Nick Green Q&A: Cycling Australia’s new funding model
There are changes to the funding structure at Cycling Australia after the review of the Rio Olympics… but the Winning Edge program remains the driving force of the high performance unit.
For more, see: what is Australian cycling’s real quest?
Photos: Yuzuru Sunada
RIDE: I’m talking with Nick Green and we’re having a chat about some funding issues that I’ve heard about… where there seems to be a redistribution of allocation [of funds for Cycling Australia’s programs] and perhaps road cycling is going to be scaled back and track cycling get an increase in funding. Is that correct?
Nick Green: “As a high performance unit [Cycling Australia] has been allocated more investment over the four years [leading towards the Tokyo Olympics] from our major funding source which is the Australian Sports Commission.
“Part of that is recognising particularly our Paralympic athletes who were very successful at the [Rio] Games, so we were able to generate some increase in funding for our Para [programs].
“Most of the able bodied unit funding is the same and most of the national federations like cycling – as a foundation sport – will not get any new money, per se.
“So the funding stream is confirmed and it’s lock in; we’ve signed agreements so we’re all aware of what we’re able to invest.
“And, from a high performance point of view, we have – as an organisation, with the employment of Simon Jones as a high performance director – really looked closely at the investment we receive from tax payers and how do we deliver [a] return which is medals… gold medals.
“So we’re absolutely unashamed to say that the investment will be allocated to deliver medals. And we looked at the way we do that.
“Where the changes are going to occur in the next Olympic cycle is, instead of supporting discipline by discipline and almost have a segregated model of investment into sprint or track or endurance or off-road, on-road… whatever it might be, the investment goes into an athlete-centred program.
“It’s a model on providing the support around the athlete.
“Around the athlete is the coaches, the technology, the sports science, the medical… and the assistance that the athletes need to deliver results.
“That’s been the genesis of developing our centralised pathway model for the athletes to be successful. And then also, at the same time, as an organisation to be pretty pointed around, well, where do we think we can win the medals at the Olympic Games? And what athletes do we have in the system – what athletes do we have as emerging athletes? Therefore we prioritise the allocation around that.
“Cycling has 22 medals at the  Olympics, 12 of those are on the track and track cycling will become a very strong focus of our program.
“But it’s not just track that’ll gain [funding], it’s the athlete pathway that we’ll invest in. The track will be a beneficiary of that as well as athletes along the way.”
Kimberley Wells is a multiple national champion but she is working in the emergency department in the Canberra hospital in 2017 instead of racing her bike.
Does that come to the detriment of road, BMX and mountain bike – the other Olympic disciplines?
“Well, our job is [multi-layered]: to nurture the real pathway of emerging athletes and you’ve seen many athletes who have worked at such a young age on skills and knowledge and that gives them options to choose whether they start [on] the track, whether they finish [on] the road; whether they start on the road and come back to the track…
“And athletes have a whole lot of different choices.
“I think part of our investment is to say: we want athletes to have choices.
“We do know that one of the essential learning environments for kids to learn how to handle a bike is starting at the track on the velodrome – so there’ll be more investment from us on really encouraging and providing a better network of support for the athletes, whether they are sprint or endurance…
“A classic example is Cam Meyer, I suppose, who is able to combine a good, successful track program with a road program – know that they’re both essential for the development of the athlete.
“Ultimately, with Cam as an example, we’d like him to focus on what he is doing – and he’s publically said that he wants to be an Olympic champion in Tokyo 2020. So we’ll provide the support environment around Cam to focus on his ambitions to be a successful athlete at the Olympics.”
Silver for the men’s team pursuit was a highlight of the Rio Olympics for the Australian cycling team.
We understand and respect the nature of track cycling to develop a broader cycling community, but I would put it to you that Caroline Buchanan’s influence, for example – with BMX and mountain biking – is also significant. She’d be one worth supporting. Does she continue her funding model and, similarly, do the road programs continue to receive funding? I’ve heard it said that some state institutes that had once been backed by Cycling Australia have lost funding. Is that true?
“We’ve re-jigged our partnership with our state institutes, every state institute and academy. We’ve definitely realigned different partnerships to what we’ve had recently.
“In essence, we’re reallocating large investments at the state institutes to deliver services and this way around it’s better; partnerships with the state institutes with investments with the athletes, predominantly coming through the Cycling Australia model.
“Then we’ll work selectively with the state [institutes] and academies around the country.
“Absolutely, the relationship is different to what it was leading up to the Rio Olympic Games and it’s realigned to a model that creates a little bit more efficiency in the way we allocate money.
“Your question around Caroline Buchanan, who was obviously successful around mountain biking and BMX – and obviously performed very well at the recent [BMX] world championships… we’ve always supported the BMX athlete. Well, Cycling Australia runs the high performance program of BMX and has done so for the last 10 years, I think.
“Caroline is one of those athletes who will be the recipient of an athlete’s supported program as we start to reallocate the investment to centre around the athletes – around that medical, sports science, athlete support… she gets that support.
“We are spending a lot more time investing in, or understanding – the talent and emerging talent – and how do we develop an athlete support network.
“With one eye we look forward to the future and with the other eye we nurture the absolute world-class talent we have in this country and put them on that pathway to support them for that gold medal that the nation wants at the Olympics in Tokyo.”
Track cycling is the priority for Cycling Australia’s high performance unit…
We’ve spoken a lot about this topic and you know that I’m a real proponent of grassroots endeavour. With this restructure – or refinance arrangement – is there a view to enhancing the spend of membership fees for the members?
“The high performance money that we get from the Australian Sports Commission, or the tax payer, is for high performance.
“We have to commit every cent of that to deliver gold medals at the Olympics. None of the investment from the Australian Sports Comission for high performance goes into grassroots – it goes into high performance. It’s around that system that the athletes, the coaches, the scientists, the medical… the pathway of elite athletes.
“In terms of grassroots, your question is: what funding support does the system provide for grassroots? And that’s a different conversation which, in essence, is to do with the investment that Cycling Australia makes on our grassroots.
“We have two dedicated national programs: one is for females, called ‘She Rides’, for women engaged in cycling; the other one is a national primary school education program called ‘Let’s Ride’.
“We invest all of our available resources into developing national programs across that, including the investment into coaching education, coaching accreditation to provide our young kids with the necessary skilled workforce to deliver quality programs.
“In terms of your question about membership, the way that a federated model works is that every state and territory cycling association in the federated model receives the lion’s share of the membership fees – those fees that are not allocated to producing the necessary insurance platform to the members.
“Each state, as you know, is run by a separate CEO, a separate body.
“While we have a very strong working relationship with every state and territory, they are the ones who determine – under their government structure – how they invest their own money into the grassroots development.”
There had been a Cycling Australia under-23 road program. Is that defunct?
“Well, did that in partnership with GreenEdge and we have, this year, explored a great partnership to support our athletes.
“Our high performance, as I’ve said, the program historically has been a segmented program by age and sport category but this time around we’re doing it with more of an integration high performance strategy.
“None of the programs will look exactly the same as they have pre-Olympic Games. They’ve all evolved to be a program that is more athlete centred.
“We will continue to do the same thing we’ve been doing but there’ll be a whole lot of changes. That’s not to say we’re prioritising or removing investment out of one area into another, we’re actually investing into a different model that provides a central basis of support around world-leading coaches, world-leading athletes, and a system – a high performance network – that those athletes need to be able to win Olympic medals. At the same time we’ll also be pretty harsh, pretty tough. If we believe that tax payers’ investment is not going towards delivering us gold medals then we have to question ourselves on why we would be investing or allocating money in that direction.
“It’s a high performance environment and anyone who is in it knows it’s pretty tough and it’s pretty blunt sometimes.
“We’re putting out statements very clearly and, as Simon Jones says about the high performance network: we want to win medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games and we want to be the number-one cycling nation in the world. We’ve got a long way to go to get there but we’re definitely planning to do that – and planning to make the changes and provide the support that we need to get that done.”