Eamonn Coghlan claims Irish sport is not getting value for money
Fine Gael Senator, speaking at a Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, was also asked if Ireland was considered a “Third World” country when it came to international sport and the Olympic Games
Cian O’Connor riding Blue Loyd 12 on his way to a bronze medal in London.
Former world 5,000m champion Eamonn Coghlan claimed yesterday that Irish sport is not getting value for money.
The Fine Gael Senator, speaking at a Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, was also asked if Ireland was considered a “third world” country when it came to international sport and the Olympic Games.
Coghlan pointed out that if we stripped the success boxing has had in recent Olympics, World and European Championships that the medal return was unacceptable given the amount of money spent on individual grants, which can be as high as €40,000 per year for some athletes.
In the three Olympic Games since 2004, Ireland has won eight Olympic medals, with all but one bronze medal from show jumper Cian O’Connor coming from boxing.
O’Connor also won gold in Beijing but it was subsequently stripped from him when his horse, Waterford Crystal, tested positive for banned substances.
‘Third World country’
“Are we not considered a Third World country when it comes to sport. The general public are asking me the question . . . it’s not acceptable the amount of money that is being spent,” said Coghlan.
“It’s a genuine question that would have come up . . . not just in athletics. Look at swimming. Look at the funding that went into the various sports and the expectation in the various sports and look at the outcomes at the end of the day. The question I was putting there was the amount of money that went and the results that came out; is that good value for the tax payer?”
Chief executive of the Irish Sports Council John Treacy, who was answering questions along with chairman Kieran Mulvey, said that the key measure of success or failure was the number of medals or podium places achieved across all sports.
In the four years up to Athens, Ireland won 54 medals. In the Beijing cycle it was 70 medals and in the London cycle it was 163 medals. That total included 61 medals in 2012 at European, World, Olympic and Paralympic levels across all of the sports.
Investment and success
Grants allocated for High Performance Sport just exceeded €15 million in the Athens cycle, €33 million in the Beijing cycle and €37 million in the London cycle. Mr Mulvey pointed out that there was a clear link between investment and success.
However, Senator Coghlan needed more convincing that those amounts of money added up to what could be called a successful return.
“I don’t think it was good value for money,” said Coghlan. “Definitely not. I’m looking right across the board. If an athlete is getting 40 grand a year for four years that’s a lot of money. And if they don’t even make it to the Olympic Games that’s got to be questioned.
“If an athlete does get 40 grand a year and does make it to the Olympic Games and bombs out that has to be questioned as well. ”
Treacy added that the Olympic Games are one shot every four years and that “it was high risk”.