Sport Ireland granted €65 million boost in funding – is the distribution fair?

Jack Chambers TD

On October 6th, Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers announced that additional funding of up to €65 million would be available to the sport sector this year. This boost in funds is in addition to the €26.3 million granted to Sport Ireland in Budget 2021

“The covid-19 funding package is intended to support National Governing Bodies of Sport and sports clubs arising from the significant impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the sports sector…” Chambers explained.

The plan outlines funding and support for specific sectors, this includes field sport funding for the GAA, IRFU and FAI, A Resilience Fund to support the other National Governing Bodies of Sport, A Sports Club Resilience Fund to support clubs from all sports and a resumption of Sport and Physical Activity fund amongst others. Chambers explained that the funding will be carried out through grant schemes with Sport Irelands funding partners, including the National Governing bodies of Sport (NGBs).

In the wake of the announcement, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media, Catherine Martin full endorsed the latest investment, adding, “This further allocation of €65 million will allow Sport Ireland, through a number of different schemes, to assist those sporting bodies and clubs which are in greatest need, as we strive to ensure that our sporting sector is supported at every level across the country.”

Seemingly a positive step for the country in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, which halted all sports for over a year, there is still debate over the equality of the distribution of funds amongst the sports.

Kieran Shannon noted in an Irish Examiner Column back in May. “67% of all government grants to Irish athletes will be allocated to GAA county players, male or female.”

For a country so rich in sporting success there is a debate to be had in regards to the equality of funding in the country. With boxers like Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington winning Olympic Gold, the former going on to dominate the professional ranks, Shane Lowry becoming a major champion, Leona Maguire playing a starring role in Europe’s Solheim Cup triumph and Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy claiming Olympic Gold in Rowing.

Minister Chambers responded to these claims by promoting the High-Performance Strategy 2021-2032 that Sport Ireland launched earlier this year. The strategy was set up to highlight which sports deserve more state support and how much support is required in each sport.

However, Chambers also said that it would be wrong to put a focus on so called “successful sports”. “There is always a possibility that an Irish athlete will emerge as an outstanding performer in a sport that has little or no tradition in Ireland” he concluded.

This isn’t the first time that the equality of funding amongst Irish Sport has been questioned.

Back in May of this year the government announced that female GAA players would receive €2.4 million, treble the amount they would receive last year. Although it meant that men and women would receive equal pay it did highlight the big gap between GAA funding and the rest of Irish sport.

At the forefront of the mixed reception were the thoughts of former World Champion Hurdler and Olympian Derval O’Rourke. Despite stating that she is under no illusions as to how influential the GAA is, O’Rourke questioned why equality between sports isn’t looked at in the same way as gender equality.

“…if you’re the minister and are ring-fencing that money into GAA, an incredible sport that does an incredible amount for Irish people, what are you doing then for the other sports? Because the big thing in his statement was equality of treatment and I was looking at Twitter last night and people were asking: ‘Where’s the equality for other sports?’. Speaking to the 42, two Time Irish National record holder O’Rourke questioned whether the government are basing their funding on participation or are they basing it on the so called “Elite Sports”.

It has become clear the debate surrounding sport funding in this country is a necessary one and one that shows no signs of going away.


Rian Noctor

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