Canberra duo launches 'every chance to play' fund to make kids sport affordable

Canberra duo launches 'every chance to play' fund to make kids sport affordable

The 'big eight' Canberra sports have rallied together to help launch a program to address the rising costs of junior registration fees in a bid to fund 100 scholarships for children from vulnerable families.

Two Canberra school teachers are part of a group driving an "every chance to play" initiative, targeting businesses and individuals to sponsor the program to make sports more affordable.

The every chance to play program aims to make sport affordable for children from all backgrounds.

The every chance to play program aims to make sport affordable for children from all backgrounds.Credit:Rohan Thomson

Junior registrations for teenagers ranges from $150 to $350 depending on which sport the play, making it difficult for low-income families to pay for multiple children to join a team.

But Matt Topham, Grant Barclay and officials from Canberra will host a forum at the Woden Tradies on Wednesday to start building interest and developing a system to fund 100 scholarships next year.


The NSW government has introduced a voucher system offering a $100 sports rebate per child if they play organised sport, while the Western Australia government offers a $200 subsidy.

There is no program in Canberra to help families in need, prompting Topham and Barclay to start developing funding model.

"The benefits of junior sport are well documented - building friendships, health benefits, better performance at school," Topham said.

"NSW, the Northern Territory and WA have programs, but there's nothing in the ACT. We want to help kids from low-income families. We'd like to get kids on the field who aren't playing sport now."

An Australian Sports Commission report earlier this year said Canberra's 74 per cent sport participation rate for children aged up to 14 years old was better than the national average of 69 per cent.

But the 'every chance to play' initiative wants to increase that number and ensure children are not missing out because of their family's financial situation.

The program has appointed a nine-person board to oversee the every chance to play initiative, while Trinity Law, Ernst Young, MandM Consulting and the ACT Sports Group of eight have signed on as corporate partners.

Almost 50 per cent of disadvantaged children do not play any organised sports, or withdraw from teams when registration fees are due.

"The dream would be to have a sustainable model where if there was a team that knew one couldn't afford it, the rest of the team could donate to get that over the line," Barclay said.

"I've been involved in junior sport pretty much my whole life. It's something I'm very passionate about, but unfortunately over the years the economic barrier has become really significant.

"There's nothing more frustrating than watching a kid kick a football and knowing they don't get the benefits associated with organised sport at that junior level.

"We know that there are the haves and have nots. There's a great disparity between parents who can afford it and parents that can't.

"Our experience is that we've got families who pick and choose every season about what child can do what. That, for us, is incredibly frustrating."

Canberra rugby league, rugby union, Australian football, netball, soccer, cricket, basketball and hockey have all thrown their weight behind the program.

A trusted referrers network will also be set up, as well as gold, silver and bronze sponsorship levels in the hope it will simplify the process and encourage inclusion and diversity without sacrificing dignity for families.

It is hoped similar programs could be set up to help children from low-economic programs join drama or music programs in the future.

The Easts junior rugby union club launched its own program this year to champion a culture of inclusion and support for players by forming partnerships with The Smith Family, Menslink and Bernados to offer free registration for children.

"Everyone we've spoken to agrees that this is an issue in Canberra," Topham said.

"That's across, basketball, netball, hockey, both of the rugby codes, Aussie rules ... everyone agrees there's a need there.

"Our realistic goal next year is to get 100 kids fully funded who wouldn't be playing sport next winter. We just want kids to get on the park."

Barclay hopes the program will eventually be sustainable enough to support children for the entirety of their junior sporting careers to ensure cost does not become an imposition.

* For more information search for 'Every Chance to Play' on Facebook. There will be a public forum at the Woden Tradies at 7pm on Wednesday for any stakeholders interested in the program.

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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