Funding for top athletes down on last year


IRISH SPORTS COUNCIL FUNDING:FUNDING FOR top Irish athletes as well as overall funding packages for high performance sport in Ireland has fallen since last year, with less than a year and a half to the London Olympic Games in 2012.

The €7.8 million allocation to high performance sport announced yesterday by the Irish Sports Council (ISC) is €550,000 less than the package for 2010, while the money given to individual athletes through the council’s carding scheme has fallen from €2,647,000 to €1,954,500.

The carding scheme, which is the State’s method of distributing money to medal hopes such as boxing’s John Joe Nevin and Katie Taylor, swimming’s European medallist Gráinne Murphy and athletic’s Derval O’Rourke, has, however, kept the top Irish athletes at a high level of funding.

According to the chairman of the High Performance Committee, Eamonn Coghlan, there will be no adverse effect on those hoping to win medals in London next year.

“Generally speaking, the athletes getting the Podium and World Class grants are getting pretty much the same as it has been,” said Coghlan. “We were determined to maintain high performance funding levels this critical year.

“Irish athletes won 30 medals in international championships competition in 2010, an incredible performance that demonstrates the effectiveness of the long-term strategy of the Council.”

The Podium athletes are the most successful on the sliding scale and each get €40,000. Eight of these are boxers, who had their most successful European Championships results ever last year, four are athletes, three cyclists and three Paralympians are among the best funded group of 22.

The elite athletes command €1.95 million overall for the year, with direct grants going to 115 athletes.

However, Coghlan pointed out that despite the investment the Olympic Games are becoming more difficult to qualify for, with qualifications times in many events far beyond the reach of many of Ireland’s elite athletes.

“Times in athletics, for example, are ferociously hard,” said the former world champion. “The A standard for the 1,500 metres is 3.35 or better.

“Do you know what a 3.35 for 1,500 metre is? That’s a 3.51 or 3.52 mile just to get to the Olympics. I don’t know any athlete from Ireland in the last number of years that’s even gone under 3.58. Exceptionally hard. No question about that.”

Overall the ISC announced a funding package of €25.6 million, which will be invested in 57 national governing bodies across high performance sports and local sports partnerships. The local partnerships provide opportunities in sport with particular emphasis on those who face barriers and includes women in sport programmes.

It was also pointed out yesterday that putting money into sport is highly productive in real ways. The sector employs 38,000 people, generates two per cent of all Irish consumer spending, and provides the Exchequer with €149 for every €100 invested by the State. It is also seen as the biggest generator of social capital in Ireland with an economic value estimated at €500 million.

“In 2010 Irish athletes won 30 medals in eight sports at major championship level,” said ISC chairman Kieran Mulvey. “The equivalent figure in 2006 was nine medals. The 2010 highlights included five medals for the Irish team at the European Boxing Championships and the success of Katie Taylor, Derval O’Rourke and Gráinne Murphy.”