Unforgivable popularity?

(Written for SME Daily)

Which sports and athletes represent Slovak Republic better? Skrtel with Hamsik, Hossa, Chara with the national team jersey, Hantuchova, Sagan, or the world champion in fishing technique, the game "go", dog sledding, archery, gymnastics or shooting?
The main conflict between supporters and opponents of the new system of financing sport, representation team and talented youth, rises from the following questions: "Is the success known by the general public the same or comparable to the success, which is known to only few people? Should the State support the sports that are successful and unpopular as much as the popular and successful sports? "Representatives of 80 per cent of all athletes (football, hockey, tennis, athletics, handball, basketball, cycling, but also for white water canoeing) together with authors of the reform say no.

President of the Slovak Olympic Committee, the head of the Confederation of Sports Federations and many small sports associations strongly disagree.

The taxpayers fund the national representation in over 80 sports. The question is if the Slovak Republic is rich enough to finance national representations for all sports.  In 2006 there was the sports funding model (project Victoria) presented as follows: some sports will be supported with higher priority than others and some would not be supported at all.

After six years we say, representations of all sports should be funded on the base of three charts that were set up by clear, transparent, and measurable criteria. The success and popularity are multiplied by the first two charts – national representation and talented youth. The most popular and successful get the largest amount of money.
The amount of money would be influenced by international competition (number of national associations) and in addition number of children registered from the age of 10 to 18 years. Popularity is measured by rating of media at home and abroad and also by domestic opinion polls.
New financial incentives for all sports federations are: Senior and junior achievement, increase the number of sporting children, appearing in the media. Many small sports would profit from the new criteria - korfball, acrobatic rock and roll, badminton or floorbal. Everyone can succeed.
The third chart consists of one hundred elite athletes and for the first time in history they arerated mainly by the criterion of success and partly by popularity. All sports - also unsuccessful and unpopular at the same time will have a generous guarantee a five-year transitional period and in 2012 all sports federations will get 90 percent of last year's amount of subsidies.
What were our taxes used for until now? National teams were financed by an inaccurate system. The number of children was not taken into account at all. There were ideal conditions for corruption. The new system is immune to the corruption and denies access for everybody including the Minister to take any type of action.

The new system is incomplete. After the early election the new Minister of Sport may also have a look at the millions of Euro for sport quietly deposited at the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior only for individual athletes (not tennis players). The first sight of the three new ministers should fall on those state-paid professionals who did not find themselves in the top hundred chart, that have different salaries from those who are in the top hundred.
Needs of Sport federations are not fulfilled. They demand tax cuts and use the resources from the lottery for sport. Sport federations did not object to the current system. They just wanted politicians to give them money. Sports Movement as a whole has never offered a comprehensive concept of sports funding - any alternative. Officials know how to organize national conferences and talk about how useless is everything we do, as last year Slovak Olympic Committee did.
They can argue about things such as the Olympic training centres. Sometimes the movement goes completely silent, like when the former government approved use of tens of millions of euros for the reconstruction of Bratislava hockey arena without any competition. Sports Minister admitted that there can be some correction made if there were convincing arguments. Errors in determining coefficient of performance has been removed but the new problem rises from importance of sports popularity contest. Some unions are unsatisfied with the work of journalists. They say journalists are influenced by media owners and bookmakers.

Slovak Olympic Committee expresses their opinion that ranking of athletes depends on good will of officers, but we suggest the complete opposite. We rejected proposed criterion of entire membership. We want to avoid the complications that were observed by colleagues form Czech Republic after implementation of this criterion. Sports movement did not come with convincing arguments for 25 years and they will never do. Every finance minister would determine increase of the money with implementation of some policy. Now we have started to clean up.