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Sport in Australia

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Title: Sport in Australia  
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Subject: Culture of Australia, Australian Wikipedians' notice board/Archive 13, Vigoro, History of sport in Australia, Sockpuppet investigations/SportsEditor518/Archive
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Sport in Australia

Sport in Australia is an important part of the Ashes, the Melbourne Cup and the America's Cup.

There are a number of professional sport leagues in Australia, including the Australian Football League (Australian rules football), Big Bash League and Sheffield Shield (cricket), the National Basketball League and Women's National Basketball League (basketball), A-League and W-League (soccer), National Rugby League (rugby league), Super Rugby (rugby union), ANZ Championship (netball) and the International V8 Supercars Championship (touring car racing). Attendance for the A-League, AFL and NRL over the course of a single season tops six million. The media plays an important part in Australia's sporting landscape, with many sporting events televised or covered on radio. The government has anti-siphoning laws to protect free-to-air stations. Beyond televising live events, there are many sport-related television and radio programs, as well as several magazine publications dedicated to sport. Australian sport has also been the subject of Australian made films such as The Club, Australian Rules, The Final Winter and Footy Legends.

As a nation, Australia has competed in many international events, including the Olympics and Paralympics.


  • History 1
  • Organisation 2
  • Participation 3
  • Amateur sport 4
  • Spectatorship 5
  • Sports media 6
  • International competitions 7
    • Olympics 7.1
    • Paralympics 7.2
    • Commonwealth Games 7.3
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Bibliography 10
  • External links 11


"Australia's sporting history is marked by great successes, great stories and truly great moments. Sport speaks a universal language in this country – we are a nation of players and enthusiasts."

Kevin Rudd, January 2008[1]
An 1860s game of Australian Rules football at the Richmond Paddock. A pavilion of the MCG seen on the left in the background. (Wood engraving made by Robert Bruce in 1866.)

Sport came to Australia in 1810 when the first athletics tournament was held; soon after cricket, horse racing and sailing clubs and competitions started. Australia's lower classes would play sports on public holidays, with the upper classes playing more regularly on Saturdays.[2] Sydney was the early hub of sport in the colony.[3] Early forms of football were played there by 1829.[4] Early sport in Australia was played along class lines. In 1835, the British Parliament banned blood sports except fox hunting in a law that was implemented in Australia; this was not taken well in the country as it was seen as an attack on the working classes.[5] By the late 1830s, horse racing was established in New South Wales and other parts of the country, and enjoyed support across class lines. Gambling was part of sport from the time horse racing became an established sport in the colony.[5] Horse racing was also happening in Melbourne at Batman's Hill in 1838, with the first race meeting in Victoria taking place in 1840.[6] Cricket was also underway with the Melbourne Cricket Club founded in 1838.[6][7] Sport was being used during the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s as a form of social integration across classes.[8] Victorian rules football (later known as Australian rules) was codified in 1859.[9][10] Australian football clubs still around in the current Australian Football League were founded by 1858.[7][9][10] The Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia's largest sporting arena, opened in 1853.[11] The Melbourne Cup was first run in 1861.[12] A rugby union team was established at the University of Sydney in 1864.[12] Regular sport did not begin to be played in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia until the late 1860s and early 1870s.[3]

Early photo of the Ashes Urn, from the Illustrated London News, 1921

The first Australian cricket team to go on tour internationally did so in 1868. The Australian side was an all Aboriginal one and toured England where they played 47 games, where they won 14 games, drew 19 and lost 14.[13]Australia's adoption of sport as a national was pastime was so comprehensive that Anthony Trollope remarked in his book, Australia, published in 1870, "The English passion for the amusements which are technically called 'sports', is not a national necessity with the Americans, whereas with the Australians it is almost as much so as home."[14]

Soccer was being played in Australia by the 1810s,[3] with the first team formally being organised in Sydney in 1880 that was named the Wanderers.[15][16] Sport was receiving coverage in Australian newspapers by 1876 when a sculling race in England was reported on in the Sydney Morning Herald.[3] In 1877, Australia played in the first Test Cricket match against England. In 1882, The Ashes were started following the victory of the Australia national cricket team over England.[12][17] Field hockey teams for men and women were established by 1890.[18] The Sheffield Shield cricket competition was first held in 1891 with New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia participating in the inaugural competition. The remaining states would not participate until much later, with Queensland first participating in 1926–27, Western Australia in 1947–48 and Tasmania in 1982–83.[19][20] In 1897 the Victorian Football League, which later became the AFL the Australian Football League, was founded[12][21] after breaking away from the Victorian Football Association.[21]

The first badminton competition in Australia was played in 1900.[22] The first ice hockey game was played in Melbourne on 12 July 1906 between a local Melbourne team and a team from the crew of the visiting US warship USS Baltimore.[23]

Rugby league has been the overwhelmingly dominant rugby code in Australia since 1908 (this position remains unchallenged to this day). When Messenger and the All Golds returned from Great Britain in 1908, they helped the new clubs adapt to the rules of rugby league prior to the inaugural 1908 NSWRFL season. The Queensland Rugby Football League also formed early in 1908 by seven rugby players who were dissatisfied with the administration of the Queensland Rugby Union.[24] The Australia national rugby union team had their first international test against New Zealand in 1903, and first international tour in 1908, earning their nickname of the Wallabies after two British journalists used it to refer to the team.[25] The team won gold at the 1908 Summer Olympics; however the majority of the squad joined rugby league clubs upon returning to Australia.[26]

Women represented Australia for the first time at the Olympics in 1912.[12] Surfing came to Australia by 1915[12] with the first surf life saving competition being held that year.[27] Les Darcy began his boxing career in 1915, with some of his later fights taking place at Sydney Stadium. The following year, an American promoter encouraged Darcy to go to the United States at a time when Australia was actively recruiting young men for the armed services. Controversy resulted and Darcy died at the age of 21 in the United States. When his body was returned to Australia, 100,000 people attended his Sydney funeral.[28][29][30][31][32] Darcy would remain significant to Australians into the 2000s, when Kevin Rudd mentioned his story.[32]

Five women standing with tennis rackets in hand
Group of tennis players, ca. 1922.

In 1922, a committee in Australia investigated the benefits of physical education for girls. They came up with several recommendations regarding what sports were and were not appropriate for girls to play based on the level of fitness required. It was determined that for some individual girls that for medical reasons, the girls should probably not be allowed to participate in tennis, netball, lacrosse, golf, hockey, and cricket. Football was completely medically inappropriate for girls to play. It was medically appropriate for all girls to be able to participate in, so long as they were not done in an overly competitive manner, swimming, rowing, cycling and horseback riding.[33] Dick Eve won Australia's first Olympic diving gold medal in 1924.[34] In 1924 the Australian Rugby League Board of Control, later to be known as the Australian Rugby League, was formed to administer the national team (the Kangaroos), and later as the national governing body for the sport of Rugby League. In 1928 the team also adopted the national colours of green and gold for the first time, having previously used blue and maroon, making the Kangaroos the third national sporting body to do so after cricket (from 1899) and the Australian Olympic team (from 1908).[35] Netball Australia was founded in 1927 as the All Australia Women's Basket Ball Association.[12]

1932–33 Ashes: Bill Woodfull evades a bodyline ball at the Gabba

During the 1930s, the playing of sport on Sunday was banned in most country outside South Australia.[36] The Bodyline cricket series between Australia and England took place in 1932–33. The English side were very determined to win, using physical intimidation against Australia to insure it.[37][38] The bowling style used by the team known body-line bowling was devised by Douglas Jardine with advice from Frank Foster in England ahead of the series in order to defeat Australian batsman Donald Bradman. Going into the start of the series, Bill Voce told the media "If we don't beat you, we'll knock your bloody heads off." The style of play was such that the Australians contemplated cancelling the series after the Adelaide test.[38][39]

Following a successful Australian racing career, the race horse Phar Lap went to the United States where he died. There were many conspiracy theories at the time and later that suggested people in the United States poisoned the horse to prevent him from winning.[37]

Australian women's sports had an advantage over many other women's sport organisations around the world in the period after [117] As of 2009, the week's records are published and are able to be viewed in an online magazine format.[118] Another Australian sporting magazine is Australia's Surfing Life, a monthly magazine about surfing published in Australia. It features articles about surf trips in Australia and overseas, surfing technique, board design and wetsuits. The magazine was founded in 1985.[119]

International competitions

Australia participate in many international competitions, such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Cricket World Cup, Rugby World Cup, Rugby League World Cup, FIFA World Cup, Basketball World Cup, Netball World Cup and the Hockey World Cup.

The Australian national Cricket team have participated in every edition of the Cricket World Cup. Australia have been very successful in the event winning the tournament 5 times, the record amount.[120]

The Australian national Rugby league team have also participated in every edition of the Rugby League World Cup. Australia have been very successful in the event winning the tournament 10 times, the record amount.[121]

The Australian national Rugby union team have participated in every edition of the Rugby World Cup. Australia have been very successful in the tournament winning it an equal record 2 times,[122] despite not being a major sport in Australia.

Australia's women have repeatedly won at the highest level. The Australian national Netball team have won the Netball World Cup a record 11 times.[123] The Australian women's national Cricket team have won the Women's Cricket World Cup a record 5 times.[124] And the Australian women's national Field Hockey team have won the Gold Medal at the Olympics and the Women's Hockey World Cup 3 and 2 times.[125][126]

The Australian national Basketball team regularly competes well against the world elite at the Basketball World Cup, and especially at the Summer Olympics Basketball Tournament, where they've reached the Final Four on three occasions.[127]

The Socceroos have appeared at the FIFA World Cup in 1974, 2006, 2010 and 2014. At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the Socceroos surprised many by reaching the Round of 16, losing 1–0 in injury time to the eventual champions Italy.[128] They also hold the unusual distinction of having won continental football championships of two confederations - Oceania's OFC Nations Cup four times between 1980 and 2004, and, after moving to the Asian Football Confederation in 2005, the AFC Asian Cup in 2015. The Matildas have appeared in all FIFA Women's World Cups except the first edition in 1991, and have advanced past the group stage in each of the last three editions (2007, 2011 and 2015), losing in the quarter-finals each time. In 2015, they became the first senior Australian national team of either sex to win a World Cup knockout stage match, specifically in the round of 16, newly instituted for the Women's World Cup in that year. The Matildas have also enjoyed success at the AFC Women's Asian Cup, advancing at least to the semi-finals in all four editions since joining the AFC in 2006 and winning in 2010.

Australia has also hosted a number of major international sporting events including the 1956 Summer Olympics, the 2000 Summer Olympics. The country also regularly hosts a major tennis Grand Slam event, the Australian Open, a Formula 1 world championship round (Australian Grand Prix), motorcycle Moto GP round (Australian motorcycle Grand Prix), as well as rounds of the Superbike World Championship, World Rally Championship alongside major domestically created, internationally recognised events including the Melbourne Cup and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.[37]

Australia has hosted the [129]

The 1868 Aboriginal cricket tour of England was the first tour by any sports team from Australia.[130] [131]


Australia's Olympic medal totals

Australian track cyclists Jack Bobridge, Anna Meares and Shane Kelly.

The Olympic movement in Australia started out during the 1900s and 1910s in Australia. The first organisations for the Olympics in Australia came out of the athletics governance system and resulted in the creation of state based Olympic committees. The first national governing body for Australian Olympics was created in 1914 and was a joint effort with New Zealand though New Zealand was a less than able partner. The movement in Australia then stagnated as a result of the

  • Australian Sports Commission
  • Australian Institute of Sport

External links

  • Adair, Daryl; Vamplew, Wray (1997). Sport in Australian history. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.  
  • All England Netball Association (2009). Netball. A&C Black.  
  • Andreff, Wladimir; Szymański, Stefan (2006). Handbook on the Economics of Sport. Edward Elgar Publishing.  
  • Andrews, Malcolm (1979). The Encyclopaedia of Australian sports. Sydney: Golden Press.  
  • Bloomfield, John (2003). Australia's Sporting Success: The Inside Story. UNSW Press.  
  • Bale, John (2003). Running Cultures: Racing in Time and Space. Taylor & Francis.  
  • Bennett, Tony; Carter, David (2001). Culture in Australia: Policies, Publics and Programs. Cambridge University Press.  
  • Boy Scouts of America, Inc. (1956). Boys' Life. Boy Scouts of America, Inc.  
  • Clark, Manning (1993). A History of Australia. Melbourne University Publish.  
  • Collins, Felicity; Davis, Therese (27 October 2004). Australian Cinema After Mabo. Cambridge University Press.  
  • Crego, Robert (2003). Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Greenwood Publishing Group.  
  • Crotty, Martin; Roberts, David (1 October 2008). Turning Points in Australian History. UNSW Press.  
  • Fort, Rodney D.; Fizel, John (2004). International Sports Economics Comparisons. Greenwood Publishing Group.  
  • Guttmann, Allen (2007). Sports: The First Five Millennia. Univ of Massachusetts Press.  
  • Higham, James (2012). Sport Tourism Destinations. Routledge.  
  • Hoye, Russell; Nicholson, Matthew; Westerbeek, Hans; Smith, Aaron; Stewart, Bob (2012). Sport Management. Routledge.  
  • McKay, Jim (1991). No pain, no gain? : sport and Australian culture. New York: Prentice Hall.  
  • Mojumdar, Ram Mohun (2009). History of Physical Education and Sports. Pinnacle Technology.  
  • Nauright, John; Parrish, Charles (2012). Sports Around the World: History, Culture, and Practice. ABC-CLIO.  
  • R.I.C. Publications (2008). Primary Australian History. R.I.C. Publications.  
  • Rolls, Eric C; Halligan, Marion; Mathews, Marlene; Cliff, Paul (1999). A sporting nation : celebrating Australia's sporting life. Canberra: National Library of Australia.  
  • Shilbury, David; Deane, John (2001). Sport management in Australia : an organisational overview (Second ed.). Bentleigh East, Victoria: Strategic Sport Management.  
  • Smith, Holly (2011). Melbourne, Victoria and Tasmania. Hunter Publishing, Inc.  
  • Stewart, Bob (2005). Australian Sport — Better by Design?: The Evolution of Australian Sport Policy. Taylor & Francis.  
  • Hess, Rob; Nicholson, Matthew; Stewart, Bob; de Moore, Gregory (2008). A national game : the history of Australian rules football. Camberwell, Victoria: Penguin.  


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See also

Australians takes the Commonwealth Games very seriously as a nation because, on one level of national thinking, the event offers the country an opportunity to prove they are superior to the "original country", the United Kingdom.[18][144][145][146] By the 1938 British Empire Games, Australia's combined medal total was already greater than that of the Home Nations tallies combined. Australia would go on to beat England in total medals at the Commonwealth Games at the 1950, 1962, 1970, 1974 and 1982 Commonwealth Games.[18] This rivalry with England continues to be an important component of the Games for the country.[145][146]

Commonwealth Games

Australia has attended every Summer Paralympics and hosted the 2000 Sydney Games. Australia sent a delegation of 170 athletes to compete at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing,[141] and a team of 11 competitors to compete in two disciplines at the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada.[142] A team of 161 members was sent to the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London.[143]

Swimmers posed in a group shot around the edge of a pool
Australian swimmers at the training pool at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games


Channel Seven had exclusive Australian free-to-air, pay television, online and mobile telephony broadcast rights to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The live telecast of the 2008 Summer Olympics was shared by the Seven Network and SBS Television. Seven broadcast the opening and closing ceremonies and mainstream sport's including swimming, athletics, rowing, cycling and gymnastics. In contrast, SBS TV provided complementary coverage focused on long-form events such as football, road cycling, volleyball, and table tennis.[140]

Australia performed relatively poorly at the 1976 Summer Olympics. This upset the nation as it challenged a fundamental part of Australian identity. The following Olympics, the 1980 Summer Olympics, some Australian sports sat out as part of a boycott[47][138] and the country earned only nine medals, two of them gold, in Moscow.[139] To prevent a recurrence of this, the Australian Institute of Sport was created to help improve Australia's medal tally at the Games.[139][138]

The 1956 Games were the first time Australia had an Equestrian competitor when Victorian Ernie Barker competed.[135] Australia has generally been a world power in Olympic swimming since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics: swimmers like Shane Gould, Dawn Fraser, Ian Thorpe and Kieren Perkins have taken multiple gold medals.[137]

The government has provided monetary support for the Olympics. In the lead up to the 1924 Games, they provided 3,000 pounds and in 1936 provided 2,000 pounds. This support was seen as a way of supporting national identity, but no formal system existed for the funding wider sport at the time.[136]

Australia has been active influential in the Olympic movement, with four Australian representatives who are members of the International Olympic Committee.[132]

Australia has hosted the Olympics twice, in 1956 in Melbourne and in 2000 in Sydney. These were the first Games hosted in the southern hemisphere.[133][134][135]

[132] There are a number of Australian sport magazines. One is the

Sport is popular on the radio. This Sporting Life was a culturally iconic Triple J radio comedy programme, created by award-winning actor-writer-comedians John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver, who performed as their characters Roy and HG. Broadcast from 1986 to 2008, it was one of the longest-running, most popular and most successful radio comedy programmes of the post-television era in Australia. It was the longest-running show in Triple J's programming history, and commanded a large and dedicated nationwide audience throughout its 22-year run.[115] 2KY is a commercial radio station based in Sydney, broadcasting throughout New South Wales and Canberra on a network of over 140 narrowcast transmitters as well as the main 1017 AM frequency in Sydney. 2KY broadcasts live commentary of thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. Over 1500 races are covered each week, including the pre and post race form and TAB betting information.[116]

There are a number of Australian sport films. They include The Club. The film was based on a play produced in 1977, in Melbourne. It has been in the senior English syllabi for four Australian states for many years.[109] The film was written by David Williamson, directed by Bruce Beresford and starring John Howard, Jack Thompson, Graham Kennedy and Frank Wilson.[110] Another Australian sport film is The Final Winter, released in 2007. It was directed by Brian Andrews and Jane Forrest and produced by Anthony Coffee, and Michelle Russell, while independently produced it is being distributed by Paramount Pictures. It was written by Matthew Nable who also starred as the lead role 'Grub' Henderson. The film, which earned praise from critics,[111] focuses around Grub who is the captain of the Newtown Jets football team in the early 1980s and his determination to stand for what rugby league traditionally stood for while dealing with his own identity crisis.[112] Other Australian sport films include Australian Rules and Footy Legends.[113][114]

Rugby league, which includes NRL, State of Origin and national team matches, had the highest aggregate television ratings of any sport in 2009[105] and 2010.[106] Also, in a world first, the Nine Network broadcast free-to-air the first match of the 2010 State of Origin series live in 3D in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.[107][108]

Anti-siphoning laws in Australia regulate the media companies' access to significant sporting events. In 1992, when the country experienced growth in paid-subscription media, the Parliament of Australia enacted the Broadcasting Services Act that gave free-to-air broadcasters preferential access to acquire broadcasting rights to sporting events. The anti-siphoning list is a list of major sporting events that the Parliament of Australia has decided must be available for all Australians to see free of charge and cannot be "siphoned off" to pay TV where people are forced to pay to see them. The current anti-siphoning list came into effect in 2006 and expires 31 December 2010. The Minister for Communications can add or remove events from the list at his discretion. There are currently ten sports on the anti-siphoning list plus the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Events on the anti-siphoning list are delisted 12 weeks before they start to ensure pay TV broadcasters have reasonable access to listed events, if free-to-air broadcasters decide not to purchase the broadcast rights for a particular event. Any rights to listed sporting events that are not acquired by free-to-air broadcasters are available to pay TV. For multi-round events where it is simply not possible for free-to-air networks to broadcast all matches within the event (e.g. the Australian Open) complementary coverage is available on pay television. The Federal Government is obliged by legislation to conduct a review of the list before the end of 2009. The current anti-siphoning list requires showing listed sports on the broadcaster's main channel.[104]

SBS and FoxSports are two of the most important television networks in Australia in terms of covering all Australian sports, not just the popular professional leagues.[100] Administrators for less popular spectator sports, such as basketball and netball, believe that getting additional television and newspaper coverage is fundamental for the growth and success of their sports going forward.[100]

The 1967 NSWRFL season's grand final became the first football grand final of any code to be televised live in Australia. The Nine Network had paid $5,000 for the broadcasting rights.[103]

There is a long history of television coverage of sports in Australia. From 1957 to 2001, the Seven Network was the network for the Australian Football League. The only year that Seven was not the network for the league was in 1987 when the AFL was on the ABC. An exclusive deal was agreed upon by Seven in 1976 for a five-year deal worth A$3 million.[101] Not all sports have had favourable deals with network. The first television offer for the National Basketball League was worth A$1 in an offered made by Seven that the league accepted. The deal made by Ten Network to the New South Wales Rugby League was worth considerably more, worth A$48 million for a five-year deal that also included broadcasting rights for the State of Origin and the Australia national rugby league team. This deal was terminated early because the network could not afford to pay out.[102]

Media coverage of Australian sport and athletes predates 1876. The first all Australian sport publication, The Referee, was first published in 1886 in Sydney.[100] The major newspapers for sport coverage in the country include the Herald Sun and The West Australian.[100]

Sports media

Competition Total spectatorship Average match attendance Year Ref
A-League 1,826,776 13,048 2014–15 [94]
V8 Supercars 1,459,824 33,178 2013 [95]
Australian Football League 6,600,987 32,841 2015 [96]
Big Bash League 823,858 23,539 2014–15 [97]
National Basketball League 574,813 5,132 2013–14 [97]
National Rugby League 3,025,941 15,438 2015 [98]
Super Rugby 773,940 19,348 2012 [99]

In March 1999, 104,000 fans attended a double header match in the National Rugby League at Stadium Australia four days after the venue formally opened.[89] In 2000, during the soccer gold medal match between Cameroon and Spain, 114,000 fans watched the game live inside Stadium Australia.[90] In the 2006–07 season, the A-League Melbourne Victory averaged 27,728 people to their home matches throughout the season. The 2009–10 regular season was considerably lower.[91] In 2011, the Australian Football League had a cumulative attendance of 7,139,272, a record for the competition and an average attendance of 36,425.[92] Spectator numbers dropped since then and in 2013 average attendance fell below that of the leading domestic motor racing series International V8 Supercars Championship. In 2010, the National Rugby League's premiership set a record for regular season attendance to NRL matches.[93]

Total average game attendance for the Australian Football League and the National Rugby League increased between 1970 and 2000, with the AFL going from an average attendance of 24,344 people per match in 1970 to 27,325 by 1980 to 25,238 in 1990 and 34,094 by 2000. The National Rugby League had an average per game attendance of 11,990 in 1970, saw a decrease in 1980 to 10,860 but increased to 12,073 by 1990 and improved on that to 14,043 by 2000. Founded later, the National Basketball League had an average per game attendance of 1,158 in 1985, increased this to 4,551 by 1990, and kept attendance steady with 4,636 average fans per game in 2000.[88]

Australian sport fans have historically attended events in large numbers, dating back to the country's early history. An early football game played in Melbourne in 1858 had 2,000 spectators.[84] By 1897, tens of thousands of spectators attended an early Australian rules football match at a time when top level soccer matches in England would draw six thousand fans. A finals match between the Carlton Football Club and Collingwood in 1938 drew 96,834 fans.[85] In 1909, at a time when rugby union had not yet become professionalised, 52,000 people in Sydney attended a game between New South Wales and New Zealand. The spectators accounted for 10% of the total population of Sydney at the time.[86] A world record was set for cricket attendance on 30 December 1932 when 63,993 fans watched England take on Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.[87]


Australian amateur sport has dealt with financial problems. In the 2000s, Swimming Australia and Rowing Australia.[83]

Amateur sport has been able to draw large audiences. In the 1950s, 120,000 fans would go to the MCG to watch major athletics events.[82]

Amateur sport was transformed in Australia in the 1980s with the creation of the Australian Institute of Sport. The Institute, formally opened by Malcolm Fraser in 1981, was designed to make Australian amateur sport at major world competitions, like the Olympics, competitive with the rest of the world and increase the number of medals won by the country.[80] A few years later, in 1984, the Australian Sports Commission was created to better address the distribution of funds to support sport.[81] It had a budget of A$109 million in 200.[51] By 2009, the Australian Sports Commission had a budget of A$150 million, up from A$5 million when it first was created.[81]

[79] as government funding for most sport in Australia comes from the national government, state and territory governments, and local governments. In the late 1990s, government support for sport was double that of public non-financial corporations.[79][76] The role of government in this structure is important[78][77] Amateur sport in Australia follows a corporate management system, with the national tier composed of national sport organisations that support and fund elite sport development. These organisations include the

Amateur sport

There are 34,000 athletes, officials and coaches currently registered with the Athletics Australia.[70] A 2007 estimate claimed that Australian football had 615,549 participants,[71] Basketball has become one of the most popular participation sports in Australia. In Victoria, and Melbourne, particularly, it has more participants than any other sport.[72][73][74] Australia's warm climate and long coastline of sandy beaches and rolling waves provide ideal conditions for water sports such as swimming. The majority of Australians live in cities or towns on or near the coast, and so beaches are a place that millions of Australians visit regularly.[75]

Participation rates for adults in Australia were much lower than that of Australian children. For adult women in Australia, the number one sport activity they participate in is walking with 30% having done this in 2009 and 2010. The second most popular form of exercise and sport was Aerobics/fitness/gym with a rate of 16.7%. The third most popular for adult women was swimming and diving with 8.4%. For men, the most popular sport activity was also walking with a participation rate of 15.6%. This was followed by Aerobics/fitness/gym with 11.2%. The third most popular sport for adult males was cycling/BMXing with a participation rate of 8.2%.[69]

Bicycle riding is one of the most popular forms of physical recreation in Australia

The highest rates of participation for Australian sport and recreation are informal, non-organised sports with bike riding, skateboarding, rollerblading or riding a scooter topping the list of activities for children, with 66% of all boys bike riding and 55.9% of all boys skateboarding, rollerblading or riding a scooter in 2009 and 2010. Girls also participated in these activities at high rates with 54.4% of them doing bike riding and 42.4% skateboarding, rollerblading or riding a scooter. Other sports popular for Australian girls include dancing, which had 26.3% participation, swimming with 19.8% participation and netball at 17%. For boys, the other popular sports for participation included soccer with a rate of participation of 19.9%, swimming with a participation rate of 17.2%, Australian rules at 16%.[69]

Total employment in the sports and recreation sector (thousands of people) since 1984


The Australian government provided small amounts of funding in the 1950s and 1960s through the support of the National Fitness Council and international sporting teams such as the Australian Olympic team.[59] The Australian Government's serious involvement and investment into sport came with it establishing the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 1981.[59] AIS was set up to improve Australia's performances in international sport which had started to decline in the in 1960s and 1970s culminating in Australia winning no gold medals at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.[60] In 1985, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) was established to improve the Australian Government's administration of sport in terms of funding, participation and elite sport.[60] The 1989 Senate Inquiry into drugs in sport resulted in the establishment of the Australian Sport Drug Agency (now called Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA)) in 1990 to manage Australia's anti-doping program.[60]

Government involvement in sport up until the 1970s was fairly limited with local governments playing a major role through the provision of sporting facilities.[59] However, this changed over the next two decades with an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey in 2001–2002 finding that approximately $2 billion was spent on sport by three levels of government – 10 per cent from the Australian Government, 40 per cent from state and territory governments, and the remaining 50 per cent from local government.[62] State, territory and local government spending was predominantly directed to facilities and their upkeep.[62] In 1973, the Recreation Minister's Council was established to provide a forum for Australian Government and State and Territory Minister's responsible for sport and recreation to discuss matters of interest.[59] With government's taking an increased involvement in sport, it became the Sport and Recreation Minister's Council.[59] More recently is referred to as Meeting of Sport and Recreation Ministers.[63] The Meeting is assisted by the Committee of Australian Sport and Recreation Officials (CASRO) previously called the Standing Committee on Sport and Recreation (SCORS).[63] The Meeting works cooperatively on issues such as match fixing, sport participation and water safety.[64] In 2011, Minister's signed the National Sport and Active Recreation Policy Framework.[65] The framework "provides a mechanism for the achievement of national goals for sport and active recreation, sets out agreed roles and responsibilities of governments and their expectations of sport and active recreation partners." [65] In 1993, National Elite Sports Council was established to provide a forum for communication, issues management and national program coordination across the high performance in Australia.[60] It includes representatives from AIS, State Institute /Academies, [68]

There are 560 local councils across Australia. Local governments generally focus on the provision of facilities such as swimming pools, sporting fields, stadiums and tennis courts.[61]

State and Territory governments have a department with responsibility for sport and recreation. These departments provide assistance to state sports organisations, develop and manage sporting facilities, provide financial assistance for major sporting events and develop policies to assist sports across their state or territory. Each Australian State and Territory has established its own institute/academy of sport – ACT Academy of Sport (established 1989), New South Wales Institute of Sport (1996), Northern Territory Institute of Sport (1996), Queensland Academy of Sport (1991), South Australian Sports Institute (1982), Tasmanian Institute of Sport (1985), Victorian Institute of Sport (1990) and Western Australian Institute of Sport (1984).[60]

The organisation of sport in Australia has been largely determined by its Federal system of government – Australian Government and six states and two territories governments and local governments.[59]


In 2010, the rugby league club Melbourne Storm were found to have been systematically breaching the NRL salary cap rules over five years. The club was fined a record Australian sporting fine of $1,689,000, stripped of two premierships and three minor premierships, and prevented from accumulating any premiership points in the 2010 NRL season.[56] In 2012, the Australian Rugby League Commission was formed, bringing to an end the involvement of News Limited in the administration of Rugby League and the media companies' conflict of interests in the sport, finally concluding the fall-out from the Super League war in the 1990s.[57] From 2008 until 2013, the Australian thoroughbred mare Black Caviar was undefeated in 25 races, a record not equaled in over 100 years.[58] Notable wins include the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, as well as being named the top sprinter from 2010 to 2012 in the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings and entering the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.

In 2006, Melbourne hosted the 2006 Commonwealth Games.[54] Later that year, the Australian team competed in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, their second FIFA World Cup appearance after 32 years of failing to qualify for the tournament.[55]

In 1990, the Victorian Football League changed its name to the Australian Football League. During the 1990s, soccer in Australia faced a challenge in attracting youth players because of the ethnic nature of the sport at the highest levels of national competition. The sport's governing body made an effort to make the game less ethnically oriented. At the same time, rival football codes were intentionally trying to bring in ethnic participants in order to expand their youth playing base.[52] Doping became a concern during the 1980s and more active steps were taken to combat it in Australia in the early 1990s. In 1990, the Australian Sports Drug Agency Act 1990 was passed and took control of doping test away from the Australian Sport Commission and put it into the hands of an independent doping control agency as of 17 February 1991.[53]

The regional football code divide in Australia was still present in the 1980s, with rugby league football being the dominant code in Queensland, ACT and New South Wales while Australian rules football dominated in the rest of the country. When codes went outside of their traditional geographic home, they had little success in gaining new fans and participants.[19] The Australian Institute of Sport was founded in 1981.[47] In the lead up to and during the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the police were called upon to stop protests by Aboriginal land rights activists who staged protests timed with the event in order to politicise the event.[48] Australia had competitors in the America's Cup yacht race for a number of years. Going into the 1983 race, the Australian media was not that interested in the race as they expected a similar result and in the media lead-up to the event, made it out to be a race for rich people. This lack of interest continued throughout the early races. Near the end, when Australia finally appeared poised to win it, millions of Australians turned on their television to watch the Australia II win the competition.[49] That year, the Liberals used Australian tennis star John Newcombe and race car drivers Peter Brock and Alan Jones in their political advertising.[50] Athletes would again be used, this time by the Labor Party, in the 1989 elections.[50] During the 1980s, Australian soccer players began to start playing regularly in overseas professional leagues, with the most successful player of the decade being Craig Johnston who scored a goal in the 1986 F.A. Cup Final for Liverpool.[15] During the 1980s, the federal government created a number of sport programs including Aussie Sports and Active Australia.[51] The Australia women's national field hockey team began their run as one of the top teams in the world in 1985, a place they would hold until 2000.[18]

During the 1970s, Australia was being routinely defeated in major international competitions as Eastern Bloc countries enjoyed strong government support for sport. The Liberal governments at the time were opposed to similar intervention in Australia's sporting system as they felt it would be government intrusion into an important component of Australian life.[45] In the 1974 elections, several Australian sporting competitors endorsed the Liberal party in advertisements that ran on television. Competitors involved included Ron Barassi, NSWRL player Johnny Raper and horse trainer Tommie Smith.[46] That year, the Australian team qualified for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the first successful qualification to the FIFA World Cup in the country's history after failing to qualify to the 1966 and 1970 tournaments. It would prove to be the only appearance for the Australian team for more than three decades.[15]

Starting in the early 1970s, Australian sport underwent a paradigm shift with sponsorship becoming one of the fundamental drivers of earnings for Australian sport on amateur and professional levels. By the mid-1980s, the need for the ability to acquire sponsorship dollars in sport was so great that job applicants for sport administrator positions were expected to be able to demonstrate an ability to get it.[44]

By the 1960s, Australia had an international identity as a sport-obsessed country, an identity which was embraced inside the country. This was so well known that in a 1962 edition of Sports Illustrated, Australia was named the most sports obsessed country in the world.[42] In 1967, Australia hosted the second World Netball Championships in Perth.[43] That same year, South Australia became the last state to lift its ban on the playing of sports on Sunday.[36]

[41] is founded as the Australian Canoe Federation.Australian Canoeing In September 1949, [40]

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