The Irish Sports Council today has unveiled a €6.17m package of investment into 18 different sports.
The 2006 scheme will include a performance incentive payment, which will trigger additional payments should athletes meet agreed targets in each year.
Eighty senior athletes will receive support under the 2006 scheme. Twenty athletes qualify as world class with a further eight podium-potential athletes being placed on contract by the Irish Sports Council.
The crew of the world rowing silver medal winning lightweight four (Richard Archibald, Paul Griffin, Tim Harnedy, Eugene Coakley) and four paralympic athletes (Derek Malone, David Malone, John McCarthy and Jason Smyth) have agreed contracts with the council and the relevant sports organisation with the specific aim of allowing them to concentrate on their preparations for the Olympics in Beijing.
A total of 155 young athletes qualify for support in the junior and developmental categories. Team sports are included for the first time with the cerebral palsy soccer squad and three of the international hockey squads meeting the criteria for support in 2006.
The "focus" high performance sports receive €4.25m in funding to support performance plans. These plans, prepared and implemented by the sports, set out information on training and competition plans, supports required and targets to be met.
Ossie Kilkenny, Chairperson, Irish Sports Council: "We have come a long way in terms of developing a high performance sports system in Ireland. The next, significant, piece of the jigsaw is the establishment of an Institute in Sport to provide world-class coaching and required sports medicine and science supports.
"Yesterday the Irish Sports Council board approved its proposals on the Institute which will be sent to the Department with a view to a final decision being made by Government."
Investment in junior and developmental categories has increased by 36% over 2005, rising to €583,000. The number for athletes has gone from 266 to 235 plus four squads from team sports.
The Irish Sports Council signed off on the proposal for the establishment of an Irish Institute of Sport on February 7 which will now be submitted to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism for government approval.
Today’s announcement complements the €7.63m in grants announced for the 57 national governing bodies of sport in January. The council budget for 2006 is €40.9m.