Athletics Ireland optimistic about future funding

Three new events have moved the association close to self-sufficiency

John Foley, chief executive of Athletics Ireland.

John Foley, chief executive of Athletics Ireland.

Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 11:28

All sporting federations are bracing themselves for yet another trimming in their overall finances after tomorrow’s budget but Athletics Ireland is already reporting a bumper year in commercially-backed events which will help ease the pain of reduced Government support.

Three newly established mass participation events – one of which embraces Dublin’s corporate community - have moved the association closer to self-sufficiency, according to John Foley, chief executive of Athletics Ireland.

“Obviously we will continue to depend on Government funding, but from our point of view, and the same for most sporting federations, we need to draw more resources for ourselves,” says Foley. “Much of this is simply about being able to continue doing what we’re doing in terms of high performance, supporting athletes, hiring more coaches.

“We’ve had three major events this year, which have been hugely valuable to us. Last month we staged the Grant Thornton Corporate 5km Team Challenge, in Dublin. We doubled the entry from last year, to 750 teams of four. That has a sound sponsorship and we’d hope to grow that again next year.

“The same with the Rock n Roll franchise, which we’ve brought into our national half marathon, staged in Dublin in August. The Competitor Group, who manage those races, pay us a fee, and again that’s hugely valuable for us. We also have the Samsung Night Run, in April, and the plan is to take that to other cities in 2014, such as Cork, starting at the same time in Dublin.

‘Funding opportunity’
“We also have the Remembrance Run coming up, next month, and that’s another funding opportunity for us. And we have ambitions to take these events outside of Dublin as much as possible too. All of these provide significant funding for the coaching structures and development of the sport.”

The Federation of Irish Sports has been highlighting the importance of reducing the dependence on Government funding, not so much because there’s less of it: the ideal operating model is 60 per cent self-sufficiency, although some sporting federations rely on the Government for as much as 90 per cent of their funding.

“Just three years ago, our funding would have been 60 per cent Government, 40 per cent from our own resources,” says Foley. “Now it’s closer to 60 per cent from our own resources and 40 per cent from Government funding. Obviously, if the Government funding comes down, and your own resources stay the same, those percentages shift anyway, but certainly our own percentages have gone up.”

In last year’s budget, core funding for sport for 2013 was cut by around 2.5 per cent to €43.1 million, less than the anticipated five per cent, but still significantly down on the €57.3 million that was allocated just five years previous, in 2008. Athletics Ireland received €974,190 in core funding for 2013, and high performance funding was cut from €887,672 to €800,000, with five per cent cuts in each of the previous two years.

Last Monday, representatives from many of the 59 national sporting federations met with Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, to discuss potential implications of the budget: “Another percentage cut has been well flagged,” says Foley. “I was with the group that met the Minister, and we’re all trying different ways to become more self-sufficient, but I think the importance of working together has to be highlighted too.

“Our hope is that funding could be at least kept at the same level as last year. We all understand how difficult the economic environment still is, but there is also increasing evidence of the importance of sport. “