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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: 11 November 2020
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.

Sport sector governance

National Sport Plan
Sport 2030 is Australia’s first national sport plan.

Meeting of Sport and Recreation Ministers (MSRM)
A forum for Australian governments to discuss sport and recreation issues.

Committee of Australian Sport and Recreation Officials (CASRO)
Supports the MSRM by preparing advice and responding to tasks referred by the MSRM.

System governance map – sport and active recreation

System governance map


Committee of Australian sport & Recreation Officials (CASRO) 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.

Further resources and reading

International peak sports organisations

Wikipedia provides a list of international sports federations, each of which serves as a non-government governing body for a given sport and administers its sport at a world level, most often crafting rules, promoting the sport to prospective spectators and fans, developing prospective players, and organising world or continental championships.

International Olympic Committee (IOC)

The International Olympic Committee is the principal authority of the Olympic Movement. Acting as a catalyst for collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family—including National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the International Sports Federations (IFs), the athletes, the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs), Olympic broadcast partners, and United Nations agencies—the IOC seeks to lead and influence success through a wide range of program and projects.

International Paralympic Committee (IPC)

The International Paralympic Committee is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. Its purpose is to organise the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games and to act as the International Federation for ten para sports, supervising and coordinating World Championships and other competitions.

Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF)

The Global Association of International Sports Federations is an umbrella organisation for international sports federations and other international sport and event related organisations. Their mission is to serve and represent the common interests of all International Federations and coordinate the efforts of all those that aspire to become IOC recognised and, eventually, wish to enter the Olympic Program.

International sports systems

Comparative Study

International Study of 12 sports Federations: Country Profiles, Jeroen Scheerder, Annick Willem, Elien Claes, Sandrine Billiet, University of Leuven, Belgium, (2015). The 12 international sports systems compared are: Germany, France, England, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, Canada, and Australia.

Sports Policy factors Leading to International Sporting Success (SPLISS)

SPLISS is an international network of research cooperation that coordinates, develops, and shares expertise in innovative high performance sport policy research in cooperation with policy makers, National Olympic Committees (NOCs), international (sport) organisations, and researchers worldwide. The SPLISS project has so far published two major reports:

  • The global sporting arms race: an international comparative study on sports policy factors leading to international sporting success. De Bosscher, V., Meyer and Meyer Sport, (2008). This volume draws on research involving more than 1,400 athletes, coaches, and performance directors at the highest levels and seeks to evaluate and compare over 100 factors that lead to international sporting success. An international comparison of elite sports systems and policies in six nations (Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom) provides a basis for measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of sport management systems and identifies for investigation possible factors leading to international sporting success. Key concepts are funding, integrated policy development, participation rates, talent identification and development systems, long term athlete development including post career support, training facilities, coaching provision and coach development, intyernational competition and sports science research. [book held by the Clearinghouse for Sport, GV713.B67]
  • Successful elite sport policies : an international comparison of the sports policy factors leading to international sporting success (SPLISS 2.0) in 15 nations. De Bosscher, V., Meyer and Meyer Sport, (2015). This book deals with the strategic policy planning process that underpins the development of successful national elite sport development systems. Drawing on various international competitiveness studies, it examines how nations develop and implement policies that are based on the critical success factors that may lead to competitive advantage in world sport. An international group of researchers joined forces to develop theories, methods and a model on the Sports Policy factors Leading to International Sporting Success (SPLISS). The book presents the results of the large-scale international SPLISS-project. In this project the research team identified, compared and contrasted elite sport policies and strategies in place for the Olympic Games and other events in 15 distinct nations. With input from 58 researchers and 33 policy makers worldwide and the views of over 3000 elite athletes, 1300 high performance coaches and 240 performance directors, this work is the largest benchmarking study of national elite sport policies ever conducted.
  • 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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