Stadium is past it's intended lifespan . . Obviously Labor/Greens sheep

Hamish Sinclair Hamish Sinclair 8:39 pm 19 Jun 19

Tuggeranong has been trying to get Govt interest in a sports and eco hub next to the town centre for years ..... crickets.

Julie Stalker Julie Stalker 6:22 pm 19 Jun 19

Why not build a stadium that accommodates not just football codes? There are so many sports that are in need of decent facilities in Canberra. Everyone forgets that the ACT doesn’t have a huge population yet we are very sport minded and involved. I’m sorry but I want to see decent community based facilities that encourage major events ... like a decent two-sheet ice rink that operates 7 days a week 52 weeks of the year ... not just seasonally, or for major events ... major events would become a part of the schedule and that includes international events.

Corey Karl Corey Karl 5:52 pm 19 Jun 19

Fix civic pool, renovate Bruce stadium, and add sone other things around the area to help attract more people to the precinct. The problem isn’t just the stadium, the problem is people drive or catch transport to watch an hour an a half of sport, getting there to watch something for that amount of time is more often than not, too much of a hassle.... if there were areas around to perhaps drink and eat and meet friends a few hours before the game, and after, and the stadium was a bit more comfortable to watch sport in, I think more people would go !!

    Tim Saisell Tim Saisell 5:57 pm 19 Jun 19

    Corey Karl but would you open a bar that only gets used 20 odd times a year? Why not take to the areas that are already set up with these precincts?

    Corey Karl Corey Karl 6:00 pm 19 Jun 19

    Tim Saisell if there was units built above the bar to help populate the area, that also helps the gov insatiable appetite for unit development

    Tim Saisell Tim Saisell 6:15 pm 19 Jun 19

    Corey Karl plenty of units there already on only 1 bar that isn’t that busy on non game nights

    Corey Karl Corey Karl 6:27 pm 19 Jun 19

    Tim Saisell well it’s miles away lol,

Alison Gerrard Alison Gerrard 5:09 pm 19 Jun 19

Upgrade the existing stadium. It's ready and definitely waiting. For those uptight about Canberra's cold, these handwarmers are under $2 at Bunnings.

There are other priorities in Canberra before thinking about a 400 mill spend on a new stadium in a tight squeeze within the CBD

JS9 JS9 4:41 pm 19 Jun 19

I have no issue at all if people want to directly comment on matters where they have a clear vested interest/direct involvement through their work etc, and that includes presenting the views of the organisation you work for – go for your life. But this isn’t the first time at all that a similar thing has been seen on this website, where people are not upfront about that. Just because someone has a public profile in some segments of the community, doesn’t mean everyone automatically will know who you are from a pseudonym that is far from obvious.

My opinions, like most on here, are solely my own. If I was presenting the views of the organisation I work for (though I doubt I ever will, as I can not ever recall a topic directly related to my workplace ever being raised on this website) or have a direct influence/impact on an issue, then I’ll be the first to declare said views are not necessarily solely my own, and that I have a vested interest in the topic. It is not an unreasonable request.

    Pen Gwyn Pen Gwyn 7:49 pm 20 Jun 19

    JS9 I left a post on the Burger article. I worked at McDonalds when I was 16. It was where my love affair of the delicious Big Mac began… my opinion therefore I must once again confess relates to my lived and work experience… I am no longer paid but forever I will be loyal to the arches golden.

Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 2:43 pm 19 Jun 19

So...we have the Canberra Stadium. When is it ever full? If we were consistently filling the Stadium, I could see the argument for a bigger/ better one, but as it is, that's not an issue. We are able to host international teams with what we have, so why not spend the $$ on health and public education improvements??

JS9 JS9 1:21 pm 19 Jun 19

“Many studies have shown the benefits of having major sporting events in Canberra. The most obvious benefit is that it improves the quality of life in the ACT for many wanting to see major events in their home city without having to travel. Sporting events also attract people to the city. Canberra offers a great alternative to many who might not want to navigate the traffic of Sydney, Melbourne, or even Brisbane. Sport can also generate business.

The growth in sports-based tourism businesses can’t be underestimated. We have experienced it first-hand with the considerable number of people coming to Canberra to watch the Raiders, Brumbies, GWS, the Socceroos, the Matildas, the Big Bash and international cricket.”

There is some truth to this. But there is also a fallacy that having big events = automatically great net benefits to the Territory. The supercar fiasco being the perfect example of this. I’d also argue an independent analysis of the investment made into the big codes (especially what is paid for the privilige of Giants playing here) may show the returns are not indeed that great from investment into elite level sport per say.

I’d certainly welcome less government funding going to professional sporting codes and more going into community based sporting organisations, combined with a subsequent reduction in the reliance on poker machine profits to fund many of those valuable sporting organisations. Would be a good story all around.

JS9 JS9 1:19 pm 19 Jun 19

“In 2015 La Trobe University, Centre for Sport and Social Impact reported on the ‘Value of a Community Football Club’ and concluded that “For every $1 spent on a community football club, there is at least $4.40 return in social value.”. The study also found significant social, health, community and economic outcomes from investment in football clubs.

This all said it is bewildering that a scheme that has existed to relieve the taxpayer of the sports bill burden has also come under sustained attack. The debate about the community contributions of ACT Clubs saw criticism being levelled at clubs by some (including an author of this site) for targeting too much funding towards sport. But the contributions toward sport are not ‘out of kilter with what the community expects.’ Quite the contrary, it is exactly what the community needs.”

This is conflating two very seperate issues. Yes Canberra’s community clubs fund sport in the Territory. But the $4.40 figure was directly related to a study of football clubs themselves in Victoria – i.e. the sporting team organisation itself, not any related community club that, in almost every circumstance, also operates poker machines. This should not be seen as a proxy for the value of the community club sector in the Territory, who undoubtedly also have a not insignificant negative impact on a portion of our community.

It is undoubtedly true that the community club sector does play a significant role within the funding of non-elite level sport in the Territory. But it does not need to be the case – sport would not cease to exist without them, as the Government could always choose to fund it.

As always, it would be great if people could be honest with who they are and who they represent in their comments.

Jessica Brisbane Jessica Brisbane 12:59 pm 19 Jun 19

If the clubs want a new stadium, let them pay for it.

    Pat Moran Pat Moran 1:49 pm 19 Jun 19

    Jessica Brisbane

    That’s like saying of there’s a pothole outside your house that’s causing you some inconvenience you should pay to have it fixed. Don’t be a hater Jessica.....

    Jessica Brisbane Jessica Brisbane 2:01 pm 19 Jun 19

    Pat Moran no, It's saying I shouldn't pay you to build a new house for yourself.

Dory Johns Dory Johns 12:41 pm 19 Jun 19

“Most professional clubs run at a loss ...” Seriously supposed to believe this? Pay them less then.

    Scott Peters Scott Peters 4:02 pm 19 Jun 19

    Dory Johns why not just proclaim to the world..."I hate football" and be done with it. Stop bleating and whining.

Dory Johns Dory Johns 12:37 pm 19 Jun 19

Because there is already a much-loved and much-used swimming pool that should be cared for and contrary to what Barr and his cohort think the world does not revolve around football.

    Grant Jones Grant Jones 1:33 pm 19 Jun 19

    Dory Johns it does revolve around footy a bit more than a swimming pool though!

    Dory Johns Dory Johns 2:41 pm 19 Jun 19

    Gee. May be perceived to be so but not correct. Swimming is Australia's number 1 sport.


    Football in its various persuasions way down the list.

    Lewis P Owlay Lewis P Owlay 7:32 am 20 Jun 19

    Dory Johns not in terms of $

    Lewis P Owlay Lewis P Owlay 10:49 am 20 Jun 19

    Rad Rockford agreed mate! Not that many people will miss the pool compared to how many would enjoy a world class sporting stadium right in the city. It could even draw in some bigger music acts who bypass the capital on their tours..

Muzammil Ali Muzammil Ali 12:09 pm 19 Jun 19

The only backlash I’ve ever seen to sport in the ACT is the rollicking laughter when I mention that our key rectangular stadium infrastructure crumbles while we waste millions wooing a financially crippled AFL team that western Sydney has rejected ...

    Ben Jones Ben Jones 1:26 pm 20 Jun 19

    The increase in AFL TV rights because of that team in Sydney funds the giants.

    Muzammil Ali Muzammil Ali 1:53 pm 20 Jun 19

    Julian Hayes I honestly don’t mind where it goes as long as my rates aren’t being wasted on it. Feel bad that Tassie wants a team, Western Sydney doesn’t - given the TV cash, location is irrelevant so it should be moved

    Ben Jones Ben Jones 1:53 pm 20 Jun 19

    Julian Hayes I’ll take you up on your bet about the Giants in 8 years though ..... 😉

    Ben Jones Ben Jones 2:03 pm 20 Jun 19

    suns will be gone in 8 years. GWS will survive.

    Muzammil Ali Muzammil Ali 2:40 pm 20 Jun 19

    Ben Jones massive shame about GWS

Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 10:07 am 19 Jun 19

Maybe it’s not sport the people are protesting about but the location. Getting rid of Civic Pool would be another example of demolition if Canberra’s history. And there is no parking in the area! The parking areas have gone to make way for yet more buildings. Build a stadium but not in the city! Or fix Bruce stadium instead.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 11:33 am 19 Jun 19

    Andrea Lloyd just to debunk a couple of things here... the pool is cooked. It leaks like a Kevin Rudd staffer. Heritage or not it unfortunately has to go. Other than being a relic - the biggest issue with Bruce is that it’s NOT in the city. Parking is irrelevant - people should be catching PT to and from the stadium.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 11:36 am 19 Jun 19

    Also - there is more parking with the development that there was previously. It’s just underground

    Dory Johns Dory Johns 12:39 pm 19 Jun 19

    Andrea. Exactly. And the ACT government is doing its best to let the pool and its facilities fall apart so they can use their usual excuse that it is past its use-by date. The change-rooms are disgraceful.

    Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 1:40 pm 19 Jun 19

    Elroy Jones relics can be repaired. Not sure how long you’ve lived in Canberra, but the civic pool is part of our history and you shouldn’t destroy what few historic buildings we have left! Bruce stadium is close enough to Civic, just behind O’Connor.

    Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 2:47 pm 19 Jun 19

    Putting a stadium in the city will just add to already crappy traffic and parking situations. If the 'fan's won't travel a couple of km further to Bruce Stadium, then they're not that keen...

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:52 am 19 Jun 19

” Sport can also generate business.”

Please give examples and supply proof of this. Who are the prime benefactors?

    DJA DJA 3:33 pm 19 Jun 19

    A semi-professional or professional level of sport generates direct business through coaching and sporting equipment sales (some of which is highly specialised). The increase in sporting participation means an increase in supporting businesses such as catering (or similar food and drink service) and functions. The management of infrastructure (not all sports are played on the council’s local oval) is another business sector that benefits. After all, ice skating/ice hockey and tenpin bowling are two sports that require specialised facilities.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:15 pm 19 Jun 19

    Given that most sports at a professional level are tied into direct sponsorship with sporting goods companies, the participants will not be buying their gear at the local shops.

    And I doubt if the catering and transport for visiting professional sports people involves locally owned and controlled businesses.

    Indeed the ice sports and tenpin bowling require specialised facilities but they are privately operated and generally family operated so their potential for generating “more business” is negligible.

    Probably the large scale amateur sports events in Canberra bring in a lot of spending on food and accommodation but that benefit is reciprocal as every city like Canberra has similar events throughout the year.

    Let’s face it – without subsidies from government most of these elite level sports would not function and this has exceeded reasonable limits in the Territory.

michael quirk michael quirk 8:06 am 19 Jun 19

The funding of sports infrastructure needs to be assessed against the claims of alternatives including health, education and transport. It is unfortunate light rail was prioritized despite having a low benefit to cost ratio. If people ever want the provision of stadiums, convention and theatre centres etc they need to insist that the extension of the light rail be assessed. It is very problematic it would provide greater benefits than a football stadium, a bus way or many other infrastructure projects. The government needs to do the analysis and not recklessly use limited public funds..

    JS9 JS9 4:49 pm 19 Jun 19

    Sadly it should be that easy michael, but governments hellbent on staying in power and doing whatever it takes to achieve that find it very easy to ignore such obvious ways to compare projects and investment opportunities.

    Saying that, taking a pie in the sky/finger in the air view of it all, I’d suggest the Cost Benefit ratio of a convention centre or a stadium would be just as poor as the light rail ones – especially for the way over the top Australia Forum that was proposed, and no doubt the expensive indoor stadium that will be proposed as well. Out of those you suggest, probably upgrades to the Canberra Theatre would be the most likely to have a positive outcome in terms of such analysis.

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 8:00 am 19 Jun 19

Upgrade Civic pool.

Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 7:53 am 19 Jun 19

i think funding support for sport is excellent. I just don't agree or feel comfortable with the focus on professional teams (which are essentially businesses), at the expense of local grass roots sports funding. Most footballers are bought by teams from interstate - why pay for that when there are lots of locals in less high profile sports that should be supported with our own taxpayer $$$. Why are we paying money to support people watching sport when sports funding should be about helping people participate in sport. Im not against high profile sports...i just don't think we should pay for their venues if they are commercial entities when other sports have to hire venues at commercial rates with no support.

    Beth Wright Beth Wright 11:04 am 19 Jun 19

    I really hope that a Labor-Greens led government is not relying on the theory of trickle-down economics.

    Aija Seittenranta Aija Seittenranta 11:31 am 19 Jun 19

    Daniel Königs Why not just directly fund local community teams? Elite sports are businesses and should be able to fund themselves like other businesses. Why do they need handouts / welfare?

    Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 7:38 pm 19 Jun 19

    Daniel Königs I think it's confusing to compare 'watching professional sport in a stadium' (which is entertainment) with participation in sport. I have never felt the urge to take up a sport after watching it in a stadium, and I'd be interested in reading anything anyone can share with me about how many people took up AFL after the vastly expensive ACT sponsorship of that Melbourne team a few years ago. And just how is the money in the local economy going to leave the local who use the Civic pool better of in terms of sport participation by getting to pay a lot of money to sit in a stadium and buy pies and soft drinks and view the product placement???

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