A new report claims almost half of Australia’s top athletes are earning below the poverty line. Shocking, right? Even more shocking is that these heroes‘ annual incomes come in at less than $23,000.
Australia has some of the greatest sporting talent on the planet. Our beloved Matildas stole our hearts – and earned millions of new supporters – since the FIFA Women’s World Cup this past few months, and the members of our national swimming team are household names after taking home medal after medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
But what if we told you some of our best athletes are actually earning below the poverty line?
That’s what the Australian Sports Foundation (ASF) has found, and now the organisation is urging for financial support to be thrown at our sports stars, or risk our top-tier talent throwing in the towel.
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After surveying more than 2,300 athletes, 600 being elite, or at an international level. Two in three elite Australian athletes aged between 18 and 34 have considered quitting their sport, while one in two who hoped to compete in the 2026 Commonwealth Games have considered quitting.
43 per cent of those training for the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane are contemplating quitting, too. Those are our youngest athletes, which says a lot.
The athletes surveyed by the ASF were earning an average annual income of between $23,000 and $49,000. They’re appalling annual earnings given the hours of training, and the sacrifices these athletes make, but also the revenue they make for TV networks, and tourism, too. These athletes work so hard in the pool, on the track, field and court court, that the vast majority don’t have time to create other forms of income.
And the worst news? A whopping 46 per cent of the talent surveyed earned less than $23,000 a year, and more than 40 per cent were even more worse off financially than they were 12 months ago. More than one in four have also found they’ve struggling mentally in the past 12 months.
„This is the green and gold decade, with so many such events for us to look forward to, but they are nothing without the athletes,“ ASF’s chief executive Patrick Walker said.
One of our top-tier stars, Bronte Campbell told the ABC how injuries alone caused strain financially, and that winning gold – like she did – at the Olympic Games didn’t mean you were swimming in cash.
„If you win an Olympic gold medal, you get a medal bonus — which is not, as someone once asked me, a million dollars,“ the swimming champion told the news site, adding that supporting herself in the years between each Olympic Games has been tough.
„There’s definitely been years where if I hadn’t had success in the previous year, I don’t know how I would have made it work.“
These are worrying stats, and without significant change to sportspeople’s pay we’re risk of losing our best sporting stars, purely out of necessity.
Just last week the Wallaroos, Australia’s national women’s rugby union team, penned an open letter to Rugby Australia demanding more equal pay and support for their players and the team, as compared with the Wallabies who receive exponentially greater pay packets and funding.
In the wake of the Women’s World Cup, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson and captain Sam Kerr also called for greater funding of women’s sports teams in Australia.
After their semi-final defeat, 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.“
Let’s hope that this increased awareness and conversations around players‘ dismal pay and the lack of funding in many sports is the catalyst for some serious change in our sporting landscape.