#Tokyo2020 - Funding for Irish sailing and other watersports remains broadly unchanged in Sport Ireland’s allocations for National Governing Bodies in 2017 — though programmes encouraging women in rowing have received a boost.
However, the accompanying review of the Irish Olympic performance in Rio acknowledges that Ireland's medal target was not reached – raising questions of expectations for Tokyo 2020.
The report highlights that Ireland “does not fund sport seriously”, according to Irish Times sportswriter Johnny Watterson, who cites the absence of long-term funding in favour of annual, non-guaranteed allocations.
More than €20 million for sporting bodies and athletes, in line with last year’s allocations, was announced by Minister of State for Sport Patrick O’Donovan this week as Sport Ireland also published its review of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
The 2017 investment comprises €1.8 million in direct athlete investment; €7.2 million in high performance programme funding; €10.8 million in National Governing Bodies core funding; and €600,000 for the Women in Sport Programme.
The Irish Sailing Association (€323k), Rowing Ireland (€210k), Irish Surfing Association (€65k) and Irish Underwater Council (€60k) will get sums unchanged from 2016, though Canoeing Ireland sees a cut in its allocation by €10,000 (€205k to €195k).
Sailing (€18k) and surfing (€7,000) also see unchanged sums for their Women in Sport programmes, but Rowing Ireland receives a boost to €45,000 from €35,000 in 2016.
Sport Ireland highlights that more than 15,000 women and girls participated in Rowing Ireland’s ‘Get Going Get Rowing’ programme last year, while over 300 took part in the Irish Surfing Women in Sport initiative, and more than 9,000 availed of the Swim Ireland programme for female participation.
In allocations for high performance programmes, the ISA’s share rises by €100,000 to €735,000 for 2017, while Rowing Ireland sees an even bigger boost in its HP grant from €400,000 last year to €525,000.
Canoeing Ireland, however, sees its HP allocation cut by almost 40% to from €65,000 €40,000.
Welcoming the increase in sailing investment, ISA high performance director James O’Callaghan called for perspective on the figures involved.
“We’re pleased with the €100,000 increase but the truth of the matter is we started off the year with a €60,000 deficit because of the cost of [competing in] Rio. So really, it’s status quo for sailing,” he said.
In direct athlete investment, 16 international athletes are awarded ‘Podium’ funding for 2017 under the International Carding Scheme.
In rowing, Rio Olympic medallists Gary and Paul O’Donovan, along with Sanita Puspure, will each receive €40,000 in Podium funding, while Rio’s Laser silver medallist Annalise Murphy is the only sailor to qualify for that funding level.
Sinead Lynch, Claire Lambe (€20k each), Mark O’Donovan, Shane O’Driscoll and Denise Walsh (€12k each) round out the rowing recipients in the 2017 funding round.
Among other sailing recipients, Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern each receive €20,000, Finn Lynch gets €12,000 and €16,000 goes to crew/transition athletes.
In canoeing and kayaking, Patrick O’Leary (para canoe), Tom Brennan, Liam Jegou, Jenny Egan and Michael Fitzsimon will each get €12,000 of International level funding.
Sailing ‘must diversify’
Meanwhile, Sport Ireland says its Rio Review provides a “blueprint” for campaigns heading into the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
In sailing, two of Ireland’s four classes competed in Rio “performed at or near expectations”, with the others cites for “credible results”.
The report adds: “Given it has been 36 years since Ireland last won an Olympic medal, this is an extremely exciting achievement and provides evidence of the success of the longer term strategy that ISA has been following for many years now.”
In its recommendations for sailing going forward, the report says work is underway “to diversify income to support the performance programme.
“In sports like sailing with significant capital needs, allocating funding on an annual basis is unhelpful. The sport and the athletes would be far more able to launch and deliver credible and performance based campaigns if funding was known over a longer period.”
However, the report also suggests that care must be taken by the ISA to remain within its budget allocation or “consider how difficult decisions might be made to invest in classes
with realistic chances of medalling” or other significant success.
Sailing would also benefit from more class competition within Ireland, the report adds.
“The review has identified the timescale to remedy the problems [within sailing],” said the ISA’s O’Callaghan. “But when are we going to see action to fix it?”
The picture for rowing is also less rosy, as Sport Ireland says “a lack of development structure and pathway is preventing the identification and progression of rowers to international
Despite that warning, Sport Ireland remains confident that “the current situation of recent history and success within this Olympic cycle represents a very strong position to be in.”
Consistency in training camps and post-training sessions is recommended by the report, which also suggests the use of biometric data to inform team performance.