Two years ago Little Athletics Australia and Athletics Australia had a plan to merge. It didn’t eventuate. We catch up with the first state to have a merged body leading athletics in their state – Athletics West – to discuss what has happened since.
In June 2020 Little Athletics Western Australia and Athletics West merged to become the single athletics organisation leading the sport in the state. We sent CEO, Vince Del Prete, some questions to ask about the successes, the challenges and his vision for the future of the sport.
Since the merger in 2020 what has worked really well in West Australian athletics?
We’re really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve since the merge. As the national leader of a one-sport approach, we’re delighted to report that we’ve been able to increase the capacity, relevance and effectiveness of our sport across WA.
From the sports pathway, commercial sustainability and media profile, the merger has enabled the sport to be better equipped for the rapidly changing sporting sector. We continue to build out an improved, clearer pathway structure and governance model for all levels of the athletics journey, which means we have been better placed to provide offerings for athletes, coaches and officials.
What has been hard and is still a work in progress?
Ultimately the biggest challenge is the fact that we are still affiliated with two national bodies, Athletics Australia and Little Athletics Australia. The challenges of meeting their requirements and the duplication of work means the sport isn’t as effective as it could or should be.
While we’ve been able to generate a better level of efficiency across many aspects of the sport, we are certainly limited in what we can do due to the ongoing reporting requirements. Given we have the two bodies, I would say key things like membership and financial modelling will continue to be a work in progress for the immediate future, especially as we work towards delivering a whole of sport approach.
What has been achieved in the sport in WA that you don’t think could have occurred without a merged state association?
In a short answer the strengthening and amplification of athletics in Western Australia. We continue to see more and more Little Athletics Centres and Senior Athletics Clubs working together to either merge or enter into MOUs to ensure that they provide better pathways for their athletes, coaches and volunteers. The sharing of resources is a massive outcome as a result as more of them become, in essence, a “one-stop shop” for all things athletics in WA.
Also from a commercial and state government point of view, we have definitely become a more attractive entity given we can offer engagement from the grassroots through to the elite. So whether it is athlete engagement, media engagement or just participation at things like the All Schools Championships, we are seeing a solid return.
Fast forward to 2032 and Australia has just hosted an amazing Olympic Games in Brisbane. What’s your vision of how Australian athletics looks at this time and for the period beyond?
My hope is certainly that we are a unified sport that is embarking on, or better still, continuing, a Golden Era of Athletics. The green and gold groundswell should be such that the Government is looking at ways to invest in the sport’s physical infrastructure nationally as we unitedly use athletics as a vehicle to grow communities across Australia.
I would hope that when the curtain falls on Brisbane 2032 we have a sport that is contributing to the nation’s mental and physical well-being by getting more people running, jumping, walking, throwing and rolling.