Let’s tackle junior sport’s absurd fees

 

WHY is junior sport so expensive in Queensland?

At a time when online cyber bullying and obesity among our kids are hot topics, surely we need better financial incentives to get them off the couch and on to the playing field.

As we gear up for an election later in the year, there are families that would literally fall over themselves to vote for the political party that eases the financial burden on junior sport.

And just as we've seen charities like the Red Cross come under fire for being less than charitable with the distribution of its bushfire donations, my sense is that many junior sports organisations have become corpulent bureaucracies.

Instead of concentrating on making junior sport affordable and fun, they are setting up organisational structures that would make BHP blush.

Let's take soccer as an example.

For me to enrol my young bloke into a local Saturday morning soccer club, I'm up for about $600 before a ball is kicked.

That excludes shoes and socks, shorts and whatever else is the latest accessory fad. Pity the battlers out there who just want their kids to enjoy a Saturday morning with their mates, getting some exercise along the way.

More children should be given the opportunity to play organised sport. Picture: AAP image/ Mark Scott
More children should be given the opportunity to play organised sport. Picture: AAP image/ Mark Scott

Which brings us to Football Queensland, now run by new chief executive Robert Cavallucci, a former LNP state MP for Brisbane Central, who was on the FQ board until appointed as CEO.

As soon as he was appointed, FQ flagged increasing its annual player fee from $85 to $87.50. The fee for adult professional players has gone up 10 per cent.

With 70,273 registered players, the extra revenue for FQ is estimated to be $250,000.

This is a handy windfall. And while a few dollars might not seem like much, many families are on tight budgets. Mr Cavallucci is being paid a salary package of about $320,000 a year. That's about the same as a state Cabinet Minister. It almost double what his predecessor Richard Griffiths earned. Griffiths was sacked by the board, and after what they said was a "rigorous and competitive recruitment process" they settled on a candidate who was well known to them. The recruitment process was undertaken by FQ board chairman Ben Richardson, who charged FQ $44,000 to come up with Mr Cavallucci.

I'm sure Mr Cavallucci was the standout applicant and his hefty remuneration hike reinforces that notion. But there are some within the soccer community in Queensland who found the recruitment process odd and fee hikes hard to swallow at a time when household costs are soaring for average families. The answer is simple. Sports Minister Mick de Brenni needs to forget about handouts to clubs and start subsidising player registrations.

As his former federal counterpart Bridget McKenzie has found, sports grants are the political pork-barrelling gold medal winner.

Imagine if a government was able to halve all junior sport fees.

They'd get the entire family vote.

The time has come for the State Government to reassess the way it funds junior sport. At the same time, not-for-profit junior sporting organisations in Queensland need to take a good, hard look at the way they conduct their business.

Families want their children playing sport, but not at the cost of breaking the budget. Over to you, Mr De Brenni.



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