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‘Something’s got to give:’ Canadian Olympic, sports groups call out funding shortfall

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

The two committees insist an increase to Canadian sport system funding is “urgently needed” for NSOs to continue their core work of supporting athletes, provincial federations and clubs across the country.

Shoemaker added that national sports bodies have had new demands placed on them, such as safe sport policies, with no change to funding levels since 2005.

The current deficit is projected to run to $134 million from 2023-28.

Shoemaker said the government and Olympic and Paralympic committees have been discussing this issue for years, but with the games starting in four-and-a-half months, he felt it was necessary to share the concerns raised.

“Something’s got to give,” he said. “I can’t imagine how we could continue to expect the inspirational Canadian performances at the Olympic and Paralympic Games if something doesn’t change.”

Federal sports minister Carla Qualtrough had not yet returned a request for comment.

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

It did so with dominating performances from NBA players Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dillon Brooks.

But Michael Bartlett, the president and CEO of Canada Basketball, said the possibility of NBA stars competing in future Olympics is in serious doubt.

“You have to train like the best to attract the best to then be the best, and if we can’t invest the funds in the appropriate training camp, coaching and pre competition resources, we won’t be able to attract the best. That’s the reality of it,” he said.

He added that the federal government doesn’t appear to fully grasp the demands placed on national sports organizations.

Bartlett said the term “national” in national sporting organizations can be a misnomer as these organizations are competing at international levels and sending players to different countries to play games.

That, he said, has forced Canada Basketball to seek corporate sponsors and partnerships, much like professional sports teams do.

“The reality is, though, we’ve drawn down against any savings or cash reserves that we had in order to make that possible,” he said about funding the program.

“At some point there’s a tipping point between the money available to you as a program and the money it costs to compete at this level.”

According to the Deloitte study, NSOs are being asked to do more with fewer resources, and the important progress that has been made in safe sport, gender equity, community access and mental-health support, among others, is “in jeopardy.”

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

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

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

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

<!– Photo: 20240305160340-65e791a3fa9ee0f7d18fcf31jpeg.jpg, Caption: Canada’s Kelly Olynyk (13) gestures during the Basketball World Cup bronze medal game between the United States and Canada in Manila, Philippines, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. The Canadian men’s basketball team qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games led by a clutch of homegrown NBA stars.
But that success could be short-lived, with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committee, along with national sports organizations like Canada Basketball, speaking out about federal funding shortfalls that could impact which athletes attend future games.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Conroy –>

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