Languishing as the final dot point under sports funding in the federal government's Budget Paper No. 2 is an allocation of "$1.5 million in 2020-21 to support the national running event Run for the Reef."
Earlier the document indicates the government will provide $243.2 million over four years from 2020-21 to continue support for the implementation of the national sport plan, Sport 2030. Funding is also being provided for initiatives to support sport and physical activity in the Australian community.
This particular line item is as fascinating as it is bizarre. It appears to relate to a running festival held mostly annually in Port Douglas, Queensland. Just why one of the thousand-plus fun runs conducted in Australia each year should be singled out for special treatment - and with such substantial support - is a question that should be pursued and answered.
Recreational running is big in Australia. It provides an opportunity for all, whether they are formally involved in organised sport or not, to prepare for and engage in a healthy activity. There are so many options that each would-be runner has the chance to pick and choose an event that best fits in with their other personal commitments. Many engage in their home towns whilst others plan a visit elsewhere to take in the right run.
Fun runs and running festivals are typically organised and presented by one of three groups - sporting clubs and associations, charities, and more and more by private entrepreneurs.
A visit to the Run for the Reef website indicates it is part of the Port Douglas Running Festival which features runs from shorter distances through to the marathon and it's organised by Port Douglas Event Management. There is no indication into which of the above categories the organiser fits.
Which makes the mystery of why this one event should receive federal government all the more intruiging.
The indication in the Budget Paper that it is a "national" running event is also a little curious. It is no more a national running event than any other.
Let's be clear about mass participation, recreational running or funs runs - however it might diversely be described. Behind the name can be myriad organisational structures and opportunities for participants.
The major marathon races around the world mostly started out small - but have spawned massive business models and opportunities for the best athletes to earn a pretty decent quid and for recreational runners to raise real dollars for charities.
Some of the organisations remain non-for profits whilst others are unashamedly commercial enterprises. Some are so popular global ballots are conducted each year for recreational runners to get a spot.
But it's not only the promoters and participants who stand to benefit from a popular event. The host city's economy, accommodation houses and tourist operators also do nicely - particularly when the events are in regional centres.
It's not unusual for state and local governments to provide seed and grant funding for fun runs as it's a boost to the economy and the presentation of a healthy activity that are the critical factors - not so much whose coffers might be directly filled by a successful edition. But it is mighty unusual for the federal government to enter into this funding space - particularly when there is a very long list of well-established events which could equally be the recipients of such a substantial grant. There are many mass participation running events in Australia that can only dream of having a budget of $1.5million available to them.
In reality unless a race or festival is targeting the participation of world-class athletes, and in need of a big budget for appearance and prizemoney, it is hard to imagine such an allocation of funds would be needed.
But on the other hand if the feds are getting into this funding space then surely the process needs to be more transparent - and open to all. Race and festival organisers have been both resilient and agile in dealing with the pandemic. A fair proportion had to take a raincheck in 2020.
Few would have anticipated the Federal Budget to be a source of support - and rightly so.
Funding one event seemingly at random opens a Pandora's Box of expectation.
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