Arguably the most influential position in shaping the future of Australian sport has been given to businesswoman Josephine Sukkar, the co-founder and principal of construction company Buildcorp and president of Australian women’s rugby.
- Ms Sukkar replaces John Wylie after he completed his eight-year term in November
- The job oversees the competing demands of grassroot programs and high-performance sport
- Mr Wylie said Ms Sukkar is an “excellent appointment”
Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck on Sunday named Ms Sukkar chair of the Australian Sports Commission with oversight of Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport.
“For three decades, Ms Sukkar has helped lead a successful Australian family-owned business through many challenges, including the global financial crisis and most recently COVID-19,” Mr Colbeck said.
“During this time, she has also been a strong contributor to the national sporting community, most notably driving increased female participation through her involvement in Australian Women’s Rugby.
“I am delighted she will now use her experience and passion to lead Australian sport as we navigate through a COVID-safe world.
“Ms Sukkar will play a vital part in shaping the future of sport and I look forward to working with her to ensure the sport sector in Australia is prepared, adaptable and resilient.”
Part of the challenge awaiting Ms Sukkar, when she begins her three-year term on February 8, is to rebuild trust in the sector following the sports rorts affair and strengthen the sometimes-testy relationship between Olympic and non-Olympic sports.
The Australian Sports Commission also navigates the often competing elements of grassroots programs against investment in high-performance sport.
Ms Sukkar said she was honoured to be appointed to the position and looks forward to fostering growth in Australian sport.
“I look forward to engaging with Australian athletes and sports organisations to address their challenges, particularly those posed by COVID-19,” Ms Sukkar said.
“I also want to help them achieve their goals and build participation in our many sports.”
The position has been vacant since November when outgoing chair John Wylie completed his eight-year term.
“This is an excellent appointment,” Mr Wylie told The Ticket.
“Josephine leads a successful business, is well regarded in the business world and is president of Australian Women’s Rugby.
The past year has put a financial strain on most sports as COVID-19 government regulations meant an extended pause on kids sport with a direct impact on funding from memberships.
At the other end of the scale, high-profile sports such as the AFL, NRL and Tennis Australia have seen their own revenues fall as they accessed their “rainy-day” funds to keep elite competitions going and at least generate some income through broadcasting, advertising and gambling revenue.
While it was hoped 2021 would bring the COVID-19 challenges to a close, with winter approaching and the lessons learned from the northern hemisphere it is likely sports will continue to struggle in the foreseeable future.
Part of Ms Sukkar’s challenge will be to continue the search for a sports model that is sustainable into the future, finding the perfect balance between government funding, private investment and the huge contribution made by volunteers in Australia — without whom most sports would collapse.