Around a week ago, a rather innocuous looking email arrived in the Flow inbox, letting us know that Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA), the peak Australian MTB body, had gained official National Sporting Organisation status.
“So what?” you might ask. Well, there’s quite back story here! For a long time now, MTBA has operated in the shadow of Cycling Australia (CA) – all funding came via CA, and in a nutshell the situation has been rather complicated.
To shed a little more light on what gaining NSO status might mean for MTBA and Australian mountain bikers, we chatted with CEO of MTBA, Shane Coppin.
So Shane, for all of us out there who aren’t familiar with NSOs, the Australian Sports Commission or Cycling Australia, what does this all mean?
Shane Coppin (SC): MTBA will now be able to officially promote the status that; “The Australian Government through the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) recognises Mountain Bike Australia to develop mountain biking in Australia”.
MTBA will now be able to deal directly with the ASC across all programs and initiatives conducted by the ASC, including being invited to attend applicable NSO forums, communications, workshops, initiatives and programs as offered by the ASC / AIS from time to time (this wasn’t offered to MTBA previously);
MTBA may be directly funded and supported by the ASC under investment plans or individual grant opportunities (previously any financial support had to be provided via CA);
MTBA can directly assist (sign-off) and support applications from our riders / members / clubs for any applicable ASC programs and grants (previously required lodgement / sign-off via CA);
MTBA can directly engage with the ASC for support/assistance with initiatives and/or innovation projects
The ASC may choose to work directly with MTBA for specific projects and offers the ASC a purely Unitarian National Sports model to work with in MTBA;
MTBA can directly coordinate coaching and officiating programs for MTB with the ASC (whilst, we currently were doing some of this, the process is now formalised)
MTBA will be recognised by State Governments, Agencies and other Forums as the recognised NSO for MTB, giving our organisation a new standing in these forums that may encompass funding, advocacy and program opportunities;
MTBA will be included in the “tent” with all other recognised NSO’s by the ASC
The ASC will undertake Annual Sport Performance reviews of MTBA focused on governance and organisation performance in relation to the ASC’s Mandatory Sports Governance Principles with feedback being provided. The first is being conducted in December 2017.
SC: Initially no, MTBA has been recognised as a unfunded NSO. CA and BMXA are currently funded NSO’s. However, there are opportunities for improved funding for MTBA into the future.
MTBA is hopeful that in the future ASC participation funding across all sports and lifestyle/participation activities/sports may alter/increase and that MTBA may be receive some direct funding benefit. However, funding and grant opportunities for MTBA, MTBA Affiliated Clubs and individual members may improve now with MTBA recognised as an NSO. This has recently been highlighted with opportunities for riders between 12-18 years now able to apply for ASC Local Sporting Champion grants to help attend MTBA National Championships.
Road, track and BMX have been recognised as NSOs for some time – given that mountain biking has been an Olympic sport for 20 years, why it taken so long for mountain biking to gain that same recognition?
SC: There is a long history here and one that goes beyond my time. MTBA is quite unique as we operate under a unitarian governance structure rather than a federated model, that provided a new element for the ASC to consider.
The situation has involved unfortunately many challenges impacted through the politics of cycling governance in Australia and a desire at various times to have all cycling administered under one body for all disciplines.
Some sports are very clean in their nature; one sport (discipline) means they are the only form of the sport in the Country and easily recognised international. Whereas water sports, shooting and cycling face challenges in so far as; multiple and very different activities or disciplines operating under one international body, yet operating as individual sports and entities in their respective marketplaces. For example; in cycling BMX, MTB, Road & Track all operate under the UCI, the UCI recognises one National Federation per Country, in Australia that is Cycling Australia; yet BMX and Road & Track were recognised independently as NSO’s by the ASC. MTB has now be recognised equally by the ASC, placing us at parity with the other cycling disciplines in Australia.
SC: Through this opportunity, numerous support from funding and resources will be available to MTBA and MTB groups to further develop opportunities for this great sport and lifestyle activity. In the past, MTBA was unable to be directly funded by pretty much most government groups or agencies. Historically, the few support grants the ASC provided in the past needed to be distributed to MTBA via CA. That has all now changed and MTBA can be funded directly. The new recognition will provide validity to our sport in future negotiations and elevates MTBA’s role as the recognised National Sporting Organisation for MTB in Australia.
Will recognition as an NSO give MTBA more leverage lobbying for trail access, and funding to our racers?
SC: Recognition will provide numerous opportunities for MTBA across multiple areas of the organisation; including sport development, lobbying for funding, advocacy, coaching and officiating development, digital development, participation and innovation opportunities as well as access to a significant network of data (including AusPlay) and information workshops, forums and industry networking. There is assistance with sports governance and specific MTB projects. Hopefully, in time, funding opportunities for the sports development, pathways and riders will improve.
Under the current Australia’s Winning Edge (AWE) model only XCO is recognised and funding is provided against a relentless performance criteria aimed at podium achievements. This provides a very real challenge for MTB, given there are numerous disciplines some of which Australian’s perform exceptionally well at the highest level, yet under AWE they remain unrecognised and subsequently unlikely to receive funding under the current AIS model. NSO recognition will provide MTBA with improved recognition at State levels as the Nationally recognised sporting organisation.