O’Rourke hit by €28,000 cut

No David Gillick, Derval O’Rourke down €28,000 despite almost medalling at the recent European Indoors and €12,000 set aside for Kenny Egan despite him having announced his retirement from the ring back in February.

There are, at first glance, any number of sticks with which to beat the Irish Sports Council (ISC) after yesterday’s funding announcements for 2013 but the reality is somewhat more complex with the unveiling of what is a new high performance carding scheme.

The first thing to point out is that there is less money to go round, fewer athletes in the mix and less sports at the trough than was the case 12 months ago. Seven sports have been dropped from the individual scheme, in fact, and 66 athletes have disappeared from its roster.

Yet judging who got what, or didn’t, has been made all the more complicated by dint of the fact that national governing bodies (NGBs) are now being encouraged to take a greater role in the distribution of high performance funds under the new structures.

Some of those people conspicuous by their absence on yesterday’s list will actually receive financial assistance to the tune of five-figure sums from their NGBs while others who are included but may feel short-changed may yet avail of further financial backing.

In all, €645,000 has been shaved from the central carding scheme fund to provide individual grants for athletes. That is a drop of over 27% but ISC CEO John Treacy stressed this was not alarming given the new guidelines and the fact it is a post-Olympic year.

That said, there were what appeared to be glaring anomalies such as why O’Rourke’s grant should spiral from €40,000 to €12,000, why Martyn Irvine’s world championship-winning efforts in a Minsk velodrome should bump him up to merely €20,000 and why Fionnuala Britton should be on the same after her European Cross Country and Indoor medals.

Timing has something to do with this in that some decisions, such as that regarding Egan, were taken prior to being overtaken by events.

Every query was, in fairness, addressed and answered in considerable detail by the ISC’s High Performance director Finbarr Kirwan who pointed out that support includes various support services and coaches as well as hard cash.

“We have to work to the budget that we have been given. What we were looking for was a (High) Performance Director led programme for each sport and to move away from that idea of individual funding for individual athletes. We want strong performance management.

“I am sure there are some athletes you might ask about: where is Mark English and Stephen Colvert? The two of those are covered through the performance plan and are getting strong support both in services and direct funding, both €10,000 in those cases, from the money (Athletics Ireland) has got from the Council.”

Judging the merits or otherwise of individual cases is made all the more difficult by the fact that, although the ISC will no longer make provision for performance-related bonuses or injury and illness, it is still within the rights of NGBs to do so.

“It will definitely evolve,” said Kirwan of the carding scheme. “We know where we are after Athens in 2004, after Beijing and after London and we are substantially progressed. We have spoken that the ambition is for us to be a nation that can win more medals in Olympic Games.

“We are catching up with other nations like Denmark and New Zealand and we believe the systems that are being put in place are approaching that standard.”

High performance funds allocated directly to NGBs were also announced yesterday and showed a drop of 5.3% on 2012 figures. Core NGB grants were down by 2.2% while Local Sports Partnerships suffered a combined dip in publicly funded income of 7.3%.


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