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'Something's gotta give:' Canadian Olympic sports groups call out funding shortfalls

'Something's gotta give:' Canadian Olympic sports groups call out funding shortfalls

The Canadian men's basketball team has qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games led by a host of home-grown NBA stars.

But that success may be short-lived, as the Olympic and Special Olympics Committee of Canada, along with national sporting organizations like Basketball Canada, are talking about a lack of federal funding that could impact athletes attending future games.

“If we continue to rely on overworked and under-resourced national sports organizations that fund and support these athletes on these journeys to the podium, if we continue to wear them down and make more and more demands and not increase their funding, it will be so.” “It's not sustainable,” COC CEO David Shoemaker said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

The COC and CPC, in a joint budget request Monday, called on the federal government to make significant investments in Canadian athletes and a stronger, safer sports system following the publication of the results of a Deloitte study on the financial health of Canadian athletes. Sports Organizations (NSOs).

The groups are requesting $104 million in additional funding from the federal government.

Both committees insist increased funding for Canada's sports system is “urgently needed” for National Scout Associations to continue their essential work of supporting athletes, provincial federations and clubs across the country.

National sporting bodies have had new demands placed on them, such as safe sport policies, with no change in funding levels since 2005, Shoemaker added.

The current deficit is expected to reach $134 million in the period from 2023 to 2028.

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Shoemaker said the government and the Olympic and Paralympic committees had been discussing the issue for years, but with the Games starting four and a half months away, he felt it was necessary to share the concerns raised.

“Something has to give,” he said. “I can't imagine how we can continue to expect inspiring Canadian performances at the Olympic and Paralympic Games if something doesn't change.”

Federal Sports Minister Carla Qualtrough has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Among those inspiring performances is the Canadian men's basketball team, which qualified for the Olympics and also achieved its highest finish ever at the World Cup last year.

It did so through the dominating performances of NBA players Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dillon Brooks.

But Michael Bartlett, president and CEO of the Canadian Basketball Association, said the possibility of NBA stars competing in future Olympics is highly questionable.

“You have to train like the best to attract the best to be the best, and if we can't invest the money in the right training camp, coaching and pre-competition resources, we won't be able to attract the best. That's the truth of the matter.”

He added that the federal government does not appear to fully understand the demands placed on national sports organizations.

Bartlett said the term “national” in national sports organizations could be a misnomer because these organizations compete at international levels and send players to different countries to play games.

He said that forced Canadian basketball to look for corporate sponsors and partnerships, much like professional sports teams do.

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“The reality is that we pulled down any savings or cash reserves that we had in order to make this possible,” he said of financing the program.

“At some point, there comes a tipping point between the money available to you as a program and the money it costs to compete at that level.”

According to the Deloitte study, National Scout Associations are being asked to do more with less, and the important progress made in the areas of safe sport, gender equality, community access and mental health support, among others, is “at risk”.

Shoemaker and Bartlett reiterated their commitment to safe sport, but added that funding was needed to cover inflationary costs.

“We will continue to try to attract more brands, philanthropists and donors to support basketball in this country,” Bartlett said. “But we also need the government to step up to support the sector at least with the pace of inflation. We are not asking for anything more than that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

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