Sport

Australian Sports Commission cuts staff by 35 per cent and committed to Rio athletes

The Australian Sports Commission says it has cut staff by 35 per cent in the past five years and is adamant it is committed to athletes and sports for the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games despite a federal government review of its operations.

There has been criticism by some leading sports officials that the Canberra-based Australian Institute of Sport has become a "ghost town" after shifting away from its traditional role as an athlete hub when the Winning Edge program was introduced four years ago.

The AIS has fewer athletes living on site after shifting to the Winning Edge program.
The AIS has fewer athletes living on site after shifting to the Winning Edge program. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The ASC still injects $100 million in funding to high-performance sport. In addition to this, it funds athletes directly as part of a $12 million per year investment. In the 2015-16 year more than $22 million was granted directly to sports for participation outcomes.

There is a review into how efficient the ASC and AIS are, with the accommodation still primarily used by elite athletes based in Canberra as well as for national team camps and some school groups visiting the capital.

Cyclists at the Australian Institute of Sport physiology lab during tests to measure the effects of calcium loading on ...
Cyclists at the Australian Institute of Sport physiology lab during tests to measure the effects of calcium loading on performance. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

"The Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Institute of Sport are committed to working with sports and our key partners to try to get the best possible outcomes at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games," ASC boss Simon Hollingsworth said.

"Australia's Winning Edge was launched in 2012, following Australia's worst performance at an Olympic Games since 1992. It's a 10-year game plan and we will always look to continue refining our approach, working with sports and the Australian Olympic Committee.

"The ASC has reduced staff by 35 per cent since 2011 to enable more money to be directly invested into our sports and athletes."

The introduction of the Winning Edge program changed the way sports were funded in Australia, putting the onus on individual associations to get results or risk losing their financial support in the wake of disappointing results at the London Olympics.

However, that changed the face of the AIS with its direct involvement in athlete development limited to team camps and a smaller number of athletes based in Canberra.

AOC president John Coates has criticised a review of the AIS as "superficial" and "lacking concrete proposals".

Hollingsworth said the AIS had increased Olympic sport funding by almost 11 per cent since 2012, with almost $340 million injected in recent years.

Officials have attempted to generate revenue by exploring different ways to use its venues, offering the AIS facilities to teams and organisations for camps and functions.

Facilities have been upgraded in recent years, with the basketball and netball training hall being refurbished as well as the AIS Arena, the athletics track and the synthetic football field.

Several high-performances coaches, medical staff and scientists based at the AIS will be part of the Australian Olympic team to travel to Rio in August.

"The AIS in Canberra remains a world-class facility, available to high-performance sporting programs and athletes. Eleven sports base a Centre of Excellence at the AIS in Canberra, while the AIS hosts more than 120 camps annually for AWE–funded sports," Hollingsworth said.

However, several high-placed officials have expressed their concerns about the under-utilisation of the AIS and its facilities.

The AIS was founded in 1981 and at its peak was home to almost 700 athletes and 76 coaches.

"The AIS is tracking emerging talent across more sports than ever before and is confident we have mechanisms in place to discover potential champions. The AIS is now tracking about 2000 developing athletes across Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth and sporting disciplines," Hollingsworth said.