ROWING Ireland deserves a much larger injection of Government funding than its currently receiving, insists Cork South West Independent TD Michael Collins.
He was speaking in the wake of the additional allocation of €1.75 million for high performance sports – announced by Minister Shane Ross earlier this week – to help athletes’ preparations ahead of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
While Hockey Ireland received a boost of €500,000 and Horse Sport Ireland and the Olympic Council of Ireland both received €175,000 each, Rowing Ireland only received an additional €40,000 despite the unprecedented success of Irish rowers on the world stage in recent years.
Skibbereen Rowing Club has been to the forefront of this golden age of Irish rowing with Gary and Paul O’Donovan, Shane O’Driscoll, Mark O’Donovan and Denise Walsh all medalling on the international stage in 2017, while Gary and Paul have also won World Cup gold and European silver this year.
Rowing Ireland will also receive €90,000 in addtional capital funding for high-performance equipment, but to put that in perspective, a new lightweight double boat can cost €30,000, so that’s the equivalent of three new boats despite the team growing larger – eight different boats will compete at next month’s world senior championships.
‘I’m extremely disappointed that Rowing Ireland hasn’t received more funding than what was announced earlier this week,’ Michael Collins told The Southern Star.
‘The sport is growing and growing and I think Minister Ross doesn’t realise the growth of Rowing Ireland and the potential that this sport has.
‘If you underfund a sport then you are weakening its position.
‘Even though Rowing Ireland has received extra funding this week in €40,000, it still isn’t next or near what I was hoping that it would get.
‘I will definitely bring this up in the Dáil when we return in December.’
In response to The Southern Star exclusive that Olympic silver medallists Gary and Paul O’Donovan were looking to pay their own way to the World Cup Rowing II event in Austria due to the lack of funding – they eventually didn’t travel – Independent TD Collins raised his concerns about the underfunding of Irish rowing in the Dáil back in June.
This year Rowing Ireland, under Sport Ireland funding for 2018, received €210,000 as a National Governing Body (NGB) of Sport, the same as in 2017, while in the high performance programme, Rowing Ireland received €525,000 for 2018, the exact same figure as last year, despite the record medal haul in 2017 and the expansion of the elite team.
Rowing Ireland is sending a team of 17 to the World Senior Rowing Championships in Bulgaria in September compared to the team of nine sent to the 2017 worlds – but despite the increase in athletes being sent to these international events, the funding for them has only increased by €40,000.
With the future of lightweight rowing unknown past the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Rowing Ireland, as well as helping its lightweight rowers excel, is also investing in the development of heavyweight rowers as it plans towards the 2024 Games in Paris. But the Government funding has not increased to sufficiently match the needs of the athletes. What also goes under the radar is that Rowing Ireland athletes have to pay additional levies. For example, the Irish team attending the worlds next month, including nine Skibbereen athletes, flew out to Banyoles in Spain on Monday for a training camp, and each would have contributed €300 towards that camp. Whether it was the World Cup regattas (€300 levy), U23 worlds (€800), Coupe de la Jeunesse (€400), junior world championships (€800), U23 Europeans (€600), athletes from junior up to the elite senior have to contribute towards their participation.
Also, running the National Rowing Centre in Inniscarra costs Rowing Ireland €100,000 annually, an additional cost that others sport organisations don’t have.