Why ‘Team Australia’ needs a brand new game plan for sports diplomacy as other countries gain a head start

The celebrated US travel author writes in regards to the unique importance of sport in Australian society Bill Bryson once wrote: “Truly, there never was a more sporting nation… it is a wonder that in so vigorous and active a society there is anyone left who can act as an audience.”

Sport is a essential a part of who we’re, how others see usand – today – a low-risk, low-cost and high-profile diplomatic tool in an increasingly divided geopolitical landscape.

Countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Russia are investing in sports diplomacy, and Australia arguably has a head start on this area of interest area of ​​diplomacy. is somewhat blunt.

However, earlier this week Australia’s Foreign and Sport Ministers announced that it was time to sharpen those skills, refresh the team and Making Australia stronger and more influential through sport.

Why Australia needs a brand new strategy

In response to the primary periodic review of the 2030 Sports Diplomacy Strategy, the Government of Albania announced that it could update the strategy and develop a recent advisory group for sports diplomacy – coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) – and host an annual roundtable discussion that brings together the worlds of sport and diplomacy.

These initiatives provide a forum to debate strategic and economic opportunities, risks in international sport, upcoming sporting events in Australia and abroad, and opportunities for presidency and the game sector to work together to advance shared priorities.

In other words, Team Australia has a brand new game plan, a bigger squad and an annual strategic retreat.

The announcement comes at a timely pace. One could argue that Australia is falling behind while other countries are making progress.

For example, China spent 74 million Australian dollars on a brand new stadium within the Solomon Islands for last 12 months's Pacific Games and likewise invited Pacific athletes to coach in China.

China has also poached high-profile “tracksuit-wearing diplomats,” similar to Eileen Gu, a superb Chinese-American downhill skier who grew up in California. who’ve decided to represent China on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

While most sports fans can list assets and teams purchased by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – similar to the 2021 Takeover of the English Premier League team Newcastle United and the controversial LIFE Golf Tour as a competitor to the PGA Tour – they’d know less about Riyadh’s training in sports diplomacy.

In February 2024, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research hosted a five-day Executive Diploma in Sports Diplomacy program for participants from the Saudi Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee in Geneva.

Russia has also used sport as a weapon, using major events to distract from the invasion of other countries, right as much as Gazprom – the state-owned multinational energy company – Proposal for a Russian version of the Champions League.

What does sports diplomacy offer?

Combined with diplomacy, sport offers Western liberal democracies like Australia an actual, comparative and significant advantage over our rivals.

Australia not only has a bulging trophy cabinet, but in addition world-class facilities, infrastructure, expertise and athletes.

Programs like PacificAus Sports – chargeable for the Fijian Drua Super Rugby men’s and girls’s teams and the PNG Hunters Rugby League teams – are world class.

Australia uses sports diplomacy to have interaction with various Pacific nations and their athletes.

Australians value integrity, fair play and equality in sport. Some of our current and former athletes similar to Curtis McGrath, Sam Kerr, David Pocock, Adam Goodes, Kim Brennan and Marissa Williamson-Pohlman (who will turn out to be the primary Indigenous woman to represent Australia in boxing on the Olympic Games this 12 months) are as powerful, authentic and effective off the court as they’re on it.

Well done sports diplomacy can Breaking down stereotypesOvercoming bitterness and bringing people closer together through a shared love of physical activity.

Meetings between sports officials, government representatives and business people on the sidelines of a match create informal relationships that complement formal diplomatic initiatives, similar to Australia’s desire to expand Southeast Asia through a brand new 2 billion dollar boost.

International sport creates opportunities for public diplomacy, builds relationships and might spread a rustic's message, culture and values.

Improve the sport

The Albanese Government's recent approach to sports diplomacy offers us the prospect to challenge our rivals, but provided that we expect like our athletes. We have to work and train hard, innovate and check out harder.

Let us hope that other government agencies will proceed to support DFAT as a team captain. The Australian Federal Police, Australian Defence Force, Sports Integrity Australia and plenty of other government agencies now also use sports diplomacy.

Finally, there isn’t a point in investing within the practice of sports diplomacy if it is just not analyzed, measured, studied and researched by the following generation of academics and universities.

While countries like Israel, Hungary and Saudi Arabia Development of research centres And University courses When it involves sports diplomacy, the identical can’t be said of Australia.

It must be remembered that diplomatic practice is barely pretty much as good as the idea on which it relies.

Bill Bryson was right. Despite a comparatively small population, few countries are as sport-loving or as energetic as Australia.

Games, sports and physical activity play an enormous role in our culture, society and identity. These things must be at the center of our diplomacy.

image credit : theconversation.com