Star athletes sign open letter pleading for more money to rescue Australian sport from 'mediocrity'

ABC NEWS

Some of Australia's greatest Olympians have signed a letter calling for government intervention to address sport's funding "crisis".

Among the 39 past and present athletes to have signed in support are Ian Thorpe, Herb Elliott, Cate Campbell, Anna Meares, Cadel Evans, Raelene Boyle, Grant Hackett, Lauren Jackson, Kieren Perkins and Steve Hooker.

The open letter, written by former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns, warns Australian sport will descend "into mediocrity" unless given the requisite financial backing.

"When our current generation of athletes and future Olympians and Paralympians are forced to crowd source for the funds to represent Australia at world cup and international competition, you know that we have a funding model that is broken," the letter reads.

"High performance will inevitably transform into mediocrity. Our diverse tapestry of sporting endeavour will erode. Fewer sports, fewer athletes and fewer results.

"Sure, there are costs to run Sport Australia and the AIS but these sports are the fabric and they are suffering."

The new National Sport plan, released in July, was vague in its mentions to government funding, aside from introducing grants of up to $500,000 to community groups to encourage participation.

While the letter acknowledged that the plan recognised the benefits more money could bring, it criticised the fact the plan "has nothing to say on the funding needed for change".

"As athletes who looked up to others to find our passion and inspiration, the next generation must be given the same opportunity," it said.

"There is no other way. Watching, trying, copying, failing, trying again, encouraging, supporting is the only way."

More support was added to the letter's cause by Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll, who today addressed the National Press Club.

"At this point may I also extinguish a myth about our funding," Mr Carroll said.

"The AOC neither receives nor seeks any Federal Government funding — we want any funding from Government to go directly to the sports and their athletes.

"There is no cost to the Australian taxpayer to pay for the Olympic teams, nor our rent, executive travel, operations or me.

"We do acknowledge that investment by government in Olympic Sports is critical to the preparation of the athletes to compete at the Games."

The letter calls for intervention from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, which it describes as a Prime Minister who "enjoys and understands sport".

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