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Government funds new grants for elite athletes

31 May 2004 Media Statement

Government funds new grants for elite athletes

The government is backing New Zealand's elite athletes with a new multi-million dollar grants system, Sport and Recreation Minister Trevor Mallard announced today.

Worth $11.75 million over four years, 'Performance Enhancement Grants' will help elite athletes to defray living costs while concentrating on excelling in sport.

"There is a strong link between direct financial support for elite athletes and medal winning performances in world class events. The government wants to give our athletes the best chance possible to make us proud on the world stage. These new performance enhancement grants are part of this strategy, and build on our significant investment in sport and recreation," Trevor Mallard said.

"Decisions about the size of the grants and how many athletes will benefit will be made later in the year. To give an indication, if we decided to give grants to around 600 elite athletes as a result of this funding, the grants would range from about $5,000 to $25,000 per year. It may be, however, that we aim for bigger grants than this, for fewer athletes."

The scheme starts in September and will roll out over four years. It will initially focus on internationally ranked athletes and expand over subsequent years.

The New Zealand Academy of Sport will finalise the details of the eligibility criteria and rollout with national sports organisations over the coming months. Eligibility for grants will be subject to regular reviews based on continuing performance, including performance at key international events.

Currently, SPARC (Sport and Recreation New Zealand) invests more than $20 million a year in high-performance sport. This includes investment in the high-performance programmes of national sport organisations, and personal grants for carded athletes and coaches. There is also access to essential sports science, sports medicine and career advisory services for approximately 1000 carded athletes.

In addition, the Prime Minister's Scholarship scheme, which gives elite athletes free access to tertiary education, is worth $5 million per year.

The new performance enhancement grants scheme will be administered by the New Zealand Academy of Sport, SPARC's high performance network.

******

Performance Enhancement Grants Scheme - Background Notes

The Performance Enhancement Grants (PEG) scheme being announced today is a new initiative backed by the government to provide direct financial assistance to New Zealand's elite athletes.

Current Situation in New Zealand

As a result of increased government funding the New Zealand Academy of Sport (SPARC's high performance network) has, in recent years, invested heavily in the employment of national coaches. The Academy has also invested in high performance (HP) drivers (directors, managers and administrators) to ensure the HP programmes we support are managed effectively.

However, SPARC has identified a weakness that needs to be addressed before our vision of developing a world-leading high performance sport environment can be achieved. This is the lack of direct financial support for elite athletes who often struggle to make ends meet while training and competing at international events.

The current academy level of investment in National Sports Organisations (NSOs) doesn't allow them to invest significantly in providing financial support to their top performing athletes. Direct support is available to national coaches (via salary support) however it is not available to all of our elite athletes.

In terms of direct athlete support New Zealand lags behind our key international competitors (Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, India etc) in supporting athletes to commit more time to training.

Some athletes currently receive personal grants based on their performance at pinnacle events and/or a living allowance through the Prime Minister's Scholarship (Education) programme. However, there are limiting factors in both of these schemes.

We believe that athletes shouldn't be encumbered with unnecessary pressures if they are to be given the best possible chance of performing on the international stage. In most sports the length of time athletes can remain internationally competitive is short. In striving to be "as good as they can be' athletes are prepared to make significant personal sacrifice but don't deserve to be financially penalised for representing their country with distinction.

We need to assist New Zealand athletes to commit to their training by providing sufficient financial assistance to defray their living costs. While the PEG programme won't allow athletes to draw a significant wage it should allow them to dedicate more time to training without having to worry about how they will pay their bills. In addition to the PEG support received, NSOs cover many of the costs associated with competing internationally hence the personal cost of competing should not be prohibitive.

Our primary concern is that the majority of level 1 and 2 carded athletes are not adequately supported financially. It is these athletes that we need to support as they represent SPARC's best chance of achieving our mission of:

Having athletes and teams winning consistently in events that

matter to New Zealanders.

Supporting Information

Direct financial support for elite athletes is provided in a number of countries and there is a strong association between the size of grants and their conversion to Gold medals (see table below). Both England and Australia invested heavily in supporting targeted athletes in the build-up to the Sydney Olympics. Conversely, Canada operated a simple two-tier system that did not incentivise performance (for example, World Champions got the same level of athlete support as someone ranked 10th in the world). This did not provide sufficient incentive to improve sporting performance.

Olympic medal tally Commonwealth Games medal tally

England (scheme introduced 1997)

- Atlanta 1996: 1G, 8S, 6B (UK tally)

- Sydney 2000: 11G, 10S, 7B (UK) - Kuala Lumpur 1998: 36G, 47S, 52B

- Manchester 2002: 54G, 51S, 60B

Australia (scheme introduced 1994)

- Atlanta 1996: 9G, 9S, 23B

- Sydney 2000: 16G, 25S, 17B - Victoria 1994: 87G, 53S, 43B

- Kuala Lumpur 1998: 80G, 61S, 57B

- Manchester 2002: 82G, 62S, 63B

Canada (scheme introduced 1998)

- Atlanta 1996: 3G, 11S, 8B

- Sydney 2000: 3G, 3S, 8B - Kuala Lumpur 1998: 30G, 31S, 38B

- Manchester 2002: 31G, 41S, 44B

There is a three to four year time-lag between the introduction of PEG-like programmes and their impact on results so we hope to receive a return on this investment at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There may also be a small impact at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games - although this event takes place only 18 months after the introduction of the PEG scheme.

Athletes Present at the Press Announcement

Nigel Avery

Represented New Zealand in the triple jump and high jump in 1985 and 1986 and shotput in 1998. From 1991-96 was a member of the New Zealand bobsled team training in Canada and Europe - participated at the World Championships at Innsbruck in 1993. Won two bronze medals in weightlifting at 1998 Commonwealth Games (Kuala Lumpur) and (after only four years in the sport) competed at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Won two gold and one silver weightlifting medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

"Kiwi athletes don't make too much of a song and dance about the sacrifices made in getting to the top. I guess that's part of being a Kiwi. That said, I don't know any athlete that would turn down financial help along the way. The PEG scheme will make a huge difference to those young up-and-coming athletes who qualify. I congratulate the Government for launching it."

Corney Swanepoel

South African-born Swanepoel broke Anthony Mosse's 14-year-old 100m butterfly record and went on to represent New Zealand at the 2003 World Swimming Championships in Barcelona. Current achievements include: National Open Champion - 50m and 100m Butterfly; National record holder 50m and 100m (long course) and 50m short course Butterfly; National Youth Champion (Butterfly); Australian Olympic Youth Festival Champion 2003; NZ World Championships representative; ranked 1st world youth rankings (18yrs and under); ranked 17th world open rankings. Swanepoel has qualified for the Athens Olympics in 100m Butterfly.

"All I really want to do is get stuck into my sport. That's all any athlete really wants. The PEG scheme will be a huge help as it reduces one of the common barriers to getting ahead. If we don't have to focus on surviving, we can get on with the job of training, competing, and performing. PEG should also allow young athletes to commit to their sport for the long haul. Staying focused on Melbourne and Beijing with this scheme becomes way more do-able."

Fiona Southorn

Southorn is a cyclist who until August 2002 only ever competed in able-bodied competitions. Southorn has no left hand and her left arm is shorter than her right. She has competed on the track, road, and mountain biking. Sporting achievements include: Gold in the 3000m Pursuit and silver in the 7000m time trial at the European Cycling Championships; Gold in the 3000m pursuit and the 1 kilo time trial at the 2003 Oceania Track Champs; Silver in the road time trial at the 2002 IPC World Cycling Championships; Gold in the 20km time trial at the 2002 New Zealand road time trial; and third in the 2002 NZ Mountain Bike Nationals. Southorn has been selected for the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens and is aiming for Gold in the road and 1 kilo time trials.

"As a Whangarei-based athlete, I can relate to worrying about having enough cash to fill up the car, let alone meet the costs which go with training and competing. Any help to defray costs is huge. PEG should allow athletes to concentrate on what counts - winning."

ENDS


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