Sport – who really pays

After the Matildas lost their game to England last Wednesday the TV talking heads tried to outdo each other in their calls for more government spending on sport.   It was probably inevitable that, sensing an opportunity to appease the women’s lobby and maybe garner a couple of votes, Albo swung into action and pledged $200 million for women’s sport.  The money would go to “promote equal access, build more suitable facilities, and support grassroots initiatives to get women and girls to engage, stay, and participate in sport throughout their lives”.   

Many Australians, and our politicians especially, love to say how we are a sporting nation and we routinely ‘punch above our weight’ on the international scene.  This can be true but the reality of how the athlete got to the position of international accreditation is rarely acknowledged, and almost certainly wasn’t because of government nurturing of the athlete. 

To be clear, sport is about money but not perhaps in the way most think of it.  The athlete’s ability, perseverance, commitment are all necessary basic ingredients, but money will determine whether the athlete climbs to the pinnacle of their chosen sport.   Let’s start at the beginning.   

We all know that children will normally oscillate between various sports in their youth.  On rare occasions however, a child will display a unique connection to a particular sport and the child’s ability, even at a young age, is almost surreal.  Their instinctiveness with the ball, stick, skates, racket etc or their ability to flex, contort or otherwise stress their body is extraordinary and beyond their training to date.  Their local coach will say things such as “I haven’t seen anybody so young this good”. 

Now the costly journey into the sports world begins.

The child loves the sport and is almost obsessed with the careers of its international level competitors.  Endless hours watching national or international competitions via the internet.  After a couple of years, it becomes apparent that the local coach and the available facilities cannot provide the depth of training required to fully develop the child’s ability.   So, more advanced coaches are sought out and better-quality equipment purchased.  The coaching and equipment costs can be high, but the parents step up. 

More years pass with seemingly endless training for the child who displays undiminished fervor for the sport.  The child eschews the usual attributes of youth such as late nights, parties and alcohol and follows a strict regimen of diet and exercise.  The parents are constantly buying new equipment and paying coaching fees is now second nature, like paying a mortgage.  Competition results are very encouraging with the child earning either a win or place against older and often more experienced competitors and after some time, the child progresses to becoming a state or national champion.  

The financial cost is increasing but funding at the elite club level never seems to eventuate and, in any case, whatever grants are rarely available, are so pitifully small as to be meaningless.  The parents continue to pick up the tab. 

Meanwhile, the annual expenditure on coaches, high-end equipment, competition travel and a myriad of related expenses, such as physiotherapy sessions for example, amounts to many thousands of dollars per year and the forecast for future years shows the annual cost to reach much greater levels. 

I should mention there are four basic levels of competition – regional, state, national and international.  The truth is that in most sports with an international profile, even the best Australian domestic player will initially struggle in the international arena.   But sport is big business for promoters, venues and TV yet they all seem to say it is the government’s responsibility to support our future athletes. 

For their part, governments at both state and national level have a Department of Sport which is filled with countless public servants who file the necessary papers and have meetings with the heads of the national associations.  I’ll wager that Albo’s $200m will vanish into the sport bureaucracy.  It is the proverbial drop in the bucket with the Australian Sports Commission estimating that parents spend no less than $12 billion per year on their kid’s coaching and equipment. 

As the athlete progresses to the elite level, external support is rare so their success is usually tied to the financial capacity of the parents.  Sheer sporting ability is almost never enough and stepping into international competition is a whole new world financially, and often too much for most family budgets.    

To make matters worse is the absence of Australian based coaches who are professionally equipped to train the athlete at the international level.  Consequently, this means the athlete must base themselves overseas for training and competition purposes or accept the reality that their ascent into the upper echelon of the sport is over.  For those lucky enough, training and competition overseas beckons but the associated costs can be very high. 

Finally, after a year, two or maybe more of international level training and competition, the athlete has earned their international status and returns to Australia to compete on behalf of the nation. 

Then in the middle of a media scrum, a politician waddles out and declares that Australia is a great sporting nation and the government’s commitment to sport, at every level, remains strong.  Camera’s flash and the politician makes sure he/she is in the frame.      

And the athlete’s parents’ seethe.  For well over a decade they have invested tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, willingly, but not for a slimy politician to sidle up and bask in the reflected glory.  

The most disappointing aspect is that unless the parents have money, it doesn’t matter how determined and talented the athlete may be, it will be near impossible for them to achieve international sporting recognition.  There are also relatively few sports that lead to a ‘pot of gold’ for the athlete – most sports offer little discernable pathway to a future income.  

Meanwhile, at the grass roots level, parents will continue to undertake assorted fundraisers to keep the club going with basic equipment. 

How many genuinely talented kids have missed out simply because their parents couldn’t afford the cost of coaches, equipment and training?  What does the government’s commitment really mean – because it sure doesn’t seem to manifest itself in anything tangible to young athletes or distinctively talented future champions.    

And during your journey into the world of sport, just to add insult to injury, some national sporting associations have the temerity to demand payment for the (non-Olympic Games) mandatory tracksuit with AUSTRALIA emblazoned on the back.  Yep, you’ll even have to pay for the uniform when your kid represents the country.

So, next time you cheer on an athlete, spare a brief thought for who actually facilitated their struggle to the top.


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August 22, 2023 4:20 pm

Great post.

Much has been written about equal pay in recent weeks but it is a fantasy that women’s team sports can generate the same fan interest and income as the male team in same sport.

August 22, 2023 4:31 pm

Women’s sports are fine, but an expensive luxury. Men are quicker, faster, and stronger.

Mother Lode
Mother Lode
August 22, 2023 4:35 pm

Great post.

And one that should be tipped over Albo’s (well, there is a whole rogues gallery, but for not), tipped over Albo’s head like a bucket of cold water.

August 22, 2023 4:44 pm

… but they don’t know what to do with babies …

Dr Faustus
Dr Faustus
August 22, 2023 4:52 pm

Good post, and accurate.

I’ve seen this firsthand, with my own kids who are good at various sports – but fortunately not seduced into thinking they were good enough for fame and fortune.

Other families, not so fortunate, were sucked into the expensive (and ultimately heartbreaking processes) you describe.

Individual sports are probably the deepest black holes. The football codes much less so. In fact, despite Albanese’s torrid love affair with the Matilda’s, it’s going to be hard to flush OPM through the existing systems and achieve results – not that that is the little prick’s primary driver.

August 22, 2023 5:05 pm

Much Bullshit has been said about the woman’s world cup, i am not trying denigrate the females efforts as they did well. But the hyperbole surrounding the whole woman’s world cup has turned me off. Like everything, it has turned political and they are trying hard to equate it to men’s football which it is not. Highest rating Television ratings, most watched in history, all gay team, girl power etc… It’s all lies and a bit to much for me.

Let’s see if they can keep up the momentum.

August 22, 2023 5:30 pm

How much of that $200m will be laundered via the mesozoic media in the guise of ‘community service’ campaigns?

August 22, 2023 5:32 pm

How about implementing a HECS for elite athletes at Sporting Universities?

August 22, 2023 5:39 pm


August 22, 2023 5:43 pm

Good post, the very echo of many stories I have heard over the years.

*Sometimes pain is self inflicted though.

Person I know, a commonwealth public servant in a little country town, married a rich man’s daughter. Her sport was dressage, horse dancing for the rest of us.

She wasn’t good at it and didn’t go further.

They had a daughter, who became, a horse dancer, thanks sweetie!

They bought a bigger property, further from the town, a horse of course, float and the costs began and went on and on. There is no money at all in the sport of horse dancing for competitors, none.

He never moved up in his career, as that would have meant up sticks and move to Cannbra away from little horsie dancing world. So he stayed in his little town at the same grade for more than 30 years, pay increases of course, but only cost of living stuff. They funded every step of darling daughter’s sportsworld, no Academy of Sport, not quite good enough, but she loved the world of horses and horse dancing.

When eventually she wanted to compete internationally, they had a hire a horse in the europe for her and on it went. Daughter never won a thing, was never good enough to be considered expert, just another bland face amongst them all. His retirement will be meagre, everything was spent and invested in the daughter.

I saw him just before retirement at 54/11, a bitter man, truly but sadly poisonous with everyone who went on with their careers and was successful.

What do you say?

Peter Greagg
Peter Greagg
August 22, 2023 5:44 pm

Aug 22, 2023 5:32 PM
How about implementing a HECS for elite athletes at Sporting Universities?

Well, actually, back when Howard was PM, me and some other Right Minded officials suggested just such a scheme. Of course, the pollies didn’t like the idea, so it wasn’t pursued.

Shy Ted
Shy Ted
August 22, 2023 6:18 pm

C’mon, all the soccer greats had changing rooms and endorsements. Pele, Bobby Charlton, George Best, Puskasz et al. None of them ever played in the street or the local park, barefoot or in the only shoes they had, for the love of the game. Love and hunger creates champs.

Perplexed of Brisbane
Perplexed of Brisbane
August 22, 2023 6:31 pm

I saw an interview with Charles Barkley, a former great NBA player. He said when he spoke at predominantly white schools, the kids all wanted to be Doctors, Lawyers and Engineers etc. When he spoke at black schools, they all wanted to be NBA players etc.

He said it saddened him because there are about 400 NBA players at any one time and most if not all of those kids would not make it. They had more chance of becoming one of the other professions.

A good point I think.

August 22, 2023 6:36 pm

Great post. its was bad having to deal with the effusive, hyper short-term “support” for Matildas by people who can’t stand football and would never, ever pay their own $$ to see women play.

Worse was seeing these failed pollies trying so hard to catch the world cup wave in order to further their own agendas and careers. Sick-making stuff by Elbow and the useless Q/Premier.

Louis Litt
Louis Litt
August 22, 2023 10:41 pm

Speedbox the issues in here are numerous.
Billie – the situation you describe is endemic. High standards of living create delusional visions of granduar which destroy the parents lives and the children.
Shy Ted, you nailed it – stories of the Charlton brothers, Pele, Maradona, Barrie Robran, Russell Ebert, Geoff Marsh, they had natural talent and were country raised.
Work and then play.
Perplexed, yep, but those higher paying fee schools those children realised that did not have the natural talent and focused on law, teaching, accounting. Doing medicine requires as much natural talent as athletes. Engineering, pilots, somputer sciences I think needs as much talent as natural athletisism as they are mathematical.
Re the sports funding it is all about pushing the idiocy of the student union. The labor party and sports do not mix. Toxic male culture, men get paid more , calyinevwilson who wants more female umpires on the oval so they can keep up with the men’s speed – it’s equality.
My daughter played soccer, girls are hilarious, but the coach got knifed by the lesbians at the club.
Women trying to play men’s sports have no idea what they are doung to themselves, their bodies. Soccer involves cheating the ball, the most sensitive part of the female body. Tackling, crashing bashing, they have no idea what they are doing to themselves especially to the one thing they keep banging on about – pushing out a baby.
Of which how many of these women who bang on about sacrifice of trying have epidurals, cessariun. To eliminate the pain of labour. Further Invertro fertilisation,
Allows females to have babies with sex with males. So sex with other females athletes is the go are you can’t get pregnant and you can choose when you get pregnant with male sperm which you choose the donor and bang on about violent males.

Louis Litt
Louis Litt
August 22, 2023 10:44 pm

Wool plenty of auto correct happening in the above post when I was on a roll.

August 23, 2023 5:11 am

Men are quicker, faster, and stronger.

And as a rule, put many, many times the amount of paying customers in the seats or buying team merchandise. In short, they generate the money they are paid.

Want equal pay? Produce equal income.

Perplexed of Brisbane
Perplexed of Brisbane
August 23, 2023 6:27 am


I don’t know if they were public or private schools. I think his point was there are many more Doctors etc than elite sportsmen, so your opportunities to become one / chances of becoming one was greater. Your point is still valid though, you still may not have what it takes to become a Doctor etc anyway.

August 23, 2023 6:30 am

The Matildas suffered a surprising loss on Wednesday night, going down 7-0 to a Newcastle Jets male under-15 side in Sydney.

The Newcastle Jets under 15 boy’s side want to know when they will get equal pay for defeating the National Lesbian side 7-Nil a few years ago.

August 23, 2023 6:31 am

Accurate and a great post, Speedbox.

Rufus T Firefly
Rufus T Firefly
August 23, 2023 7:31 am

It is only sport.

Now, I used to love sport, Test Cricket and AFL in particular. That was before low class, deadbeat, virtue signalling wankers like Smith, Warner and Cummins started to run the show in cricket.
In AFL, they are removing everything, that made the game great. One on ones, bumping, tackling, ….., they are all gone now and it is like watching mini league, with 20 players all around the pill.
St Gillon the merciful and the other woke dolts running the game will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Families cannot to go any more.

Women’s sport has never attracted me, so I didn’t watch any of the Matilda’s, I don’t watch men’s hockey or soccer either.
When did it become the responsibility of Government, to fund sporting teams?
The nation must be travelling pretty well, to afford that kind of largesse.

If the product is good enough, there is no need to subsidise it. Renewable energy springs to mind.
Put women’s sport on TV and if it is good enough, people will trip over themselves to advertise during the comp. That is how things work, if they are good enough.

If not, …….., it is only sport.

August 23, 2023 8:05 am

Rather than funding the peak bodies, grants for clubs etc, I like the idea of something like NSW does with vouchers. Kid is into sport? you get a voucher to help defray the costs, and the money goes directly to the local community team.

August 23, 2023 8:14 am

Meanwhile, perhaps not in the great Australian tradition of celebrating military defeats and awarding a point for missing the goal, Anna Palaszczuk is to spend a chunk of Queensland tax payer change to erect a statue of the “Tillies” outside Suncorp Stadium (a name never used by Queenslanders outside the media or politics, btw, to whom it will always be Lang Park, named after the pioneer Presbyterian Scots minister John Dunmore Lang, an early advocate for the establishment of the colony that would eventually be named Queensland).

The premier’s rationale?

“There are plenty there, celebrating our male sporting champions, it’s time we celebrated women as well. You deserve your place amongst the greatest.”

Mmm… 4th placed “champions”. Double standards?

Mind you, this is a premier presently on the ropes politically, grasping for the trailing jersey of sporting success to drag her up in the polls.

If social media – where the notion has been roundly mocked – is a reliable indicator, the public is crying “foul.”

August 23, 2023 12:19 pm

Aug 23, 2023 8:05 AM
Rather than funding the peak bodies, grants for clubs etc, I like the idea of something like NSW does with vouchers.

this system has been working really well – it certainly increases the numbers at our community club, and gets kids trying a sport they may otherwise not.

Unfortunately, its been wound back a fair bit this year – down to $50/kid.

August 23, 2023 4:55 pm

Males are valued LESS than females, hence why we’re comfortable seeing males incur injury, particularly in contact sports.

Bloke knocked unconscious at the footy? Meh. Woman knocked unconscious? Oh dear.

I don’t wish to make this a battle of the sexes thing, but the health & wellbeing of males has historically been of low importance.

Bloke killed on a worksite? Easily replaceable.

Coupla blokes killed in the army? To be expected.

Male homeless? So what?

Bloke drowns trying to rescue a stranger at the beach? No big deal. Woman drowns trying to rescue her own kids? Big news.

Blokes depicted as eejyits in the media? Hilarious. Female as a clown? Nah, mate.

Men playing sport to entertain the masses? Tick. Not because we see women as incapable, but because we don’t want to see them damaged.

Women ARE valued more than men, but because the social insurgents normally choose a very narrow cohort of men, usually at the peak in their field, to measure the ‘average’ woman against, the public perception will always be skewed.

The Beer whisperer
The Beer whisperer
August 23, 2023 6:04 pm

I’ve said for quite some time that, brain injuries aside, for pure financial gain, team sports are far better.

Minimum wage in the NRL was $105,000 last year, and that includes all coaching, physio, medical, accommodation and travel. All the athlete has to pay for is his boots.

There are 30×17 players in the NRL. A tennis player ranked 520th IN THE WORLD would not make $105,000 per year, and they have to pay all coaching, physio, medical, accommodation and travel.

Ironically, the one thing they usually don’t have to pay for are their racquets. To pay back your parents you would need to be well inside the top 100 players on earth.

Yeah, you can leave for dead Nathan Cleary in the money stakes, but you have to be near the very top on the world, against an athlete few outside of Australia would ever hear about. You just may be more stupid than usual by the time you hit 30.

August 24, 2023 10:36 am

What do you say?

Stay the hell away from horsie women unless you can amortise a future divorce as a minor expense.

Old School Conservative
Old School Conservative
August 24, 2023 3:00 pm

I have just got back from watching my grandson run in the Zone champs for his Primary School and this article rang bells immediately, because after qualifying for the final, he asked “Dad can I have running shoes (spikes) next year?”

However the facilities he ran on are fully taxpayer funded to a large $ value. Track, grandstand, facilities etc don’t come cheap and it would be good if the politicians acknowledged taxpayer support, not just pose for photo ops to improve their own status.

August 24, 2023 4:02 pm

Does everyone remember how the AFL tried to scam the Tasmanian government for the new AFL stadium down there?

Bellerive Oval is fine for now.

All up, it was over 900 mn IIRC they begged for.

August 24, 2023 6:47 pm

Anecdotal evidence here, but I work in large regional centre and interestingly whenever I speak to parents of kids who have made State sports team, the trainings/trials etc are all in Perth or course, but at 7am or similar so the country kids and parents are up at 4am or worse. Being a bit conspiratorial but this seems to be the case across many codes and seems to be a tactic to further disadvantage country kids making teams.

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