Women are missing out on sports scholarships
As few as one in five sports scholarships at Irish third level colleges are being awarded to women, the Sunday Independent has learned.
From GAA to rugby, new figures reveal that male students are dominating sports scholarship programmes at institutions throughout the country. These include Dublin Institute of Technology, Trinity College Dublin, Maynooth University and National University of Ireland Galway.
A significant disparity in the awarding of sports scholarships to female rugby players has also emerged. This year, Maynooth offered 28 scholarships to male rugby players and last year Trinity offered 30 but in both cases no female rugby player received a scholarship.
Statistics from Dublin City University, University of Limerick, University College Dublin and Waterford Institute of Technology reveal less blatant divides, but males still hold the majority of sports scholarships.
According to several of the colleges and universities, scholarships are independently awarded based on each sporting body's own specific criteria - including performance levels and available resources in male and female clubs.
Recent trends, however, have raised concerns among women's sports advocates and student sport representatives.
Main concerns include a systematic funding imbalance for sporting women in college, high drop-out rates among teenage girls in sport, limited awareness that high performance female athletes can avail of scholarships, and a lack of promotion at grassroots level.
Reacting to the figures, ex-rugby international Fiona Steed told the Sunday Independent she is "disappointed", but "not surprised" by the findings.
"In some places there are less than half female GAA scholarships, and GAA is bread and butter in Ireland as a sport . . . I find that disappointing," she said.
Former Ireland rugby captain Fiona Coghlan called for greater encouragement of sports scholarships to inter-county and international female athletes.
The Women's Gaelic Players' Association (WGPA) said: "Funding remains a concern."
However they added: "It's hard to conceive that gender is a consideration in awarding scholarships".
The Department of Education, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) refused to comment on the findings of the survey.
Meanwhile, Student Sport Ireland (SSI) - the governing body of third level sport - said the number of sports scholarships awarded seem to reflect the gap in participation levels of females compared to males.
Sunday Indo Sport