Saturday 17 February 2018

From The Stands: U-turn as Ring set to appoint sport boss

Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sport Michael Ring
Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sport Michael Ring

John Greene and Fergus McDonnell

The first chief executive of Sport Ireland, the new agency being set up to run Irish sport, will be appointed by the government. This is a U-turn on a previous position that the post would be advertised. The role will now be occupied on an interim 12-month period.

The Sport Ireland Bill has been moving through the Oireachtas in recent weeks and will, most likely, be signed into law in the coming weeks. The Bill merges the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority. Once the merger is complete, Sport Ireland will have responsibility for elite sport, participation, the local sports partnerships, the National Sports Campus, Morton Stadium and for overseeing all of the country's affiliated sporting organisations.

Explaining the decision on the CEO, Minister of State Michael Ring said in the Dáil last week that it will ensure the appointment is not politicised. "I do not want to interfere with the process," he added. "I could appoint the first CEO. It is provided for in the Bill, but I do not want to do that. I will appoint somebody in a temporary capacity and get the chairman and board up and running. The board will appoint the CEO.

"As it is normal practice for agencies to run a competition, I fully expect that the board of Sport Ireland will follow the normal practice and run a competition. The first CEO will be an employee of Sport Ireland and not a board member. The second CEO will be appointed by the board, and the first CEO will have no role in the appointment. The chairman of the board will make that appointment, not me, and it will go through normal practices."

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We take an interest in radio listenership figures in these parts. RTE's dominance in sports radio is clear, and established over many decades, but it is interesting to note the continued progress of the independent national stations.

Newstalk's nightly sports show Off The Ball experienced a 20 per cent growth to an audience of 49,000, while the two weekend shows both recorded increases. Saturday's programme broke through the 100,000 barrier, while a whopping 51,000 new listeners boosted the Sunday show to 123,000. It's thought the live Premier League and GAA championship coverage has largely driven this increase. Interestingly, the slot reviewing Sunday newspapers has proved an unlikely success.

Live Premier League coverage is also at the heart of Today FM's Saturday afternoon show, which has 128,000 listeners - more than 80,000 of whom are in the sought-after 20-44 category.

Radio 1's weekend sports coverage continues to attract the most listeners, but Newstalk and Today FM have made inroads. Of more concern for RTE, though, is that their audience is dominated by over 55s, suggesting the independent stations are appealing to the younger sports fan.

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There are few things we like better than a good sports documentary, and so it was nice to see Touchline Media winning an award for Arkle at the Celtic Media Festival in Inverness.

The Dublin-based production company picked up the award for Best Sports Documentary of 2014 in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Arkle, which aired on TG4 and Channel 4, was shortlisted for the award along with documentaries on Chris Hoy, Páidí O'Sé and John Hartson. It was produced by Denis Kirwan and Stephen Cullinane, and directed by Luke McManus.

RTE's Documentary on One team won in the Radio Sports category for Never Knocked Down, which tells the remarkable story of Galway-born boxer Sean Mannion.

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A few weeks back, a member of the From The Stands crew was bemoaning injuries to two of his players in PE class. In particular, he didn't take too kindly to one PE teacher's belief that PE was more important than the players' club.

Well, a PE teacher of our acquaintance has been in touch to point out some facts about life on the other side. His particular favourite is when students tell him they can't do PE because their club coach told them not to in order to stay fresh for some game. His stock response now is to ask if they had told their French teacher they can't do French because they have a match! Touché.

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