The Crawford report has succeeded, at the very least, in opening up for debate whether the government gets “value” out of the money spent on sports programs.

It has been painted in the media as a debate that pits the Olympic sports against the mass-participation sports, but maybe it doesn’t have to be.

The AOC feels aggrieved that it may lose funding in favour of mass-participation sports, despite having met their current KPIs (i.e. win lots of Olympic medals).

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A simple compromise: why not change the KPIs for the Olympic sports? Make medals a secondary KPI but throw down the gauntlet that the major KPI for all Olympic athletes is to improve the disgraceful figure that only 49.3% of Australians participate in regular physical activity.

Then you would see a concerted effort on behalf of the Olympic heroes to get ordinary Australians off the couch. In addition to “thanking my sponsors Coca-Cola, KFC and Uncle Toby’s”, medallists would remind our population that if they don’t start exercising, more that Olympic funding would dry up.

Just as the AFL teams have successfully marketed membership of their clubs, Olympic athletes could market membership of the Australian Olympic family, open to all Australians who exercise three times weekly (irrespective of the sport/activity they do).

If their livelihoods depended on it, Olympic athletes would stop giving banal interviews and start actually preaching a message that would save lives, because the population’s livelihood depends on getting more active. But one small caution is required.

Although you can guarantee fewer heart attacks, strokes, cancers and cases of diabetes and depression if the population exercises more, you can also guarantee more injuries. When overweight, unfit people start to exercise, they will get sore knees, feet, shoulders etc. and, believe it or not, this might actually make them stop exercising.

Unfortunately, the Federal government doesn’t have any plan to make treatment of sports injuries publicly accessible, a situation that exists in New Zealand.

I made a submission to the Crawford panel that the federal government was ignoring the problem of sports injury.

And guess what? The Crawford report ignored it.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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