Best-kept secret for our clubs

SAM DUNCAN, THE AUSTRALIAN

The Australian Sports Foundation was created by the federal government in 1986 and has since helped more than 1600 athletes, organisations and sporting clubs, from the grassroots level through to the elite, raise more than $350 million to fund their sporting projects and needs.

“It’s the best-kept secret in the country,” according to the ASF’s chairman, Mark Stockwell.

But this was something Stockwell, a former Olympic swimmer, wanted to change. He said about 2500 clubs were using the ASF, but the number of clubs unaware of the potential benefit was huge.

“We don’t know how many sporting clubs there are around the country,” said Stockwell. “We think it’s probably in excess of 100,000. But every president, treasurer, secretary and coach needs to know about the ASF because we can help them with raising money to support their sport.”

The PMSO event on Wednesday evening was held under the auspices of the ASF as it is the only organisation in Australia to have Deductible Gift Recipient status for donations to sport. The ASF’s tax efficiency is important, Stockwell said.

The funds raised by the PMSO event will be directed through the ASF to grassroots and community sporting organisations based on objective criteria through their “Giving4Grassroots” program.

But the core business of the ASF is to raise funds for the development of sport, particularly grassroots clubs, schools, sports organisations, and national and state representative athletes. These groups can raise funds by taking advantage of the ASF’s tax-deductible status and fundraising platforms.

Stockwell said the benefits of sport are powerful. “When kids play sport, they learn to get on and they learn to control aggression. I think they learn good habits, and I think it’s incredibly good for their state of mind. Sport is very calming, you’ve got to have a disciplined mind. It’s a way of keeping on top of obesity, and it’s a way of being a better person, and a better student.”

The area requiring the most attention, he said, was coaching. Promoting pathways and support of coaches, umpires and referees, was critical because “without them, you’ve got nothing.”

Stockwell is a three-time Olympic medallist, having won two silver and a bronze at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In the aftermath of the 100m freestyle, in which he won silver, Stockwell and the Australian Olympic Federation lodged an official process about a premature starter gun they believed had robbed him of gold. Their protest was later denied.

He said he learnt two very important life lessons from the experience.

“The biggest thing I took out of it was, you know, you’d think at the Olympic Games that the starter and the officials know and do what’s best. So I think I learned out of that to never again assume that people in charge know what they’re doing.

“And secondly, it taught me a massive lesson in good sportsmanship because at the end of the day, in sport you’ve got to play by the starter’s gun or the referee’s whistle. Things happen in life where it gets unfair and you’ve just got to be able to suck it up and deal with it.”

Having achieved notable business success in life after swimming, Stockwell said the question he often contemplates is whether or not he would’ve been as successful if he had won gold.

NewsAnna Poulos