Pro golfer Lydia Ko asks for $208k in taxpayer money for training
"These payments should be secured over a professional sportsperson's future income and repaid once that income hits a certain level"Featured comment
The governing body for golf in New Zealand has asked for $208,000 in taxpayer money to help pay for Lydia Ko’s coaching, physiotherapy and mental skills training this year.
New Zealand Golf lodged the application on behalf of the 16-year-old golfer in 2012, before she turned pro. The application covered a two-year period to keep her on track for the 2016 Olympics, High Performance Sport New Zealand says in a just released statement.
High Performance Sport New Zealand receives applications and dishes out the government grants to the country’s elite athletes. The organisation’s 2013 budget is about $60 million.
NZ Golf received $300,000 in investment for its high-performance programme in 2012, and $185,000 in 2013 to specifically support Ms Ko's Olympic bid. The level of support for 2014 has yet to be determined, the statement says.
Now a pro, Ms Ko has pocketed winnings of more than $280,000 this year, $250,000 from the LPGA circuit and more than $30,000 for second place at the NZ Open.
Her sponsors include Callaway Golf and ANZ.
Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union, says Ms Ko should not need taxpayer money anymore.
"Golf is one of the richest sports in the world,” he says. “Why should Kiwi taxpayers, most of whom earn less than Ms Ko, subsidise someone earning hundreds of thousands? So far this year Ms Ko has collected more than $280,000, not including sponsorship money. Surely it’s enough for Ms Ko to refrain from seeking taxpayer-funded welfare."
The $208,000 NZ Golf is asking for now includes $115,000 in transportation and accommodation costs for Ms Ko and her mother.
NZ Golf lodged the application when Ms Ko was still an amateur but chief executive Dean Murphy says the funding is still necessary. Ms Ko is eyeing the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
Mr Murphy told Fairfax it was common for professional athletes to receive taxpayer money and the opportunity to make money in a particular sport should not be a major consideration in an application to High Performance Sport.
Mr Williams disagrees.
"We're staggered by NZ Golf's attitude to taxpayers’ money,” he says. “Taxpayer funding should focus on fostering talent, not subsidising professionals already earning hundreds of thousands. The money should be going to developing potential talent, not subsidising a sportswoman receiving generous amounts from corporate sponsors.”
In addition to providing performance support to New Zealand’s elite athletes, High Performance Sport also provides investment to support the high performance programmes of targeted national sports organisations, and specific campaigns.
In 2012, the organisation spent $800,000 on the rugby Sevens and an additional $1.75 million for the event in 2013.
The nine targeted sports are the six Olympic disciplines of athletics, bike, rowing, swimming, triathlon and yachting, along with rugby, cricket and netball.
High Performance Sport chief executive Alex Baumann says the organisation has supported Ms Ko because of her potential to win an Olympic medal.
“We target our investment at sports and athletes that have potential to win at Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and world championships for non-Olympic Sports,” he says.
When New Zealanders win medals for their country, it makes the nation feel proud, he says.
“As we have said publicly before, it’s likely that Lydia’s earnings as a professional will mean that she no longer needs our financial support and we’re continuing to talk to New Zealand Golf about that. There may be other support we can provide to Lydia such as help from our specialist staff to assist her through to the Olympics,” Mr Baumann says.
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