In election campaigns we are used to sports stars being lined up to support one side or the other, but when a national sporting organisation gets involved in a campaign announcement you would think the national media would be asking why.

This week the Federal Arts and Sports Minister, George Brandis (SC), announced a $17.5 million federal government “commitment” to redevelopment of Cricket Australia’s Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, with Test opener, Matt Hayden, and sometime Test player, Shane Watson, in attendance.

But the Chief Executive of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland, was there as well, did media interviews, and put out a press release lauding the government’s funding “commitment”.

Perhaps he should have asked the Sports Minister why the grant was not announced during the welter of other handouts and appointments Brandis made just before the government went into caretaker mode a week earlier? Had it been announced then it would could have been a genuine commitment and not just an election campaign promise, which is what it really is.

But it is interesting that Sutherland allowed himself to be a part of what was essentially a party political stunt – as Brandis, like his Prime Minister, is in caretaker mode and any “commitment” he makes will be meaningless unless he is in government after 24 November.

And it is made even more interesting, if not curious, by the location of the Centre of Excellence where the announcement was made – at Alan Border Oval in the electorate of Lilley, held by the Shadow Treasurer, Wayne Swan. No doubt he first heard of the announcement on the nightly television news!

If the opinion polls are even half right it will be Treasurer Swan who will have the final say on whether the commitment which is really a promise is delivered!

But it raises an interesting question as to why the CEO of a major national sport would put himself in that position. Brandis cannot be criticised for the event – or for getting Sutherland there… his side need all the backing they can muster!

It’s an interesting involvement especially as only on Monday Cricket Australia released some interesting history of the game, including details of the difficult relationship between two of the games powerbrokers, Sir Donald Bradman and former Brisbane Lord Mayor, Clem Jones. When Jones joined the then Australian Cricket Board chaired by Bradman it was made very clear that their political differences (Bradman being a well know Menzies friend and supporter) could not be forgotten or overlooked!

In recent months, the Howard Government has been spreading money around sporting organisations like confetti in a cyclone. The ARU got a bundle to build a training centre also in Brisbane, while the ARL got almost as much for a Hall of Fame for the code.

The Labor Opposition has been making promises to redevelop stadiums and fund a range of sports as well.

But one has to wonder just how much impact these announcements have on the electorate. Not much, and certainly not as much would be a commitment to assist parents struggling to meet the escalating cost of enabling their children to play sport… registration fees, insurance, uniforms, gear and other costs are a real burden for many, if not most, families.

Now a “promise” in that area would make voters sit up and take notice!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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