Linda Mellerick: Women can't be treated as second-class sporting citizens

Linda Mellerick: Women can't be treated as second-class sporting citizens

Cork's Amy O'Connor wins the ball from Clare's Ciara Grogan this season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Sport this week said that there is no justification for the government to spend more money supporting male Gaelic games players over their female counterparts. 

A sum of €3.7 million was paid out by the Government to support Gaelic games players last year, with €3 million being made available for male players and teams and €700,000 for female players. That’s €9,000 per squad.

The funding gap has been strongly criticised by players, managers and representative organisations involved in women’s Gaelic games. Typically, when the disparity in fees, expenses or monetary awards for success are raised between males and females playing the same sport, the argument has been put out there that men get greater exposure, draw bigger audiences and so bring in more money. 

That disparity in exposure is a debate for another day. In this case the Government don’t rely on audiences or gate receipts when it comes to providing grants so what is the reason behind the significantly lower allocation? 

It’s treating sportswomen like second-class citizens. 

It’s telling them that their sport and commitment isn’t important, that they don’t give the same effort or commitment or incur the same expenses that their male colleagues do. 

That’s absurd. 93% of players do not receive any travelling expenses. 65% pay for their own gym membership and 60% contribute towards their own recovery costs. 

Minister for Sport Catherine Martin told RTÉ that she believes sport is for all and she and Minister for state Jack Chambers are committed to increasing funding for programmes targeted at women, people with disabilities, older people and others. She also said she is ‘aware of the disparity’ between the funding for men’s and women’s Gaelic players support schemes. 

"I can confirm that my department and Sport Ireland are committed to working with the Gaelic games associations and players’ representatives, with a view to a narrowing and ultimately eliminating the gender funding gap." 

Great, but I hope this doesn’t take years to achieve.

The WGPA has also called for the gap to be closed. President of the WGPA Maria Kinsella said analysis carried out by the association found that female Gaelic players were paying for their own boots, hurleys, gear, travel and food.

Kerry ladies football co-manager Declan Quill said the government allocation to support female Gaelic players was 'pitiful'. "Where did they come up with these figures and who said it was okay to do so? I can’t believe it."

Two separate schemes were operated by Sport Ireland to facilitate the dispersal of Government funding last year. The GAA Intercounty support scheme, valued at €3m was only available to male players. It allowed for individual player grants to be channelled directly to inter-county players via the GAA and the GPA. 

A separate scheme to support Intercounty camogie and ladies football allocated a sum of €700,000. This scheme did not provide for individual player grants but instead awarded funding to teams to enhance access to training facilities, injury prevention and medical health checks, player performance and national administration and governance. 

Sport Ireland said the schemes in place to support Gaelic players are decisions of the Government. It said Sport Ireland plays no role in setting the amount of money available under each scheme. However, it added it has proposed an independent review of these schemes to consider the strategy for funding in the future.

Cork's Fiona Keating shoots from Wexford's Sarah O'Connor. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Fiona Keating shoots from Wexford's Sarah O'Connor. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Meanwhile the Kilkenny camogie team have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money ahead of their All-Ireland final next Saturday. While Glanbia sponsors the inter-county panels, food and accommodation for the players are not factored in and in the absence of county gate receipts, this year money is required.

The very best of luck to Cork’s ladies footballers tomorrow. Let’s hope they can reach the All-Ireland final and make up for last Saturdays’ camogie disappointment, particularly for the dual players involved.

Controversy again earlier in the week when it was announced that the semi-final where Cork take on Galway has been moved from the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick to Parnell Park, Dublin as the Limerick senior hurlers require the stadium as they prepare for the All-Ireland final next weekend. 

While social media have commented that a semi-final having to be moved for a training session is wrong I have to say that I don’t think it is in this case. The Limerick GAA board had informed the LGFA that they could have the ground if the hurlers didn’t require it. 

Limerick were strong favourites to reach this year’s final and there was every chance they’d need the pitch. Why not move the training time, I hear you say, it’s no big deal? I’d argue that it is a big deal. 

The hurlers could have a full afternoon session planned with training, food, video analysis and a second training session post analysis. It’s the week of an All-Ireland final and it is the Limerick GAA’s grounds. 

The LGFA should never have booked it in the first place. It was too risky. 

And taking Galway and Cork to Dublin is wrong. What was wrong with Mallow? Was that option tried? 

Maybe it was and it wasn’t available. Either way I don’t feel the fault is with the Limerick hurlers and board on this one. Good luck to Ephie and the team.

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