Until last week, that’s how much funding the Pararoos, our Australian Paralympic Football team, received.
They used that money to successfully launch a team made up of players with cerebral palsy or acquired brain injuries. With $175,000 the team could participate in a few national camps per year, as well as an international camp.
They’re currently ranked 12th in the world. Recently, they’ve managed a silver medal in the UAE (the gold went to Iran, who are ranked third in the world), a silver medal at the Fespic Asian games in Malaysia and a silver medal at the ARAFURA games in Darwin.
And yet it’s been decided that the Pararoos still haven’t been performing well enough. So their funding has been cut completely by the Australian Sports Commission.
They now have exactly $0.00 to keep the team going. Zero.
To explain further – since being founded in 1998, the Pararoos qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and came in 8th place. Since then, they haven’t qualified for any Olympic Games – although they are currently ranked 12th in the world, which really isn’t terrible when you compare them to the Socceroos, who are currently ranked 62nd.
But this doesn’t matter to the Australian Sports Commission. This is because they have a policy called “Winning Edge”, where they target investment towards sports and teams that are the most likely to perform well through the summer and winter Olympics, the Paralympics and the Commonwealth Games.
As the Pararoos haven’t qualified for a Games since 2000, they’ve been cut. Matthew Favier, the head of the Australian Sports Commission, told Fairfax that there was little evidence that the team would qualify for the 2016 Rio games:
“We don’t believe there’s a sufficiently strong case … so we have removed our funding… We’re very clear about the aspiration we’ve set, reflected through the targets. We’re unapologetic about that.”
As ABC reports, the Winning Edge policy has highly rewarded sports which did well at the 2012 Olympics, such as sailing and canoeing. Other sports, and Paralympic sports, have been left out in the cold:
Overall, able-bodied sports will receive nearly $700,000 more, while Paralympic sports will get $230,000 less.
Funding for able-bodied soccer will also be reduced next year by about 15 per cent, with the sport receiving just under $1 million.
With no funding, it is highly likely that the Pararoos will have to withdraw from international tournaments, and they will struggle to keep the program going.
Pararoos coach Paul Brown has been coaching the team since 2006. He was devastated by the decision, and has since worked tirelessly to get the word about the team out there. He has also started an online petition, calling for the decision to be reversed.
He told Mamamia:
I know how hard my players have worked, and I know how much potential they have. I know where we stand in the world and how much progress we’ve made – and now their dreams have been shattered. It’s a tragedy.
We’ve got our World Championships in June next year, which are our major qualifiers for the Olympics, and now we’re obviously not going to be able to go – so we’re not even going to get a chance to play in what’s basically our World Cup. There are also a lot of young players out there whose dreams have been shattered as well.
“Para” just means parallel to. A lot of people think it means “paraplegic” but it doesn’t. And yet we’re still fighting a huge amount of stigma, a huge amount of bias, and this has been shown by the axeing of funding for one of the most popular teams in Paralympic history. It’s just another example of the inequality in Australia.
My players and myself have been battling to get equality for the last eight years. Things have improved, there has been a lot more exposure, but there’s still a long way to go. One of my goals is that the next time someone opens that Football Federation website, the Pararoo name is up there, along with the Matildas, the Socceroos and the Olympic team.
We’ve got one of the youngest teams in the world. We’re ranked 12th in the world. When we play international, we play against professional players that play full-time football in Russia and the Ukraine. We play against the Dutch who have a full-time development academy for developing players in Holland. We beat the national Spanish team 3-0 last year. We never give up. I’ve coached a lot of elite players throughout my life and the Pararoos have more heart and willingness to train than anyone else. They continually work for success.
I was asked to keep quiet about all this, but I decided to go public last week. This isn’t right, it isn’t just. And that’s one of the reasons why we’ve got over 60,000 petitioners so far.
You can sign Paul Brown’s Change.org.au petition to support the Pararoos here.
And in other sports news from the week…
– Many of our Australian athletes have officially arrived in the United Kingdom, ready for the kick-off of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this week. If you’d like to watch, keep an eye on Channel Ten for official coverage.
– Football Federation Australia announced this week that Emma Highwood has been appointed as the Head of Women’s Football. Emma is also currently the FFA’s Head of Community Football, and worked on the launch of the FFA’s Women’s Football Strategy last year. “These are exciting times for women’s football and we have wonderful opportunities from the grassroots to the elite level,” said Emma.“Participation in women’s football is growing rapidly and we have incredible role models in the Westfield Matildas.”
– Taleena Simon has been awarded a full-time, professional contract with the Australian Rugby Union’s Sevens program. This makes her the first Aboriginal woman to receive a full time contract in the program. Congratulations, Taleena!
– And how could we leave out the result of the 2014 FIFA World Cup – Germany won after an epic 120 minute match during which only one goal was scored. Next up we have the women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015.
Have you seen anything in the news that you’d like to talk about?