Swimming Australia Financial Future Sways From “Pretty Optimistic To ‘This is Armageddon”, Says Boss

2018 Pan Pacs - 4x200m Freestyle Relay Gold
Swimming Australia's key assets have had their founding ring-fenced on the way to Tokyo 2020 in 2021, but others financial plans have been shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic - Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia/Delly Carr

The financial modelling of Swimming Australia on the way to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021 is swinging “from pretty optimistic to ‘this is Armageddon’,” according to the organisation’s chief executive Leigh Russell.

In common with many swim federations around the world, Swimming Australia is facing difficult decisions driven by financial choices forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a tight economic climate, there are growing fears that jobs could be lost when the money starts to run out.

Staff have been placed on reduced hours and pay, Russell confirmed, with a warning that more tough decisions about cost-cutting were likely. She told Julian Linden of The Sunday Mail:

“We haven’t had to lay people off yet but like every other sport, the next financial year looks ominous so we’re making some really prudent financial choices to make sure that we can keep our team of staff together as much as possible. The challenge for us is we’ve got the Olympics and we don’t want to compromise our performance and to do that, we’ve got to have a number of things behind the scenes.

“It’s a delicate balancing act so we’re trying to do our modelling for the next financial year from pretty optimistic to ‘this is Armageddon’.”

Some Swimming Australia Shelved

The high-performance funding of Australia’s elite swimmers has been ring-fenced on the way to the Tokyo Games. Many other spending Swimming Australia plans have been put on hold, including a global recruitment search for a new national head coach after Dutchman Jacco Verhaeren announced he was returning to Europe in September.

As our Oceania Correspondent Ian Hanson reported in the past week, Victoria’s Rohan Taylor, one of Verhaeren’s leading assistants, has been appointed as interim head coach through to Tokyo.

What happens beyond that to Swimming Australia and other sports organisations will largely depend on the course of the pandemic and the long-term economic, social and political impact of events unforeseen at the turn of the year.

Russell, who has presided over the turmoil of the Sun Yang controversy Mack Horton played a key role in, and the ongoing doping case of Shayna Jack. For the Swimming Australia boss those events and others have been part of a learning curve that will help make the future brighter. She tells Linden:  “I’m really glad we went through the experience when we did.”


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