Major sports organisations struggling to comply with Government gender balance rules

FAI, IRFU and GAA still have significant administrative restructuring to do to guarantee future funding

Ireland’s major sports organisations are in a race against time to satisfy Government gender balance requirements.

They face losing up to 50 per cent of their funding if females do not constitute 40 per cent of their boards by the end of 2023.

Neither of Ireland’s two biggest governing bodies the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) currently have 40 per cent female representation on their boards.

At present, the FAI board includes two women, Liz Joyce and Catherine Guy, while the IRFU Committee has just three, Fiona Steed, Su Carty and Yvonne Comer in its 24-person committee.

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The GAA lists four members on its board of directors – Larry McCarthy, Tom Ryan, Peter McKenna and Padraig O’Ceidigh – while the Olympic Federation of Ireland, whose president Sarah Keane is female, achieved gender balance in 2020.

At the publication of the core grants to sports organisations on Monday, 39 National Governing Bodies (NGB) registered 30% or more female representation at board level with a number already reporting a 40/60 gender split on their board.

At the end of 2021 the sports with the required balance were Badminton Ireland, Croquet Association of Ireland, Fencing Ireland, Golf Ireland, Gymnastics Ireland, Irish Sailing Association, Irish Taekwondo Union, Irish Waterski & Wakeboard Federation, National Community Games, Special Olympics Ireland, Student Sport Ireland, Swim Ireland, Volleyball Ireland, Federation of Irish Sport, Olympic Federation of Ireland, Sport Ireland, Rugby League Ireland, Hockey Ireland, and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association

The FAI, IRFU and GAA were again the biggest recipients of funding. A total of €2,389,653 has been allocated to the GAA and €2,250,843 to the IRFU.

The Memorandum of Understanding agreed between the Government and the FAI, allows for €5.8 million to be made available to them for football development programmes, pending approval by the board of Sport Ireland.

Diversity and inclusion along with improved governance and greater gender balance have been identified as key priorities for 2023. In addition to the provision of increased core funding in this year, a specific winter initiative aimed at increasing sports participation and boosting NGB & Club Membership also features.

“As part of our ongoing investment, it is important that key Government policies relating to diversity and inclusion, gender balance and governance as well as our Covid-19 recovery initiatives are prioritised and I welcome the inclusion of these priority areas in Sport Ireland’s terms and conditions of grant funding for next year,” said Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD.

“Continued Government investment in sport will be essential in ensuring a full recovery for the sport sector after two difficult years of Covid-19 restrictions and also in ensuring that that our objectives for sport are achieved. The €15 million investment in core funding for NGBs this year reflects Sport Ireland’s recognition of the central role that NGBs play in Irish sport.”

Overall, 2022 sees an increase in NGB investment with an additional €1,155,000 going into the sector bringing the total core funding levels up to €15m.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times