Two more years of grants welcomed
Despite a further reduction in their value, yesterday’s announcement by Government that the grants scheme for inter-county players would continue for the next two years was welcomed by Gaelic Players Association chief executive Dessie Farrell.
“When the scheme came up for review, I suppose we weren’t sure how it would turn out, so it wasn’t just a matter of rubber-stamping. There was discussion and negotiation but the Minister, department officials and the Irish Sports Council were supportive and accepted the principle of the scheme should be maintained.”
The scheme, which will be funded through the ISC, will be worth €900,000 per annum for the next two years.
It was established five years ago by the late Séamus Brennan when he was minister for sport, and originally funded to the tune of €3,500,000 to help defray the expenses of inter-county players, but almost immediately in the scheme’s second year, as the economy collapsed, the fund was reduced to just over €1,100,000.
Further cuts followed in 2011 as part of a two-year renewal but the grants for last year hadn’t been paid and were dependent on the agreement announced yesterday.
Additional funding was made available to cover the additional cost to the ISC of the scheme when it began in 2008.
Although the cut in overall grants from €990,000 to €900,000 is about twice the general reduction of 5 per cent in sports spending – and leaves the individual grants ranging from about €700 to €400 – Farrell says the agreement is welcome.
“There had been speculation that the scheme would be removed altogether but now we have certainty for last year as well as the next two years instead of having to go back to the table every 12 months.”
There had also been speculation as to the impact on the scheme of the formal integration of the GPA into the GAA just over two years ago and the latter’s agreement to fund the players’ body to the tune of €8,500,000 over five years. But the GPA have always insisted the two funding sources are separate.
“We have always stuck to our guns on that. Professional athletes are still recognised through the tax savings scheme, and this is no different from our perspective. The principle of recognising the contribution players make to the social fabric is very important to us.”
Minister for Sport Michael Ring said: “I accept the principle behind the scheme and felt it was important that it be continued in some form.”
Kieran Mulvey, chairman of the ISC, also welcomed the news.