MELBOURNE Australia will cut government funding to its top sports if they fail to bring governance standards up to scratch in the wake of the country's London Olympics flop and the release of a clutch of embarrassing reports.
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC), which holds the purse strings for sports Down Under, said swimming, cycling, athletics, sailing, rowing, hockey and basketball were the most well-funded sports and the first to see cuts of up to 20 percent if they failed to meet new mandatory standards.
The ASC said standards included improving organisation structures, the board election processes and gender balance, and having zero tolerance for any lack of transparency on how sports spend money.
There will also be public company level requirements for sports financial reporting practices and proper supervision by boards of sports science practices.
"While good governance does not guarantee success, its absence almost certainly guarantees failure," ASC Chairman John Wylie said in a statement on the agency's website (www.ausport.gov.au) on Tuesday.
"The ASC believes that the Australian public has the right to expect that sports receiving significant taxpayer funding will be well run."
Australia had its lowest medal haul in 20 years at the London Olympics, prompting local media to slam sports authorities for wasting taxpayers' money.
A series of embarrassing revelations have since come to light, with reviews exposing disciplinary problems in the Olympic swim team, and a criminal probe finding "widespread" doping among both amateur and professional athletes.
Governance shortcomings had been identified in both swimming and cycling "for failures in the competitive, business or ethical standards in those sports," the ASC said, adding that an additional A$5 million ($5.20 million) of funding would be up for grabs for sports that put their houses in order.
Both governing body Swimming Australia and the Australian Olympic Commission (AOC) issued statements saying they welcomed the new regime.
"This is a long overdue approach by John Wylie and we share his views on striving for excellence," AOC President John Coates said.
"In a nutshell the taxpayers deserve to know they are getting bang for their buck when it comes to funding sport."
($1 = 0.9621 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; editing by Peter Rutherford)