In a land where sport is sacred
Where the labourer is God
You must pander to the people
Make a hero of a clod
– Henry Lawson
I like to quote Sir Frank Lowy’s justification for his sponsoring of Australian soccer rather than just giving money to charity. He once dismissed his critics with the succinct comment that ‘Sport brings joy’ or something along those lines.
Much as I am not a very sporty type, I love my AFL team (Western Bulldogs, for those new to my blog) and I have been known to occasionally watch a rugby game on the TV or at the pub, or to stare at the Test Cricket on the TV whilst downing a few cans of cold beer on a warm day.
I am however, as I observed in great detail during the Olympics last year, very skeptical about federal government funding for sports in Australia. This is for several reasons.
One is that sport is mostly the preserve of civil society, and that when government funds something, they control it – he who pays the piper calls the tunes.
Another is that if sport is going to get government funding, then the construction of giant stadia is more the preserve of state governments (in partnership with the relevant sporting leagues and organisations), whilst community playing fields and sporting facilities really are the business of local government.
A more concerning one perhaps is that federal government funding for sport does push a nationalistic agenda, and often one where the main goal is winning at all costs rather than good sportsmanship. Other less benevolent regimes than our own, such as the Eastern Bloc, the PRC, and of course Germany in 1936, have frequently pursued sporting success as a propaganda tool.
The whole Djokovic debacle unfolding this past few days has had me wondering about the behaviour of one of our publicly funded sporting bodies, Tennis Australia.
From what I have been able to ascertain from the mainstream media, Tennis Australia made some discreet general enquiries in November about vaccination requirements for persons wishing to enter Australia. They then selectively interpreted the replies they received from the health minister and a senior official, and extrapolated a conclusion diametrically opposite to the established position, and then unilaterally announced to the world in general that Djokovic had a vaccine or travel exemption of some sort and was going to come to The Australian Open.
The sheer arrogance of the attitude of Tennis Australia is breathtaking in its scale. Australia, being a sporting nation, values its sporting heroes and major sporting events highly. The Australian Open is probably our premier ongoing international sporting tournament (sorry petrol heads – the Grand Prix is not even close).
Obviously Tennis Australia believes that it is too big to fail, and that a few rules that the rest of us mere mortals have to abide by can be disregarded or brushed aside.
It turns out that this is not the case, even through Djokovic’s father is currently comparing Djokovic to Jesus (does this make Djokovic pere God?).
The contempt that Tennis Australia has shown for the rules that the rest of us are forced to live by shows that it and it’s overpaid sporting administrators clearly indicates that they think that they are better than the Australian public.
Which does beg the urgent question: Why are Australian taxpayers funding Tennis Australia to the tune of about $5 million per year?
I want my twenty cents back!