'Entitlement culture' of athletes targeted

Sat, Nov 17, 2012, 00:00

Sports grants:In revising how money and support is delivered to our high-end athletes, the layered document presented yesterday for the Irish Sports Council by KKP Management Consultants seeks to focus on Olympic athletes, shift the emphasis for funding and the administration of those funds to governing bodies and invest in athletes based on performance and potential.

On the face of it those are reasonable things to do although just how many governing bodies are ‘fit for purpose’ and capable of disbursing large amounts of money is a moot point.

A cynic might also read the document and see cost-cutting at every turn. It is not explicitly mentioned but given the budget for sport has been cut by 5 per cent each year over the last several years and will be cut by the same amount again in the next Budget, the combination of accountability and less money being moved to the governing bodies could be viewed as much political as practical.

Still, if streamlining has become part of life, the analysis does offer ways of improving the management of potential medal winners and focuses on several aspects of the ‘sports grant’ life that can be improved.

The study takes issue with athletes who have been characterised as living in an “entitlement culture” whereby they come to view funding as a way of maintaining a lifestyle rather than an investment geared towards pushing them towards the pinnacle of their sport.

The old carding scheme, says the report, “can be and has been used to support athletes who are deemed unlikely to achieve anything more of progress towards a podium position but for whom funding has become a way of life.”

Dead wood

In essence they say that the governing bodies must “line up” behind their “very talented” athletes. There is no mention of giving the “very talented” athlete more money but explicitly targets the perceived dead wood, which the governing bodies will have responsibility for removing.

The three levels of funding of the old carding system should be replaced with a more flexible banding scheme with more references to “individual and household income”, it explains.

In other words the cost of living has come down so athletes should need less money for their day to day expenses.

They propose to remove the Performance Incentive Payments (PIP), which are termed generous. So the Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlans of this Olympic world won’t get their flat €10,000 bonus for winning an Olympic medal. Instead they will get “linked flexibility to build forms of incentive based remuneration”. The proposal is that the governing body will decide what that is.

A report published by Forbes during the Olympic Games in August cited what other countries pay out. For American athletes a gold medal was worth €20,000, silver and bronze €12,000 and 8,000, respectively. Italy paid more than €143,000 for a gold medal and Russia €105,000, while neighbouring Ukraine handed over €80,000 for gold, €60,000 for silver and €40,000 for bronze. Even Ghana promised its gold medal winners a payout of €15,000. Host nation Britain did not pay out bonuses for medal winners.

Compared to the UK, Ireland is indeed generous but compared to other nations, it is not.

Social responsibility

One of the interesting points of the top end athletes is an insistence that funding should be tied to ‘social responsibility’ so that the sport can benefit from successful athletes’ added profile and visibility.

The medal-winning boxers from London have already hammered out four and five year deals with the ISC so just how this squares up with the proposed new funding arrangements goes unexplained.

There should also be an attempt to target the dual payments between the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland and the ISC, says the 37-page document, adding that the issue of double funding for athletes living in Northern Ireland and the fact that both bodies are out of synch should be addressed.

It begs the question why the ISC should be interested in what Britain hands over to their athletes except in so far as it can save money this side by stamping down on the “double funding”.

There are also references to sports in which athletes earn money through participation in races or competitions during the Olympic cycles and proposes that pro-Tour cyclists should not get support under Carding.

There are many proposals set out and broadly speaking athletes are going to have to be more responsible, focused and performance driven. In many cases they will be monitored by specialists in their sport who can fine-tune needs and be less rigid in their approach.

In essence though, what the document explicitly spells out is the need to move away from the three-tiered Podium (€40,000), World Class (€20,000) and International (€12,000) categories towards a system of less fat and more medals.

Reform plan to maximise: Scant resources

The Performance Incentive Payments, medical exemptions and pro rata payments will no longer be part of the Carding Scheme. It is for the NGB to take care of these elements in future.

Teams and pro-Tour team cyclists are no longer eligible for support under Carding. They can be supported under Performance Plans.

Sports that do not have a supported performance plan will not be eligible for Carding in 2013.

These include archery, fencing, table tennis, taekwondo and gymnastics. Athletes can be supported by the NGB through their core grant allocation.


BOXING8 @ €40,000

1 @ €20,000

11 @ €12,000


Total funding€472,000

ATHLETICS4 @ €40,000

3 @ €20,000

11 @ €12,000


Total funding €352,000

CYCLING3 @ €40,000

5 @ €20,000

5 @ € 12,000


Total Funding€280,000

SWIMMING1 @ €40,000

5 @ €12,000


Total Funding €100,000

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