Julian Alaphilippe, Wout van Aert and Michael Matthews on the podium after the 2020 Milan-San Remo. Image: Sirotti

Opinion: Stadium Sports, Car Racing, Community Sport & Cycling, Is It A Level Playing Field?

Thousands of fans and supporters will head to mainstream sporting events this weekend, just as club racing, crits, Gran Fondo’s and grassroots cycling organisations are hit with further restrictions.

While we respect and understand what’s at stake, and continue to abide by Covid laws and restrictions, we’ve got to ask the question … ‘is it a level playing field?’

A quick check of the austadiums.com website will show recent rugby league crowd numbers of 22,870 in Perth, 7,611 in Townsville, 10,256 in Adelaide and on it goes. 

In NSW, stadium sporting events, racecourses and motor racing tracks are allowed up to 25% of normal capacity so long as patrons are ticketed and seated. BankWest Stadium in western Sydney has seen recent weekend crowds of 3,756, 6,403 and 4,249.

Meanwhile, cycling events, school and community sports have been stopped in their tracks. This week NSW Health issued strict new guidelines for community and school sporting events including – 

  • Cease activities that result in the mixing of participants and staff from different regions, for example by ceasing zone, regional or state championships or competitions. 
  • Cease any activities that result in overnight stays (e.g. multi-day training camps) due to increased risk of COVID transmission in residential-type settings with shared facilities.
  • Cease face-to-face social activities relating to community sports (e.g. award ceremonies, end-of-season social gatherings, post-training group dinners).
  • Avoid carpools or bus travel with people from different household groups where possible. 
  • For local activities, limit spectators to one parent only, where the child requires parental supervision during the sporting activity.

All this as stadiums and racetracks host 1000’s and up to 50 people can gather in a corporate box at the footy!

Just about each week we’ve heard the sad news of another major cycling event being cancelled – our very own Mudgee, Clare, Bowral and Noosa Classics, Melbourne’s Around The Bay, the MS Gong Ride, L’Etape … and today we are seeing the cancellation of local cycling club racing and smaller scale events for at least 6-weeks and possibly longer.

And that’s regardless of the fact event organisers have spent months working on elaborate COVID safety and contingency plans.

Physical Fitness & Mental Wellbeing

Cycling enthusiasts are actively out there exercising, according to local & state laws, and typically in crisp clean air under bright blue skies.

They are maintaining and improving themselves physical and mentally; working on short, mid and long-term goals. In countless cases they are using the personal challenge of a weekly club race or annual Gran Fondo event to help get through this most difficult of years.

You’ve got to wonder how a government has one law for sporting events of a sedentary nature, and almost the exact opposite for club gatherings, events and fondos held over 35, 120, 160 or more kilometre outdoor courses in bright sunshine.

It seems not all sports are on a level playing field, certainly not according to current government regulations and it’s time for this disparity to be addressed.

Cycling delivers so much good for people’s overall health and is one of the biggest contributors to so many fantastic Australian charities. Attracting these passionate and high-spending enthusiasts is a huge economic stimulus for many regions.

In addition to attracting thousands of visitors to hard-hit regional areas, events such as the Bowral Classic are key economic drivers delivering significant benefits, particularly after the drought, bushfires and impacts of COVID.

With a projected economic contribution of over $4million to the Southern Highlands Region alone, these cycling events certainly contribute to wider society.

The reach and flow-on effects of a single cycling event is arguably broader than an entire weekend round of footy. We fuel the booming bike industry, fill hotels, cafes and restaurants, and drive significant annual investment into the various regions.

Going by what we’re seeing and the current regulations, you’d think the NRL or Supercars are the only shows in town. This is so far from the truth it’s laughable … and also upsetting, deflating and disheartening for those regions missing out. 

What we have is an uneven playing field and this urgently needs to be addressed.

Have Your Say – We Would Like To Hear Your Thoughts On The Disparity In Supporter & Participant Numbers At Outdoor Events Across Australia


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Rupert Guinness has literally 'written the book' on ultra-endurance cycling in Australia - 'Overlander' is available online and from good book shops.

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