Four leading figures within the world of sport appeared virtually before an important Government committee yesterday to press the case for greater equality in state funding of male and female Gaelic games players.
Sinead McNulty of the Camogie Association, Helen O’Rourke of the LGFA, Mary O’Connor of the Federation of Irish Sport and Gemma Begley of the Gaelic Players Association appeared virtually before the Joint Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht.
They highlighted that while improvements have been made there is still a major gap between the €3 million distributed to male players and the €700,000 to female players.
The levels of sponsorship, media revenue and other commercial income are still higher in the men’s game but an arrangement through public funding should recognise that there is equality in terms of the effort that players put in and have no gender bias.
“There would be no stronger public message on the role of Women in Irish sport than acknowledgement from the state through equitable funding that our female athletes are valued equally,” said Begley in her statement.
The committee is chaired by Niamh Smyth, TD for Cavan Monaghan and a recording of the session from yesterday should be available on the Oireachtas website later today at which point we will add a link to this story. It also includes former Mayo Gaelic footballer Alan Dillon and former Minister of State for Sport, Brendan Griffin.
Creating an emphasis on this particular area is smart in that it is an easily understood metric that is difficult to defend from a public expenditure perspective. It is challenging in that it is tied as part of the arrangement between the governing bodies and the players and while they remain separate in the men’s and women’s game there is an issue with applying for funding equally against a backdrop of the different revenue streams.
There is also the question of why those competing on an amateur status in one particular sport should receive Government funding and why that would not apply to athletes in different sports as well.
The reality is that the numbers involved are at the very top end of the sport, and likely a match in many ways for the Sport Ireland carding system of state payments to athletes competing at the top of their sport with payments on this scheme announced last week ranging from €12,000 to €40,000.
This funding is based on merit regardless of gender, establishing a model that could yet be applied across Gaelic Games as well.
Sinéad McNulty recommended that a Task Force be established to consider this and other matters in equality, a call supported by Imelda Munster and not rejected by any of the members.
Mary O’Connor stressed that equality should be a priority with immediate effect while Helen O’Rourke put on record the declining proportion of support there had been for Ladies Gaelic Football despite its significant rise in popularity over recent years.
We will return to yesterday’s Committee later.
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