A new sporting dawn or a rebranding exercise?

Light on details, heavy on buzzwords, and ambitious ideas to take on corruption.

National Sports Plan: key recommendations

  • A new national sport tribunal to hear anti-doping cases with some of the strongest powers in the World.
  • A new national sports integrity commission to fight corruption.
  • Proposal to relax gambling laws to allow in-play gambling with Australian bookmakers.
  • Grants of up to $500,000 available to community groups to encourage participation.
  • The Australian Sport Commission to be renamed Sport Australia.
  • A focus on teaching all school-age children to swim.
  • A new focus for the Australian Institute of Sport and possible redevelopment of the facility.

The National Sport Plan promises good news for community sport, will necessitate a bucket load of rebranding, as well as radical moves to fight corruption like legal, online, in-play betting and ICAC-style bodies to police and prosecute crimes against sport integrity.

Its understood that detail will be rolled out in the coming days and weeks, but this was the governments blue-sky moment.

Dealing first with what's been promised, rather than what's being considered.

It's official — any physical activity is now considered sport, and that could bring cash to a community near you.

Up to $500,000 is available in community grants to encourage greater community participation in sport.

But as Federal Sport Minister Bridget McKenzie said today on releasing the report: "There are no multi-million-dollar announcements."

That money comes from May's budget.

Applications open tomorrow, so get the pens out Australia.

The body that runs sport in this country, the Australian Sport Commission, will now be called Sport Australia. Along with a name change it will repackage itself and its role, boosting its connection with the grass roots.

While it's easy — and necessary — to be cynical about the cost of the new stationery, at the same time there's no doubt the aspirations are worthy.

Statues outside the Australian Institute of Sport

Australia's slide in participation levels is alarming, not just for our elite prospects, but our physical and mental health. A renewed focus on swimming for kids, activity for the young and the ageing, is all worthwhile.

But the rebranding is also a signal the ASC has, in recent years, failed to connect with the public, thanks to the way it went about trying to lift the country's Olympic fortunes, painted as medal-hungry and elite-obsessed.

It copped a bruising over its now-abandoned Winning Edge strategy and its ugly brawling with the Australian Olympic Committee.

But that's the easy sell.

It's the proposals around anti-corruption measures that are the most startling. That's why the Government is referring it to a taskforce, giving it a chance to take the public's temperature and wade through the implications for a wide range of sports.

The proposal to set up a "national platform" with powers to tackle match-fixing, especially as a "central clearing house" from regulated betting agencies and sport-controlling bodies, will meet with hearty approval from police who've been battling offshore, online betting agencies.

The recommendation comes in a report authored by corruption royal commissioner James Wood, whose investigation into integrity in Australian sport was also released today.

The introduction of specific laws for match fixing offences clears up jurisdictional gaps and well overdue.

The proposal to consider allowing online, in-play wagering through authorised betting agencies — currently illegal to do, unless in person — might raise more eyebrows.

It will better track match-fixing red flags and reap a portion of the enormously lucrative market but runs counter to a strong streak of anti-gambling voices in the community.

There are many thorny issues still to be fleshed out around the powers of what can be summed up as the proposed national sport police (National Sport Integrity Commission) and national sport court (National Sports Tribunal).

Kids playing AFL

How much autonomy will sports need to give up?

The Tribunal will be an "opt-in" option for anything not related to doping. How many professional sports will opt to do this, and how will that impact on the standing of the Tribunal itself?

The tribunal itself will have unprecedented powers to compel witnesses. More power, even, than the international Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Switzerland.

The future of the AIS is still up in the air. Despite much anticipation, there was nothing in the plan except jargon about the AIS, "evolving to regain its status as a world leader in high-performance excellence".

The fact is the "business case" aimed at shrinking but sharpening the AIS focus is well underway. Robert de Castella's comments of despair, that the institute is "done and dusted" may well be premature, but there will need to be more details released before the public can truly assess the plan.

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