Article by Julian Linden courtesy of the Daily Telegraph
SWIMMING Australia’s longtime patron Gina Rinehart has notified the sport’s administrators that she’s cut them out of the loop and started making direct payments to Australia’s cash-strapped athletes to ensure they get every cent she donates.
The news comes as Swimming Australia slowly starts to get its finances back in order after being forced to place staff on reduced hours and less pay to weather the economic sting from the coronavirus lockdown.
The sport was thrown a lifeline last month when the federal government revealed swimming would receive a guaranteed $12 million for the 2021-22 financial year — on top of the funds already committed to the build-up to next year’s postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralaympics.
Swimming Australia is tantalisingly close to signing a new broadcast deal to showcase next year’s Olympic trials after its former partner Seven terminated the previous contract because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
“I was hoping to be able to announce something before I went, so it’s something we’re working on,” Swimming Australia’s outgoing chief executive Leigh Russell said on her last day in the job. “I’m hoping we can announce something exciting in the coming weeks.
“Broadcasting is really critical to us. We were very proud of our partnership with Channel 7 and being able to get our sport out there (as) other Olympic sports really struggle to do that, so we always felt quite privileged that we had that.
“COVID put a grenade through that as well, so we’re trying to flex and adjust to the new world.” Rinehart’s decision to start paying swimmers directly won’t affect Swimming Australia’s bottom line.
Australia’s richest individual, Rinehart has been pouring millions of dollars into swimming for years through her foundation, which provides athlete support schemes managed by the sport’s governing body. But the mining magnate recently informed Swimming Australia she was changing the payment method so that the cash would now go directly into the accounts of swimmers.
“Trying not to speak on her behalf, but I think the sentiment was that she wanted to ensure that every single dollar went straight to athlete support,” Russell said.