Thursday, November 27, 2008

Here We Go Again! Harper government plans to study athletics funding

OTTAWA -- The Harper government plans to commission a study of the economic impact of amateur sports in Canada, to determine how much public money should be invested in athletics as the economy slumps.

The study will attempt to quantify the revenues, expenditures and overall financial health of amateur-sports organizations across the country to provide a "sophisticated snapshot of the industry," states a request for proposals by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The goal is to enhance the government's understanding of the business of amateur sports, so all levels of government can make "more strategic, effective public investments and other public-policy decisions to support the growth and development of the sector and the economy."

The tender document notes data are lacking to support the sector's importance, opening the door for advocacy groups to influence the public's perception of the value of amateur sports.

"While there exists a broad, macro-level understanding of the economic contribution of sport among decision-makers, often public investment is based on the premise that sport is a 'public good,' a premise heavily influenced by advocacy of voluntary and non-profit organizations," the documents state.

The study comes as the government scours all departments and agencies for savings to cushion the blow to public finances of the economic downturn. Amid this darkening outlook, the government must decide how much more to invest in preparations for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

After Canada's slow start in the medal standings at the Beijing Olympics last summer, some athletes complained they were not receiving as much government support as competitors in other countries. Canada eventually achieved the medal target set by the Canadian Olympic Committee, but not before much public hand-wringing.

The Olympic committee has launched the Own the Podium program to make Canada the biggest medal winner at the Vancouver Games. The federal government has committed $55 million over five years. but the committee says it needs another $21 million in annual funding to meet its goal. By comparison, China is said to have spent more than $700 million to ready its athletes for the Beijing Games, according to some reports.

Canadian Olympic Committee chief executive Chris Rudge applauded the government's attempt to more accurately gauge the economic benefits of amateur sport. "I've been saying for some period of time ... that we have to stop making our appeal for money strictly on an emotional basis."

But he argued that less tangible benefits, such as the effect on national pride, should also be considered. "It's one of the few things that unifies the nation, when we have an athlete standing on the podium, representing our country."

A 2005 study by the Conference Board of Canada examined the benefits of sports participation at all levels. It found that total household spending on sport in 2004 was $15.8 billion, or 1.2 per cent of GDP.

It also identified other benefits, such as reduced health-care costs, the fostering of personal skills such as teamwork and leadership, and improvements to the "social cohesion" of communities.

One of the study's authors, Michael Bloom, said the policy-makers should consider all these factors.

"Governments, or Canadians in general, should be asking, 'How does sport contribute to the economy? How does sport help improve their health outcomes? How does sport contribute to the quality of life within communities?' If you do that, that provides a basis for considering whether you want to make more investments, and what kind of investments."

Bottom Line
Despite all the obvious benefits (i.e., for society, the country and every individual Canadian), sport/fitness and preventative healthcare are not a priority for this (any?) government. Do not be surprised when the Harper Government slashes amateur sports funding but continues to foot the bill for private sports enterprises.

1 comment:

  1. and the excuse will go something like this...ya well athletes eat too much and that is causing global warming and therefore we should give the money to car companies for you know they knew about this oil thing but did nothing and now need our help...and we are only too happy to give it to them for cars are healthy not only for your big butt but also for the environment!!!