Amateur sports funding is messed up

$364,000 for racquetball (above)? $203,000 for broomball? What the &$#! is broomball. It’s AMATEUR...

$364,000 for racquetball (above)? $203,000 for broomball? What the &$#! is broomball. It’s AMATEUR HOUR on Parliament Hill! (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency file photo)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:43 PM ET

TORONTO - The federal government enjoys yammering on about how committed they are to our elite amateur athletes. And they like to brag, particularly when an Olympic Games are closing in, about how much they spend on amateur sport.

But at the end of the day, it’s a scam.

Sure, the feds fund sport to the tune of $200 million plus per year. But there’s a major problem in the delivery of the funding, at least in the way the federal sport agency, Sport Canada, allocates the funding. It’s political correct, it’s ridiculous and, in some case, it’s bizarre.

Right off the bat, the point should be made that there’s never enough money to go around. National sports organizations will tell you that in order to compete at the top internationally, they always need more.

That being said, Sport Canada makes everything worse by spreading the money out far too thinly. Instead of directing the money to sports that Canadians traditionally care about, Sport Canada tries to be everything to everyone, and fund all kinds of participation sports and organizations. Take a look at the list of sports and organizations that Sport Canada funds, and where the money goes. There are organizations that most Canadians don’t care about, and certainly don’t follow, that receive hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there are sports that aren’t even on the Olympic Games program that receive, in some cases, more money that sports that are on the Olympic program.

Name the last Canadian to win an Olympic medal in racquetball?

Trick question. Racquetball is not an Olympic sport, and if there ever was a Canadian racquetball superstar, I’ve never heard of him.

Yet, Sport Canada allocated to $364,000 to the Canadian Racquetball Association this 2010-11 fiscal year. At the same time, the Canadian Weightlifting Federation received a mere $87,000 and the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association, an organization that has produced such Olympic stars as Lennox Lewis, Shawn O’Sullivan and Egerton Marcus, to name a few, received $343,000, $20,000 less than racquetball. Weightlifting and boxing are Olympic sports. Racquetball is not.

It’s astonishing.

Ask any major sport federation in Canada, and they’ll tell you they need more money in order to win at the highest level — at Olympics and world championships. Some national team athletes, like the five boxers who were recently selected to compete for Canada at the Commonwealth Youth Games at the Isle of Man, are now being forced to pay part of their own way to international competitions. And boxing isn’t the only sport where that is happening.

And yet, Sport Canada paid $203,000 to the Canadian Broomball Federation this year. They gave bowling $286,000. They gave bowls $205,000.

Yes, I know these are fun sports and have big participation numbers. But, really, do we need to fund them like they’re Olympic events?

Last time I checked, not many Canadians follow broomball or bowls on TV, and no Canadian bowler has ever inspired a generation of Canadian youth.

So what’s with the big bucks?

Here’s another: Why does ringette ($455,000) receive more than Boxing Canada? Yeah, there’s a lot of little girls who play ringette. But so what? Let them join their local leagues and play. Why does the federal government insist on funding a sport to the tune of almost half a million a year when it’s not part of the Olympic program and, last time I checked, is not exactly a huge spectator sport.

Similarly, the Canadian Amateur Softball Association, again, a great sport in terms of domestic participation, but not in the Olympic Games, received over $1 million. Meanwhile, lacrosse, Canada’s national summer sport, received about a third of that. So much for safeguarding Canadian traditions. Lacrosse was played in the land now known as Canada hundreds of years before the Europeans dropped in.

My argument is that Sport Canada has to stop trying to be something to everyone, which is so typically politically correct, and has to start ear-marking available funds to sports that Canadians traditionally care about, especially sports that are on the Olympic program. Instead, SC spreads the money around and Canada’s potential at the Olympic Games is never fully realized.

But the insanity doesn’t end with the funding of non Olympic sports.

The list of organizations that receive money from Sport Canada is dumbfounding. There are advocacy groups and charities that receive big bucks that, frankly, should not receive big bucks.

For example, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Activity (CAAWS), an outfit whose time has long come and gone, received $524,000 for the 2010-11 period. You’ve got an advocacy group receiving $150,000 more than Canada’s national summer sport.

Why? Again, it’s all about political correctness.

CAAWS was launched in 1981 to enhance the presence of girls and women in sport. Back then, participation by girls in sport needed a boost.

But now, 30 years later, does the federal government still need to spend half a million a year to advocate women’s sports, when the money could be spent much more effectively? Absolutely not. By and large, there is equity in sport in Canada. Why do you think Canada kicks ass in women’s sport internationally? The women’s soccer and hockey and wrestling and boxing teams do well because our girls are encouraged to participate in sport. Compared to most countries on the planet, female sport in Canada is well-funded. So our women have an advantage internationally. And it’s great that our girls and women’s teams are treated equally. But does Sport Canada still need to dish out a half-million dollars to a group that encourages something that already exists, when the money is desperately needed elsewhere?

If the feds were throwing tons of money around, great. Fund every sport known to man. But these are difficult economic times and the money has to be spent properly — on national sports that mean something to Canadians, not advocacy groups.

I’ve never been a big fan of CAAWS, and I know they’re not big fans of mine. But remember this. Political correctness cuts both ways. Why is it okay that the CAAWS’ board of directors is all women? And why is it okay for CAAWS to have an all-female national office staff (according to their website). I thought this country was supposed to be about being inclusive. Imagine the turd hitting the fan if it was revealed that a government-funded organization in Ottawa was staffed entirely by men or by only English-speaking Canadians?

The bottom line, I don’t believe it’s Sport Canada’s job to fund advocacy groups when the actual sports and athletes need it more.

Yet, Sport Canada paid out $312,000 to Athletes CAN, $240,000 to the True Sport Foundation and $300,00 to Motivate Canada.

You know what’s motivating to Canadian kids? Properly funding our top athletes, in sports Canadian care about, so when they go to Olympics and world championships, they win medals. That’s what motivates kids. Not workshops and group hugs.

I thought Sport Canada was in the business of funding Canadian sport.

Yet, this organization allocates a great deal of money to some charitable organizations that appear, on the surface, to have little to do with Canadian sport.

The Peres Centre for Peace this year received $104,000 from Sport Canada. And what is the Peres Centre for Peace? It’s a non-profit organization set up in 1996 by former Israeli president Shimon Peres, to encourage peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

That’s great. But what does that have to do with Canadian sport?

Another charity that received huge money from Sport Canada ($500,000) was Go Le Grand Defi Inc. According to its website, Go Le Grand Defi is a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage young people to adopt healthy life habits. More specifically, the organization aims to engage Quebec schools in supporting physical activity and healthy eating.

Why is a charity devoted to healthy lifestyles in Quebec receiving $500,000 from an organization that supposed to fund Canadian sport?

It’s time for Sport Canada to get out of the business of being politically correct and start spending its money properly, so our Olympic athletes are able to reach their full potential.


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