Running On Empty: The staggering findings of a new sporting report

Feet in sneakers going up stairs

Running On Empty: The staggering findings of a new sporting report

There is immense financial pressure facing our athletes, as a new report from the Australian Sports Foundation (ASF), aptly titled ‘Running on Empty’, paints a stark picture of the financial and mental health struggles faced by athletes at all levels of competition. 

Nearly half (46%) of athletes over the age of 18 are earning incomes below $23,000 per year from all sources, pushing them below the poverty line, and well below the national average of $45,905. The financial strain trickles down to impact mental health, performance, and the future of Australian sports.   

The report underscores that the cost of participation – from registration fees and equipment, to coaching, medical and travel costs – and a lack of adequate funding are the primary roadblocks for athletes across all levels of competition. Shockingly (or perhaps not), athletes are spending more on travel and accommodation for competitions than they are on essentials like food. As a result, 52% of elite athletes surveyed admitted they are considering leaving their respective sports due to the financial strain and the toll it takes on their mental health. 

These staggering statistics reflect the immediate need for a massive shake-up of the sports industry and how it values athletes.

Athletes are the heart and soul of the sports industry. They are the heart and soul of Australia. They deserve fair compensation and conditions for their work, as in any other industry. 

This sentiment is echoed by prominent athletes like Sam Kerr, who is advocating for increased funding across all levels of sports, from grassroots development to Olympians on the world stage. In a recent ABC interview, Sam Kerr said, “I can only speak for the Matildas. We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots. We need funding. We need funding everywhere.”

But Sam’s words ring true almost everywhere, as evidenced by the 2,304 ASF survey respondents from more than 60 different sports.

The vision for Green & Gold is to help athletes build sustainable financial pathways so that they can focus on their training, competing, and achieving their dreams without being hampered by financial stress. However, this work is just one step in what must be a collective and comprehensive funding overhaul in the sports sector.

The path to success demands more than sheer talent and determination, which our athletes have in spades. Success also requires an ecosystem of support. 

As Paris looms for all of our Aussie athletes, the lack of adequate funding could be a serious impediment to Australia's overall success, and the success of our athletes. It's a challenge that threatens to undermine our teams' potential, and cast doubt over those aiming to represent Australia on home soil in 2032.

We must make a shift from this state of neglect to one that values and empowers athletes, so they can excel not only on the field, but also in their overall wellbeing, and in life after competitive sport. Together, we can build a future where our sporting heroes no longer run on empty, but thrive on equitable funding and unwavering support.

If you want to help, or adopt an athlete through the Green & Gold Athletes program, get in touch and let's make it happen!