Back off our Olyroos.
Reading the reviews of the Serbia game I felt quite cheesed off. It is almost like people thought we were going over there as favourites and 'medal hopes.' If Australia were prepared to invest and focus the time an effort on this football code - then yes I think we would be the best in the world. This syndrome is best typified by the 'Olympic station' that is running an ad to get people to watch its coverage of the Olympics that starts with AFL players going up for a high ball, then covers a whole series of sports that are at the Olympics. The message was - Australia is a world class sporting nation. Well, we divert a lot of resources into three codes of football that aren't regarded as world games. And our number one code AFL is not played by any other nation and will never be at the Olympics.
Each AFL team spends between $30m and $40m per year on players, officials and supporting equipment. AFL player preparation and conditioning is probably world's best practice (Jason Ackermanis put this view some months ago comparing the AFL warmdowns to the EPL where players are gone in 15 minutes).
My guess is that an A-League team may spend $5m to $10m with only around $2m to $2.5m (including the marquee) on players and their fitness. So when audiences back A-League teams to AFL standards, or Japanese or Qatar standards, then we can expect an A-League backed team to win a medal at the Olympics.
Australia wins medals in sports where we do more than other countries to back that sport - eg swimming in America struggles for any profile, and we focus more than other countries on shooting, horse events, rowing, hockey ...
The interesting thing is that Australian Olympic officials are warning than the mood is changing in other countries. So, for example, England will host the 2012 Olympics and wants to match the event with increased medals. It has chosen sports where Australia is relatively strong to focus its $1 billion talent development funding. They are also hiring Australian coaches in sports where we excel. We are also seeing the bizarre in other codes like a small French union team being able to pay more for Sonny Bill than an established Australian league team.
Are we prepared to shift our sporting dollars to match this? Not just in football, but in all our Olympic sports?