Olympic stars face cutbacks
Sports Council will hand out fewer grants in 2013
IRELAND'S top athletes can expect some heavy cuts to their individual grants in the next two years, after a stark warning from the Irish Sports Council (ISC) yesterday.
A budget of €10.5million was announced for high performance sport, roughly the same level as last year, but this was maintained mainly because this is the final leg of an Olympic cycle.
Hit with consecutive budget cuts of 5pc annually, and forewarned of the same in 2013 and '14, the ISC is undergoing a major review of individual schemes and high performance (HP) programmes.
As a result, it is expected that there will be fewer grants for athletes next year, and those grants will be reduced, as the qualification standards are about to get even stricter.
"Changes are coming, things are tight and we will have to make strategic cuts in the next two years," said Finbarr Kirwan, the ISC's director of high performance.
He credited the consistent levels of funding (between €5.9m and €6.8m in HP programme grants annually since 2009) with improving international medal hauls. During the last two Olympic cycles, Ireland won 54 and 70 medals respectively, but, since 2009, that number has increased to 109.
Ireland operates a three-tier system of individual grants: €40,000 a year for medallists ('podium class'), €20,000 for 'world class' (usually top eight-10) and €12,000 for 'international class'.
Of the 118 athletes who received grants across 23 sports yesterday, just 27 of them got the maximum €40,000. Yet it is the next two levels which are expected to be most affected when the bar is raised next year.
Ireland's world-class boxers, runners, walkers, cyclists and sailors were the biggest beneficiaries yesterday, and the Sports Council also remained loyal to many proven performers.
David Gillick retained his top grant, despite an injury-wracked 2011, as did canoeing's Eoin Rheinisch (fourth in slalom in Beijing) and clay-pigeon shooter Derek Burnett, who both still have to qualify for London 2012.
A total of €2.3m was distributed in individual grants, and another €6.68m for the high performance plans of 20 sports, including €660,000 for the Paralympics and €440,000 to the Olympic Council.
Ireland's high-class boxers got almost half a million in individual grants and another €755,000 for their high performance programme.
Six boxers (Joe Ward, Katie Taylor, Ray Moylett, Darren O'Neill, Paddy Barnes and John Joe Nevin) received €40,000, and another three (John Joe Joyce, Eric Donovan and Kenny Egan) got £30,000 each.
Michael Conlan, who, with O'Neill and Ward, is one of a trio of boxers already qualified, got just €20,000 -- the allocations were all agreed with the individual sports previously.
In track and field, which got the highest HP grant (€885,000 plus nearly €350,000 to individuals), first-time Olympic qualifiers including Deirdre Ryan, Ciaran O'Lionaird and Linda Byrne have come on to the scheme and Alistair Cragg has returned to it.
Fionnuala Britton's grant improved to €20,000 after her cross-country gold, which is not as well regarded as a track medal.