Supporting athletes online

Every two to four years, Canadian editorial pages are filled with calls to increase funding and support for our national athletes. Every two to four years the population agrees, overwhelmingly supporting additional funding for sports and athletes.

When the sports media focuses elsewhere, usually on exhaustive hockey coverage, columnists and readers generally stop caring.

Sports funding was not an election issue. In the last federal election it didn’t even rank in the top-10, with people more interested in jobs, health care, education, trade, the environment and other hot button issues.

Here’s the thing. While most people would probably support some kind of additional sports funding, only a fraction of those would support a tax increase to pay for it. The idea of raising money through lotteries is popular, but the majority of that money is already spoken for. The idea of targetted lotteries – lotteries to benefit education, lotteries to benefit sports – have been suggested, but have already been dismissed as impractical.

Corporations have been asked to play a greater role in funding our athletes, and quite a few have even answered the call, but our sports programs are more in need of secure, long-term funding at all levels of athletics than a temporary fix.

The government may find more funding in the budget for athletes if public outrage over our medal tally hangs around long enough after this Olympic cycle, but some pundits are suggesting that the entire sports funding system needs an overhaul to ensure that the new funding goes where it’s needed the most.

Chances are nothing will happen. A few sports will get a boost from the 2004 Games and a few sports will drop even further off the radar screen. As a nation we’ll get used to our mediocrity in the world of sports.

Or you could do something about it.

If you really and truly believe that we should be spending more on our athletes and would be willing to pay more in taxes to do so, why not just eliminate the middle man and contribute directly to your favourite sports? Most of our national sports organizations are non-profit societies and can present you with tax receipts for your donations. Others are constantly running contests and holding fundraisers.

A successful sporting organization will host all kinds of public participation events in addition to applying to the government and corporations for funding, which in the end raises the profile of the sport.

If you really care to see our athletes do well, then stop yapping about it and put your money where your mouth is.

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