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I have been told that it costs $5,000 a year to be a member of the AFT/AFS. Is that correct?
No, that is not correct. There are fees charged to belong to the AFT/AFS however these fees go towards costs that a fencer who wants to compete at an international level would have to pay anyway. Here’s how it works: the fees athletes normally pay to their personal coach, to attend squad training, to attend training camps and for official’s costs when travelling overseas with an Australian Team are paid in quarterly instalments through the AFF. The AFF then distributes the fees to the AFT/AFS member’s personal coach for individual lessons and State Association for squad sessions, and applies the balance towards the costs of officials travel expenses. All of the fees paid go to paying the costs of AFT/AFS members that non-AFT/AFS members have to pay directly to coaches, State associations and the AFF for officials travel costs if they are part of an Australian Team competing in international competitions. Athletes’ individual travel costs are not covered and are additional to the AFT/AFS fees. This is the case for all athletes whether AFT/AFS members or non-AFT/AFS members.
The figure of $5000 was an initial estimate at the start of the AFT in 2010 of what those costs would likely total over a year, to give potential AFT members then an idea of the costs involved in competing internationally as an elite fencer. In practice it has generally been less than this because all State associations have generously subsidised to varying degrees the cost of squad training sessions. AFT members get value for their fees because all of the fees paid by an AFT member go towards paying that AFT member’s individual costs. None of the fees paid by the AFT members are used for any other purpose. A portion ($500) of the AFS member’s fees will go towards paying coaches and HPP staff for the additional workload for non-AFT members.
AFT members have, since the inception of the program, had access to sponsorship benefits (AFT clothing, discounted Leon Paul equipment and clothing, etc.) that is unavailable to non-AFT athletes. These may or may not continue as existing arrangements fall due for renewal.
Sports like fencing that don’t receive high levels of government assistance or other external funding such as corporate sponsorship have to find ways of funding their own programs. While everyone involved in fencing would like to be able to pay coaches and send athletes to international competitions at no expense to the athletes this is not our reality. Therefore, the AFF has the choice of self-funded programs or no programs at all. The AFF is working hard to obtain external sources of funding but until it has more success in fund-raising it is an unfortunate reality that not everyone will have the financial means to be part of these self-funded programs. However, as explained above, the cost of belonging to the AFT/AFS is no higher than the cost for non-AFT members to train for and compete in international competitions.