Mulvey: We can build on €42.5m allocation
THE Government is writing a €42.5m cheque for Irish sport in 2014, despite the ongoing battle against recession.
That's the good news; the slightly bad news is that the budget for all levels of State investment in sporting activity in this country is around €2.064m less than was made available in 2013.
But it could have been worse and the Irish Sports Council's top men, chairman Kieran Mulvey and chief executive John Treacy, were robustly positive about the overall health of the sporting scene.
Mulvey acknowledged the work of ministers Leo Varadkar and Michael Ring in securing the €42.5m budget for the Council against a background of demands by all departments, and still holds out hope for increases in the future.
"I've said to the ministers we consider this year to be the floor in the context of budgeting," Mulvey said.
"In the light of the economy developing and, hopefully, taking off again, we hope that we're in a position to build up that budget again."
Yesterday's presentation of the ISC sports investment for this year was awash with figures.
Try these for size – €25m in grants made up of €11m for national governing bodies, €5m for local sports partnerships and €8.7m for high-performance sport. there will be further grant announcements next month.
Special Olympics Ireland, with €1.4m, was the big winner, but there were no major losers as most of the sporting bodies were trimmed only slightly from their 2013 figures.
The Sports Council has a multi-faceted brief and most of the heavy-lifting work it does goes unnoticed by the public until it comes to the glamour events at international level.
In that respect, 2013 was a record year for achievement in international events by Irish sports people, with 67 medals won at European and world events across a multitude of sports. The breakdown of medals was: Boxing 20; Paralympics15; Athletics 10; Equestrian 8; Cycling 5; Sailing 4; Swimming 2; Rowing 1; Shooting 1; Triathlon 1.
"It is truly extraordinary. I think sometimes we must stand back and say this is a country that punches an extraordinary amount above its weight internationally and you will see that from the medal tables, the podium finishes and the great credit our athletes have brought to this country," said Mulvey.
Mulvey hailed the work being done by the Institute of Sport and the development of facilities at the National Sports Campus.
He also hoped that as facilities in this country are improved, that more international events can be held in Ireland.
That said, he also had special words for the success of the GAA. "There are big ambitions for sport. There are big hopes for sport in all our sports and that's not to leave out our own national games where in Gaelic football, hurling, camogie, ladies football, tremendous successes have been achieved this year," he said.
"As I keep saying to any international visitors to Ireland, 'can you imagine in your country having recently had occasions in the month of September where a superb level of amateur athleticism was played out in front of a capacity audience of 83,000?'
"We shouldn't underestimate what we achieve in sport in this country."
CEO of the Sports Council Treacy said: "I, too, would like to endorse chairman Kieran Mulvey's remarks about the support of the ministers. Thankfully, there's not too much pain for sport and we're all very happy about that.
"Sport hasn't wasted the economic downturn. We're looking at numbers increasing in sport right across the spectrum. People are getting the message that sport is good for them."
The statistics returned by some of the governing bodies confirm that view.
Athletics Ireland now has 49,000 members and Cycling Ireland has over 20,000 on its books.
The 30 National Network of Local Sports Partnerships will received €5.01m to support their work in promoting participation in sport and physical activity.
These networks are spread around the country and operate on a basis of generating at least 50pc of their income from sources other than the Sports Council funding and each year that target has been met and surpassed.
Last year, over 200,000 people took part in local activities, while mass participation events such as the An Post Cycle Series, and Operation Transformation National Walks and Fun Runs attracted over 35,000 participants.