Report into funding is "un-Australian" claims Coates
November 17 - More than 30 years of effort in making Australia a superpower in world sport could be wasted after the Crawford Report rejected a call for an extra $100 million (£55 million) a year funding, the country's leading Olympic administrator has warned.
John Coates, the President of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), issued his stark prediction after the long-awaited Crawford Report, that was published today, recommended Government funding for sports should be maintained at present levels, supplemented by additional money if high-performance targets are reached.
Coates claimed it was unmistakable that the report has put "in the gun" some of the low-profile, low-participation sports which have delivered Australia medals across 23 sports in the past six summer Olympics.
Coates warned Australian sport would regress towards the years following the 1976 Montreal Olympics failure, in which no gold medals were won, hastening the inauguration of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), which has earned the nickname "The Gold Medal Factory".
Coates said he is "pissed off" that the review says funding should be directed towards higher participation sports, such as the football codes and cricket which already benefit from stadiums built from the public purse.
Coates last month urged the Government to increase sports funding by A$100 million (£55 million) a year on top of the current $130.9 million (£72.3 million) budget when making public an AOC survey which showed Australia, which had been fourth on the 2000 and 2004 Olympic medals tally, would have placed seventh had 2009 been an Olympic year.
He said: "This report is disrespectful of all the work we have done since 1980, getting us to where we are.
"The panel doesn't understand how hard that was and we are at risk of going on the slide.
"I just don't think he [Crawford] gets it.
"I don't think the panel gets it."
Businessman David Crawford conducted the report and came up with 39 recommendations on the future of professional, community and school sport
Crawford said that Olympic medal tallies were not an effective way to measure success in international sport and that a broader focus was needed.
He said: "I think the Government needs to address here it wants to succeed, in what sports it wants to succeed and then set the targets accordingly.
"It became clear to the panel and confirmed by many submissions that without implementing these changes Australia will fall further behind in our standing in elite sport.
"[And] the health and well-being agenda of our citizens will not be progressed to the extent it should and the general level of participation in sport and physical activity will continue its downward spiral."
The National Rugby League (NRL), Australian Football League (AFL), Cricket Australia and Hockey Australia were among those sports to welcome the report's focus on increasing participation numbers, an aspect of it which Coates praised, and its recognition of their sports' importance in Australia.
Coates (pictured) delivered a broadside at Crawford, saying he and his panel were not qualified to make judgments on elite international sport.
He said: "The panel does not believe that the medal count is an appropriate measure of Australian performance or that top five [in the medals table at the Olympics] is a sensible target."
Coates called that view "un-Australian" and forecast a lack of additional Government money would see Australia slide to as low as eighth at the London 2012 Olympics.
The Crawford Report urges extra funding go towards endeavours such as grassroots sporting competition and schools sport programs to aid public health.
Coates said: "Mr Crawford said the panel can find no evidence of events such as the Olympics, Wimbledon or the AFL Grand Final having a material influence on sports participation.
"He only needed to pop his head into Kingston Heath golf course last weekend to see how many turned up to watch Tiger Woods in a new Olympic sport.
"How many children picked up a golf stick this week in back yards around Australia and said they'd like to play golf like Tiger?
"He says more Government funds are provided for archery than cricket, which has more than 100 times the participation, water polo received as much high performance funds as golf, tennis and lawn bowls.
"On what basis are these sports not equal claimants on the public purse?"
Coates also cast doubt on one key recommendation to amalgamate the AIS with state institutes and split from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC).
He said competition between the state institutes and academies was a good thing and helped raise standards.
Coates claimed that Crawford had underestimated the huge impact Olympic success had had on the Australian public.
He said: "Olympians have inspired this nation for decades.
"They've inspired Australians on and off the sporting field.
"Simon Fairweather, Dean Lukin to tell them their no longer heroes.... Matthew Mitcham, they're the ones who are entitled to feel what they've done for their country doesn't count."
Sports Minister Kate Ellis said: "The report does not recommend a funding cut to elite sport or the sport sector as a whole.
"[But] there are things in this report that might ruffle a few feathers."
November 2009: Australia faces future with no gold medals warns Charlesworth
November 2009: Britain will beat Australia at London 2012 admits Coates
October 2009: We will fall further behind Britain unless we get funding now, warns Coates