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Crunch time looms for AIS


Chris Wilson, Ross Peake

AIS director Matt Favier.

AIS director Matt Favier. Photo: Melissa Adams

Director of the Australian Institute of Sport Matt Favier admits all AIS programs are under review as the Canberra campus prepares for one of the biggest strategic shake-ups in its 31-year history.

The Australian Sports Commission and Sports Minister Kate Lundy will deliver a new blueprint for Australian sport on Friday as sporting chiefs attempt to revive the country's international success.

Details of the plan are closely guarded, but there is growing speculation the role of the AIS Canberra campus could be diluted further as sporting programs are spread nationally and individual sporting bodies are held more accountable for their own athletes' performances.

It could involve sports taking more control of their government-allocated finances and awarding their own national scholarships, instead of the traditional approach by which the AIS provides sporting programs and scholarships.

The AIS has become a Canberra institution since opening in 1981, in response to the 1976 Montreal Olympics in which Australia failed to win a single gold medal.

Originally established as a central base for elite sport, at its peak the AIS in Canberra was considered Australia's Olympic home.

In more recent years, and with the growth of state sporting institutes, the role of the AIS in Canberra has diminished as a permanent home for athletes.

The AIS in Canberra has increasingly become a facility for national team training camps, a trend of decentralisation which is set to continue.

In an interview with Fairfax Media, Favier said the future of all AIS programs, including the traditionally successful swimming program, would be assessed over the next 12 months.

''Every sport that's on program here at the AIS will continue until the end of 2013,'' Favier said.

''We are at the end of a significant [Olympic] cycle, we need to give everybody the opportunity and we're not yet in the position to make any decisions, so no one should conclude that there's a cliff edge at the end of 2013.

''But certainly we need to look at our entire approach.''

Australia performed below expectations at this year's London Olympics, finishing 10th on the medal tally with seven golds.

Favier, who worked with high-performance sport in Britain for nine years, said it was becoming increasingly evident that Australia's approach was outdated.

''I'm not convinced … looking around at other systems in the world … that we have evolved significantly enough or fast enough to move on from a traditional way we've operated,'' he said.

''Where we probably felt we've led the way in terms of influencing high-performance sport in the '80s and '90s, we are no longer in that same place … we have to recognise the world's changed, it's moved on, people are organising around it, we're being outmanoeuvred in some areas and we need to be more agile and able to adapt to that.

''I think systematically at the moment we are on a slippery slope, so we need to be very careful about the next steps we take because they will be significant for us. If we have aspirations to stay inside the top 10 [on the Olympic medal tally], we absolutely need to think about what we do.

''We need to make sure that from a taxpayer point of view that every dollar we receive sweats hard for Australia.''

Favier denied that the AIS Canberra campus, which includes world-class sports science facilities, would become underutilised under the new sporting strategy.

''I don't want to lose all the good things I think we've got, and I do think we've got some absolute assets, including the facilities we have in Canberra and other locations,'' he said.

ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries said the federal government needed to move swiftly to offer certainty to the sports community.

''Rumours have been swirling around the sports community - and the AIS in particular - ever since public criticism of our performance at the London Games surfaced,'' he said.

''The role of the Australian Institute of Sport is pivotal in that respect.

''I call on the Sports Minister to provide that certainty in the announcements she is expected to make shortly.''


  • ...out dated hey.

    It seems that our intellectual property is far from outdated as overseas nations line up to purchase their slice of the pie, appropriting all and sundry from our AIS.

    Perhaps we need to be less sharing of our resources and sporting nous with these countries as well as hold onto our coaches, who are now being poached by the sporting world, especially in Swimming which has contributed to China, the UK and NZ's rise to name a few in that sport alone.

    Incredulously, NZ benefits from our sporting programs as we continue to afford our fiercest sporting foe in this respect while this is hardly reciprocated.

    Sport is about competing against your adversaries and hopefully defeating them, not being so commercially frivolous and egalitarian with your citizens taxes.

    Date and time
    November 29, 2012, 8:47AM
    • I would like to see the AIS as well Australian Olympic Committee have their funding slashed and the money go to subsidize amateur sports especially eqp like mtn bikes canoes etc. Money should also be directed to school sports, junior registration fees,learn to swim etc. The AIS could become a place for schools and amateur teams to visit for intensive training and competition. Professional codes could lease the facilities at market rent. An article in the SMH 12/8 has John Coates (AOC) calling for more money for elite sports, even though the AOC has $100m CASH.

      The nation is becoming lazy and obese watching our "sporting heroes" many who are multi-millionaires. Its time for the pie to be cut and passed around. Mmm pie!!

      Date and time
      November 29, 2012, 9:30AM
      • Is a scholarship to the AIS subject to HECS? I would hope that athletes benefiting from the largesse of the tax paying public are required to repay the cost of their sporting tuition including accommodation in the same manner as students attending university. There should be no free ride for athletes.

        Date and time
        November 29, 2012, 11:51AM
        • Dump the AIS and the NCA and build an International level Motor Sport complex that will actually attract income to the ACT.

          Date and time
          November 29, 2012, 12:19PM
          • A uni students end result is a personal benefit in the majority of cases (dont forget uni's provide Govt funded scholarships as well), the athletes provide a public good for Australia in that you and I can enjoy (if you so choose) watching them represent us on the world stage. Also there is very few people who could or would actually want to train day in day out as these scholarship holders do. Just a thought.

            Date and time
            November 29, 2012, 2:03PM
            • With the expected shift to allow the national sporting organisations to have greater control over the elite sporting programs, how are we able to trust these programs have the leadership to provide healthy and safe environments for the athletes and all involved? Given the light shed on the swimming program post olympics, I am not filled with too much confidence that my tax contributions are being all that well spent. It is likely that many other sporting organisations will not handle this increase in responsibility. Tax payers money has contributed millions of dollars over the past 20 + years, I say thorough inquiries should be made into all sports who have received funds and the results made available to the public. Make this process transparent!

              To be fair
              Date and time
              November 29, 2012, 9:06PM
              Comments are now closed

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