The Chairman of Basketball Australia, The Hon. Kristina Keneally MP, said that today's announcement by the Commonwealth Government that it would invest $8 million into the Football Federation of Australia (FFA), including to "support the growth of soccer in Western Sydney" alongside a new A-League team, raised serious questions about the allocation of Government funds to professional sports organisations.
“Whilst any investment in sport is a good thing and the announcement of this new funding will no doubt be welcomed by soccer fans in western Sydney, this sort of major expenditure cannot continually be made on behalf of a select few sports at the expense of other high participation codes like basketball," stated Ms. Keneally.
"Coming on the heels of reports of a quiet injection from the Federal Government of $7.5 million to fill an apparent black hole in the FFA's accounts, today's announcement seems to be pouring more money into a professional sport league without scrutiny or consideration to the lack of parity in government funding to other major sports bodies.”
Ms Keneally said that as recently as February this year the Board of Basketball Australia was told by the Australian Sports Commission that the Commonwealth Government did not provide significant injections of funds into sports with professional leagues.
"That message doesn’t ring true when the Board of Basketball Australia sees the Commonwealth putting over $15 million into the FFA in just the past 3 months," Ms. Keneally said.
"It is irrelevant whether the funding comes from the ASC or consolidated revenue - it's all taxpayer funds, and in this case, being directed seemingly to a single sport consistently."
Ms. Keneally said that the days of basketball sitting quietly and modestly on the courtside were over.
"Basketball in Australia is a major success story: all four of our international teams are ranked in the top 10 in the world, and all are in line to perform well at the Olympics and Paralympics. The top female basketball player in the world, Lauren Jackson, is Australian. Our NBL and WNBL are regarded internationally as significant and high-level competitions. Attendance at NBL and WNBL games has been consistently increasing and TV viewership is also on the rise."
"Over 1 million Australians play basketball, and Australia is ranked globally in the top five basketball playing nations in the world. The Crawford Report even recognised basketball as one of this country’s most popular sports that contributes significantly to the ‘national ethos’.
"Yet, despite this success, basketball competes in a crowded sports and entertainment market and our NBL and WNBL clubs - just like clubs in many other professional leagues - struggle financially."
"Rivers of money flowing from the Commonwealth to one professional league - soccer - at the expense of many others creates a significantly uneven playing field, and exacerbates the challenges basketball's men’s and women’s professional teams face."
Ms. Keneally said one of the most acute challenges faced by basketball - both at a professional and community level - is a severe shortfall in infrastructure.
"Courts and venues are the biggest obstacle to the growth of the sport, and the greatest financial constraint on our professional clubs. Either they face exorbitant rent due to monopolistic circumstances, or they play in venues that are woefully small and limit their crowds."
Ms. Keneally said Basketball Australia would be commissioning an independent economic assessment of State and Federal funding to various professional leagues to make the case of the disparity in allocations between professional codes.
"Meanwhile, Basketball Victoria is undertaking an infrastructure analysis in that state, which will serve as an excellent case study of the infrastructure challenges we face," Ms. Keneally said.
"If the Commonwealth wants to consider funding for basketball commensurate with what it has spent on soccer in recent months, infrastructure would be a great place to start."
Ms. Keneally said she would be raising the matter directly with the new Sports Minister, The Hon. Kate Lundy MP.
"Minister Lundy is new in the role, and hasn't been responsible for decisions in the past. She gets the value of a sport like basketball, and we look forward to briefing her with the results of our independent economic analysis and infrastructure survey."