Money ruins the sport. Do you agree

"Wiener Zeitung": Austrian sport is not exactly a shining example of the currently hotly debated topic of transparency. The new sports funding law should change that. What will actually happen?

Peter Wittmann: I expect the administration to be simplified; that it becomes more feasible to get hold of funding. The current system is so complicated that it is difficult on its own. Second, I am an advocate of a transparency database so that everyone can see who is receiving which funding. We have already set up something like this internally. Whether this is then used or expanded, or whether only the preliminary work is used, will also be seen from which point it is administered.

Internal control mechanisms often do not work. An external, professional control is therefore involved in the conversation. How do you feel about it?

We are open to everything, including external audits. You just have to take into account that it is much more expensive and then weigh up.

The Court of Auditors recently again called for general and special sports funding to be merged in order to disentangle the system. Is that an issue?

We give a clear no to this. Because that would mean introducing state sport. The peculiarity of sport, that it can survive all political changes - on the one hand in terms of breadth, on the other hand that the top did not get under the wheels - is that it is not dependent on the respective minister.

Nevertheless, a lot of political PR is traditionally done with the various funding pots. . .

Naturally. Everyone wants to be the one who can say, I'm the one who gives the sport the money. I also stood on the other side once. But in other countries that don't have this dual system like us, it's much worse. We have the autonomy of sport, which regulates a lot.

The new law has been tinkered with for years. Now it will come into force in 2013 at the earliest. Why this delay?

You have to ask the minister (Norbert Darabos; note). The submission must come from the ministry. We had a discussion process, brought every association in, and everyone contributed ideas. I forwarded this to the ministry. I don't know why nothing has happened yet.

There are voices claiming that you and Peter Haubner (President of the Sports Union and ÖVP mandate; note), among others, would block the law in order not to have to give up influence. . .

You can see that these people have no idea. How are we supposed to prevent a law? It's like with any law: it is introduced by the minister, then it goes to the Council of Ministers, and then it goes to parliament.

. . . In which, among other things, you and Haubner sit. . .

Yes, but we finished our homework a year ago and passed on our suggestions. There is no reason why we should keep the process from continuing. It is not up to us when the minister issues his draft. He could have done that a year or two ago.

There is often the impression of a conflict between umbrella and professional associations, between grassroots and professional sports. Doesn't that slow down certain processes?

I don't get the impression in the internal discussions. At the moment, a togetherness can be determined, if only to maintain the autonomy. It is important to everyone to remain independent of the political decision-makers. We're in the same boat across from the ministry.

There has been criticism from the professional associations that too little money goes to where it is needed and that too much trickles away. Doesn't that have to change?

On the one hand, one has to say that we have doubled the money that is guaranteed to the sport to 80 million euros. The associations must also see to it that they adapt their own structures in such a way that it also benefits the sport. It's easy to say there should be more. But that is not enough. On the other hand, many countries envy us the fact that we have funding for both top-class and amateur sports. In many countries, popular sport falls by the wayside. This also makes it more expensive for everyone to do sports. And getting older actively is the greatest challenge of our time. It is therefore extremely important to be able to offer an adequate offer for all ages. This again benefits the healthcare system.

However, the situation for top-class sport is becoming more and more difficult. There is little money to be made in many sports from marketing, TV and ticket income, more and more sponsors, especially state-subsidized companies that have been major sponsors of the sport, are withdrawing - also due to the anti-corruption laws. Where should the money come from, if not through more efficient funding?

That is a common problem. It's not just the state-supported companies, it's also the small builder in town who can't give any more money. The withdrawal of these small, regional sponsors hits the sport particularly hard.

There is still the possibility of saving money through structural changes. In this regard, the trinity of the umbrella organizations Askö, Union and Asvö is repeatedly criticized. How do you justify this at a time when the political significance for the individual sportsman has become practically irrelevant?

First of all, someone should explain to me what you can save yourself. The umbrella organizations also have a regional significance: In the east of Austria the Askö is strong, in the west the Union, in the middle the Asvö. In each federal area there are maybe ten people who are paid; but behind that there are about 300,000 organized volunteers. I could deduct a third of those if I merged. Then I would have weakened the structure by a third and achieved nothing just because I had saved three people upstairs. You'd break a lot more. The catchphrase sounds good, of course, but you have to deal with what umbrella organizations are doing. The accusation arose back in the 1980s. But a lot has changed since then.

But the system is still considered to be encrusted. What is different?

The umbrella organizations are no longer administrators of the clubs, it is about offers to society. We take buses to companies, check employees for back problems and offer them a 40-day course. We have adequate offers in retirement homes. We do sports in Vienna with a health insurance certificate for diabetes. These are no longer those associations where the capos travel through the countries and maybe pay a shower tray. These are modern services to the state that would all cease to exist.

Why then does the development of the children go in the opposite direction? Why are more and more children getting fatter and have more and more bad posture?

That is a terrible social development. The movement is replaced by virtual movement on the game console. Now there are games in which you can be active yourself. That gives hope. But we are also represented in 5000 schools with "Fit for Austria". The responsibility goes in the direction of organized sport, because the gymnastics hours have been massively cut in schools. The discussion about reducing the general supply in this situation by ruining the umbrella organizations is a very dangerous one. Everything is ruined quickly.

Now there is the new model of recreational educators, where trainers can look after children at schools through additional training. What do you expect from it?

This is a huge opportunity. We can come to the afternoon care in the all-day schools every day. We can deliver multi-sport offers. I even see the chance of a daily exercise lesson, which has degenerated into a utopia in recent years. The Ministry of Education has recognized that it is only possible to no longer go out with the teachers if the all-day school is promoted, and at the same time more and more teachers are retiring over the next few years. This is a socio-political change that opens a door for sport. And we have to go through that now.

But does that happen? Will the trainers accept the offer accordingly?

Unfortunately still far too bad. People don't see the opportunity yet. It is up to us to do more advertising, to take measures to make it known. This is not only a responsibility to collect, but also to be brought on our part. It has to be clear to everyone that a door like this won't open again if we miss it now.

To person:
Peter Wittmann (55) has been President of the BSO since 2007 and heads the Askö. He is also a member of the National Council (SPÖ), was State Secretary in the Federal Chancellery responsible for sport from 1997 to 2000 and works as a lawyer in Wiener Neustadt.