The cost of kids’ sport is being flagged as an increasing burden and one that needs to be properly accounted for in family budgets, Western Sydney University academic Michelle Cull says.

The Australian Sports Commission reports that Australians are spending almost $11 billion a year on sport participation, fuelled in part by rising registration fees and a lack of government subsidies.

Cull, a leading academic in financial planning, says the cost of sports – up to $1500 a season, per child ­– is something families are struggling to cover, and that financial planners need to buld it into their money management models.

“That $1500 is per season,” Cull says. “If you have kids playing in the summer and the winter, you could double that cost per child.”

Of the 15 most popular organised sports, the most expensive, Cull’s research found, are golf ($1641), swimming ($1559), tennis ($1381) and cricket ($1142). Rugby league ($342) and netball ($435) are among the cheapest.

Cull says many parents are unaware of all the expenses involved in organised sporting activities, which is why they sometimes fall short financially.

“You’ve got a lot of different levels of costs, including club fees, association fees, state affiliation fees, insurance fees,” she explains. “And sometimes only the state fees are disclosed publicly, then parents get an invoice for extra club fees or whatever, and then you’ve got uniforms and equipment. It all adds up.”

Cull says that instead of relying on the volunteers who run the clubs for cost information, advisers should be encouraging parents to lean on the network of parents already involved.

She also says there are other ways you can reduce the cost.

“Some clubs will have their own arrangements where people can donate second-hand uniforms,” Cull says. “Of course, you can also make friends with people to share equipment.”

Worryingly, Cull says it is common for families to go into debt in order to keep up with their kids’ sporting activities.

“What we found in our survey was that 10 per cent of the respondents had actually borrowed money outside of credit cards to pay for sports activities, and the average amount borrowed was $5000,” she explains. “Some of that borrowing may be related to representative sport, and I’d say some is related to equipment.”

Even more concerning is the trend for parents to use credit cards to fill the financial gaps – something Cull says the authorities are inadvertently promoting.

“35 per cent of respondents reported greater credit card debt due to sport fees, and my great concern is that when all the state bodies decided to implement a national online system, they set it up so you can only pay your fees with a credit card,” Cull says. “It’s not right, I don’t agree with that.”

The research, which Cull conducted with fellow academic Keith Parry, culminated in an article published on asking whether organised sport is becoming too expensive for everyday Australians. Cull notes that the research is now being extended Australia wide.

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