Staff salaries defended by athletics chief Foley

Derval O'Rourke - hard-hitting comments about funding

Athletics Ireland chief executive John Foley has defended the salaries of its High Performance staff, but refused to reveal how much each individual is being paid.

There is an estimated €200,000 spend on salaries of those charged with running the High Performance Unit (HPU), including the wage of HPU director Kevin Ankrom and teams coordinator Gillian Brosnan.

The salaries of the HPU support team equates to 20% of the association’s HPU budget for 2014 and far exceeds the €168,000 allocated to the country’s top 11 athletes for the current season, four of whom produced medals at world and European level last year.

And while the breakdown in funding awarded to each athlete is made public, there is no such transparency regarding the wages of either Foley or Ankrom. Foley told the Irish Examiner his staff have a right to privacy and all wages were approved by the Irish Sports Council.

“When it comes to individual salaries they have a right to privacy. I have a staff of people that I want to respect and who are paid to the market rate. When we hire a new High Performance director or a new chief executive they will be paid the appropriate salary on the market,” he said.

“I as the chief executive recommend salaries to the board and we have oversight not only from the board, but from the Sports Council and so on. So I am very satisfied indeed that the salaries that we pay are appropriate.

“The prerequisite for everything we do is that we have a High Performance Unit and therefore the prerequisite is that we have a High Performance director and that we actually have support staff. For example, we have one person whose job is to ensure the athletes get where they need to get to regards travel. We have another person to ensure the coordination of the 88 funded athletes at all levels so we can get them the treatment they need.”

HPU director Ankrom elected to hold his counsel on whether his salary should be made public knowledge, saying it was a matter for the board of Athletics Ireland. He also claimed his wage and that of other support staff is not taken from the money available to athletes through funding.

“There is a criteria that if you don’t have a High Performance system in place, if you don’t have a director or other people driving the programme we would across the board receive less funding. That is the remit from the general criteria coming from the Sports Council.

“The point is, regardless of the salaries of the staff, it’s not taking away from the athlete.”

Ankrom said on paper only €12,000 had been awarded to Derval O’Rourke, whose hard-hitting comments in her Irish Examiner column on Tuesday sparked the debate on financial transparency, but the former world indoor champion was in fact receiving in excess of €20,000.

“An athlete may be given €12,000, but at the end of the day it is just cash in hand. They are getting much more on top of that in travel, services and competition.

“I had a discussion with Derval in November and December moving forward, I told her I supported her and I wanted to help. I laid out that this is what you have achieved, this is what we will fund you at and then on top of that, €12,000 isn’t €12,000. If you look at the €8,000 for her surgery, that is €20,000 right there alone.”

Foley added top brass were open to a face-to-face meeting with O’Rourke to discuss her funding allocation for 2014.


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