New AIS boss Matt Favier says Canberra will remain the headquarters of the AIS, with an emphasis on sports science. Photo: Melissa Adams
National sports bosses have expressed confidence that Canberra will not lose sporting bodies, athletes and jobs as the Australian Institute of Sport undergoes a radical restructure to try and revive the country's dwindling international success.
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) launched its 10-year strategic plan, Australia's Winning Edge, in Melbourne on Friday and immediately set the ambitious target of a top-five finish on the medal table at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
The project will involve the biggest restructure in the 31-year history of the AIS, which will no longer offer direct scholarships to athletes or sporting programs.
Instead, the AIS will act as a conduit between the federal government and national sporting organisations, with sports to take more accountability for their governance, finances and performances.
AIS director Matt Favier and ASC chief executive Simon Hollingsworth addressed AIS staff in Canberra on Thursday. Mr Favier met staff again on Friday afternoon after the announcement of the project.
The AIS offers approximately 440 scholarships annually to athletes and employs more than 220 staff, the majority based in Canberra. The AIS has committed to maintaining its sporting programs and scholarships until the end of 2013 to provide a transitional period for athletes and staff until individual sporting bodies decide their own locations.
Rowing has already indicated it plans to remain in Canberra. Mr Hollingsworth said he did not expect other national sports currently based at the AIS - such as swimming and basketball - to flee Canberra entirely and he denied that the restructure would involve significant job losses.
''We certainly think there'll continue to be athletes in residence at the Canberra site,'' Mr Hollingsworth said. ''It's a bit premature to predict what that will look like and I know there will be some uncertainty about that, but that's one of the reasons why we've got 2013 to work with the sports and our staff to closely understand what's the best way to get athletes to the podium.
''I think it would be very premature and possibly misleading to suggest there's going to be vast job cuts. Yes, we will be changing some aspects of what we do, and that will have some impact, but by the same token we made it clear that we're growing some of the capacity of the AIS.''
The federal government will not contribute any more than the current $170 million in annual funding. The ASC and AIS will have to use that money more efficiently to get results.
Australia has won fewer total medals at each summer Olympics since Sydney 2000 and this year will have around half the world champions it did a decade ago. In London this year Australia had its worst Olympics since 1992, coming home with seven gold medals, finishing 10th on the overall table.
Among the initiatives in the new strategic plan is a $20 million investment over the next four years for coaching and leadership.
The AIS will also conduct an annual talent identification draft camp, trying to ensure that athletes who may miss out in one sport are trialled in others.
Mr Favier said Canberra would remain the headquarters of the AIS, with an emphasis on sports science. He said the facilities and technology at the Canberra campus would ensure national sporting bodies continue to use the AIS extensively. ''Our expectations are that it won't shrink, it will in fact grow,'' Mr Favier said.