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Structure of Australian Sport

Prepared by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Reviewed by: Australasian Sport Information Network
Last updated: 02 March 2021
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

The Australian sport and active recreation sector has many players and moving parts. It is strongly influenced by other leading service sectors including government, community, education, health, retail, media and broadcast, and tourism and entertainment.

It can be difficult to see where the sport sector begins and ends—particularly when you consider intersecting themes such as active and outdoor recreation, fitness, physical activity and preventative health. However, the structure of sport in Australia can provide some insight into how the sector connects and operates from a peak national to local grassroots level.

Key messages

Federated structure

The system of federalism (that is, Australia's Commonwealth constitutional system governing its federated states and territories), strongly influences how the Australian sport and active recreation sector is structured.

Public investment

Australian governments (Federal, state/territory, and local) invest over AU$1.3b annually in sport at all levels—investing in community participation, high performance, infrastructure, major events, and building a robust sports industry.

Community driven

Community sport and active recreation clubs play a pivotal role in making physical activity opportunities accessible to all Australians. More than 5.4m Australian adults (15+) and 2.4m children participate in organised sport and recreation activities annually.


Australian governments at all levels play a leading role in delivering sport and sport related policies and programs. This includes providing support and funding to sporting organisations, clubs and individuals, being major investors and contributors to building and maintaining sports related infrastructure, and sponsoring the hosting of major sports events.

Australian sporting organisations and sports clubs—many operating as not-for-profit entities—play a pivotal role in the delivery of sport.

Other significant contributors to the sector include schools and universities; peak sports bodies and advocacy groups; participants, whether in a playing, coaching, officiating, or administrative capacity (in a paid or volunteer basis); retailers of sporting goods and equipment; media, publishing and news agencies; health, fitness, and medical practitioners; and many other service providers, organisations, and community groups.

Organised or otherwise, sport is very much community based in Australia, and the many benefits of sport participation to individuals and communities are well documented.

System governance map – sport and active recreation

System governance map


Commonwealth Minister for Sport Commonwealth Ministers
Department of Health Commonwealth Government Departments
(example: Education, Tourism, Environment)
Australian Sports Commission
(AIS and Sport Australia)
Australian Sports Foundation
Sport Integrity Australia
State and Territory Ministers for Sport and Recreation State and Territory Ministers
State and Territory Departments / Offices of Sport and Recreation State and Territory Government Departments
(example: Education, Tourism, Environment)
State and Territory Institutes / Academies of Sport Venue Management Trusts
Australian Local Government Associations
State Local Government Associations
Local Government
(example: Councils across Australia)


National Peak Advocacy & Representative Bodies for Sport
(example: WSA, COMPPS, AAA CAS)
National Sport Delivery
(Example: NSOs, Professional/Elite Sport)
National Peak Advocacy & Representative Bodies for Active Recreation
(example: PLA, Fitness Australia ACHPER)
National Industry Specialist Organisations / Committees (example: AOC, PA, CGA, SMA, ANZSLA, ESSA)
State & Territory Peak Advocacy & Representative Bodies for Sport
(Example: VicSport, WASF, Sport NSW)
State & Territory Sport Delivery
(example: Regional Academies, SSOs)
State & Territory Peak Advocacy & Representative Bodies for Active Recreation
(example: Outdoors WA, VicHealth)
State & Territory Industry Specialist Organisations / Committees (example: State Olympic Councils)
Sports clubs, schools and higher education institutions Active recreation clubs, commercial providers, municipalities, community groups
(example: YMCA, PCYC, parkrun)
The Sport and Recreation Community
(example: Participants, coaches, officials, administrators, spectators, volunteers)

Government entities

Federal government
The Australian Government is committed to supporting sport in Australia from grassroots to elite.

State and Territory governments
State and Territory governments develop and implement policies and programs with a focus on community sport and active recreation.

Local governments
Local governments across Australia play a significant role in supporting community sport.

High performance peak bodies

Australian peak sporting bodies
Working to deliver international sporting success.

National Institute Network (NIN)
Comprises the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and the eight State and Territory Institutes and Academies of Sport (SIS/SAS).

Regional academies of sport
Providing additional athlete support and training/competition opportunities for talented youth.

Sporting organisations

National Sporting Organisations (NSOs)
Developing sport from community participation to high performance levels.

State Sporting Organisations (SSOs)
Responsible for developing their sport from community participation to high performance levels in their respective jurisdiction.

Peak advocacy and professional bodies

Confederation of Australian Sport (CAS)
An independent, not-for-profit industry voice committed to promoting the contribution of community sport.

Community Sport Australia
Represents issues affecting community sport and active recreation in Australia.

Women Sport Australia (WSA)
The peak national advocacy organisation for women in sport.

Professional bodies
Organisations for specific sport and recreation interests.

Community sector

Sport and active recreation clubs
Sport and active recreation clubs make sport accessible to the Australian community.

School sport
Schools play a very important role in making sport accessible to children and young people.

University sport
Tertiary education providers play an important role in delivering sport across the Australian sport sector.

Preventive health and fitness
The fitness industry plays a significant role in the sport and active recreation sector in Australia.

International practice

International peak sports organisations
Examples and comparisons between different international sport systems.

International sport systems
Represents issues affecting community sport and active recreation in Australia.

Further resources and reading

  • AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by Sport Australia that tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform investment, policy and sport delivery. Results are updated every 6 months.
  • The Future of Australian Sport. The ASC commissioned the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to identify the six megatrends likely to shape the Australian sports sector over the next 30 years. The 'Future of Australian Sport' online resource includes the report, a video, and a podcast that outline the methodology and findings of the research.
  • Intergenerational review of Australian sport 2017, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for the Australian Sports Commission, (2017). This review focused on the overall sports sector, with a particular emphasis on participation in sport and community level sport. While the synergies between participation and high performance sporting outcomes are recognised as being important to any discussion about the value of sport, the ASC’s high performance strategy is reviewed as part of the Olympic cycle. A separate, deeper analysis of the high performance sports system, including the AIS strategy and future direction of the AIS campus, commenced prior to the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games. This analysis includes an evaluation of individual sports' abilities to contribute to high performance outcomes. The outcomes of this analysis will complement this review.
  • Sports funding: federal balancing act, Dr Rhonda Jolly, Social Policy Section, Parliamentary Library, (June 2013). Detailed description of Australian sport policy including policies and government funding.
  • Organisation of sport in Australia, Wikipedia, (accessed 11 November 2020). The organisation of sport in Australia has been largely determined and shaped by Australian governments at all levels, that is the Australian Government, the State and Territory Governments, and Local Governments.

Licencing restrictions apply to some resources listed below.

Public All Clearinghouse members 'Australian' members only
'High Performance' members only Restricted access Various restrictions
Please see Clearinghouse membership categories for further information.

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