Sports minister Greg Hunt on Monday outlined plans for a UK-style national lottery that could yield an estimated $100 million in funding for Australia’s under-performing Olympians.
Hopes are that the new lottery will be up and running by 2018, a full two years before the start of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Will it be enough to spare our blushes in Japan? Perhaps not; sporting achievement takes time to build and we need to take the long view.
It’s worth noting that the UK established its lottery in 1994, two years before its worst Olympics ever, when the Brits bagged just one gold medal.
But in the long-term it worked. Twenty-two years later, in Rio, Team UK finished second in the medal table, for its best performance ever.
Meanwhile, Australia managed just eight golds and fell well short of the targeted 29 medals. Instead, we had our worst games in 24 years.
Outspent and Left for Dust
The UK’s national lottery reserves 50 per cent of turnover for the prize pool, with 22 percent going to the government. That leaves 28 per cent going to good causes, such as sports.
It’s pretty much the sole reason they outstrip us in sports funding by about 33 percent and by 100 percent in high performance grants.
In the six years between 2010 and 2017, funding to the Australian Sports Commission fell from $268 million to $251 million.
Under the plans being drawn up by Hunt, individual states will be financially compensated for any loss in revenue faced by their existing lotteries.
Current licensed lottery companies will continue to operate state lotteries, while the federal government will initiate a tender for a company to manage the national lottery, which will include online ticket sales.
Hunt said that all state governments support the idea.
National Integrity Tribunal
“It’s something that in my time and on my watch I would like to see us achieve,” Hunt told local press in Canberra on Monday. “If it is legislated and highly regulated, and it’s a public good lottery then that’s sensible. In 30, 50 and 100 years it will still be here and providing a way to support participation and support performance for Australian sport.”
The lottery is part of a wider national sports plan, which includes the establishment of a national integrity tribunal to investigate and monitor accusations of doping, match-fixing and other serious charges.
The tribunal would eliminate any perceived conflict of interest in the current system, which requires sporting bodies to act as judge and jury in drugs cases involving their own athletes.