Money matters

Today saw the Irish Sports Council announce its funding for the High Performance Awards and the Carding Grants Scheme. These two grant schemes go to the governing body of the sport to run a high performance training and competitive programme, and to the athletes to take part in that programme, respectively. The idea is simple; you want medals, you have to be the best – and if you want to be the best, you have to do certain things, which cost money. So the ISC puts in money and gets out medals. Hurrah.

And how could this not go well for us? In the last decade or so, Irish shooting has produced a wealth of medals. ISSF shotgun under the ICPSA and the direction of Kevin Kilty, has seen shooters like Derek Burnett, David Malone and Philip Murphy and others all bring home international medals from the acme of shooting competitions. Ireland won the team gold medal in the ISSF World Championships for the Trap Shotgun event in 2002, and in 2007 Philip Murphy took the silver individual medal. There has been a host of gold and silver and bronze medals won in both team and individual events at ISSF World Cup level and at ISSF Continental Championships level, not to mention all the smaller international competitions. Right now there are four ISSF shotgun shooters ranked in the top 100 shooters in the world; only a few months back Derek Burnett was ranked 5th. This is an excellent competitive placing internationally, it’s exactly what the ISC wants to see. So a well-funded programme, right?

Try a 50% cut in High Performance funding. €60k to the programme, €20k to Philip and Derek and €10k and €3k to two others.

The inner cynic in me ponders the public image shooting has received in the Irish Times of late, and wonders if maybe the media monitoring unit in the Irish Sports Council is basically creating a control mechanism over the funding of Irish Sport for the Irish Times Sports Editor…

Look, money does matter. No point pretending otherwise. The average industrial wage in this country is €32k – if you can’t make that while representing your country, then most people aren’t going to prioritise sport. And there are certain things you just cannot do without it – right now, for example, the ICPSA can’t hire its preferred sports psychologist, but are meant to compete at a level where the mental game is 90% of winning. They can’t hire the sports physiotherapist they want, even though we now know we lost a potential medal in athletics to a simple physical ailment one runner had picked up. They can’t hire a dedicated coach, the performance director has to pull double duty even though the logistics is a job of its own (I know this, becuase I have that job in the NTSA and it is not something you can do every third tuesday like getting a haircut, it’s a fulltime thing even with a small squad).

But the Minister will be spending €5,000 on a first class ticket to Austin, Texas for St.Patrick’s day. That’s nearly two years worth of a Junior grant, for those keeping score.

And ISSF rifle or pistol shooting? Well, now that the NTSA has left the SSAI, the ISC is saying it shouldn’t recognise us, that suddenly there’s a rule of one NGB to one sport – yet the ICPSA is recognised seperately from the SSAI, the Olympic Judo and Olympic TaeKwonDo governing bodies are recognised seperately from the Martial Arts Federation and there’s no instance of the rule in writing before now. So for now, no support for the NGB. And while the ISC says they’ll look after athletes seperately if the NGB isn’t in place, that won’t happen here because the Juniors are the only ones with achievable criteria for the grant, and their grant is specifically handled through the governing body, whom the ISC won’t talk to; and the SSAI can’t even apply because the criteria say it can only be olympic shooters who apply.

What a mess.