Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) has been able to quickly recover from a major blow dealt to the sport after Cycling Australia (CA) cut funding for their Elite Development program by more than 80% two weeks ago.
This recovery has been made possible through the good working relationships that MTBA’s leadership and management team have built with the Australian Sports Commission (ASC).
The original decision came from CA following a review of cycling performances at the recent Rio Olympics and in accordance with the Australian Sports Commission’s (ASC) “Winning Edge” Funding initiative. Previously CA had provided MTBA with $300,000 for the development of future elite mountain bikers, with the focus on Olympic cross-country racing under the “Winning Edge” program for the MTB Olympic discipline.
This figure has now been drastically reduced to $50,000 per year to fund future development. CA imposed over 50% of the total ASC cuts to cycling on to MTBA. CA have also advised that the inclusion of a MTB high-performance program will require an additional funding allocation, on top of any committed high-performance funding, to ensure a successful program into the future.
MTBA used the funds in a range of rider development and support programs and initiatives, including areas such as coach education, junior development programs, junior national team support and direct athlete support.
The loss of financial support for mountain biking is a disappointing and frustrating outcome for a sport that continues to grow rapidly in appeal as a lifestyle and a healthy family activity. As a result of MTBA’s negotiations, the ASC has stepped in and agreed to provide MTBA with $75,000 as a one-off funding until June 2017 to help transition such a significant reduction, an outcome MTBA are appreciative of.
Unlike road, track cycling and BMX, MTBA are currently not recognised independently as a National Sports Organisation (NSO), therefore the ASC cannot currently fund or support MTBA directly under the NSO program.
This leaves MTBA vulnerable to CA’s decisions on funding and is one of the many positive reasons that MTBA intends to move to Company Limited by Guarantee status – a requirement of the ASC Guidelines for NSO’s. NSO recognition will allow MTBA to deal directly with the ASC for funding which potentially could result in the organisation receiving a significant portion of the funds through the ASC’s sports participation investment program, as the other recognised cycling bodies currently do.
MTBA is charged with supporting a number of MTB disciplines including cross-country, downhill, enduro, cyclocross, observed trials, marathon and others, and not just at the elite level, but also right down to the grassroots of mountain biking.
MTBA President Russ Baker thanked the ASC for their support of mountain biking in this difficult operating environment.
“We have worked hard to develop sound sporting and personal relationships with the ASC and demonstrate that MTBA is a well-run and financially stable organisation.”
“I am extremely grateful to them for their support at a time when the development of participation, coaching and junior development has never been greater. I want to ensure that development continues for our next generation.”
MTBA CEO Shane Coppin admitted the cuts from CA had been a major setback.
“We needed to look pragmatically at solutions, rather than see the negatives, and with the assistance of the ASC we were able to do just that.”
“There exists tremendous support and opportunities for MTB in Australia and the sport continues to grow with over 24% membership increase in the past 15 months.”
“In the absence of a CA-HPU supported MTB program, MTBA will continue to explore opportunities to expand support into a fully fledged high-performance program for mountain biking, under which Australian riders can be assured of career support with the high-level sports science that is needed at that level.”
“It’s a significant challenge, but one we intend to take on for the benefit of our sport, and the benefits will flow down to all levels of mountain biking,” Coppin stated.
MTBA will continue to lobby the ASC to endorse and support the pending NSO application, which will enable the sport and organisation to seek numerous new funding channels including various ASC programs.
This latest decision by CA comes on the back of a recent decision not to actively pursue engagement with MTBA to deliver the 2017 UCI MTB World Championships in Cairns in lieu of other CA commercial partners, despite MTBA delivering the 2016 Cairns World Cup on behalf of CA at short notice and within budget.