Hockey gets huge additional funding boost with new sponsor also on the way

Hockey Ireland were the big beneficiaries today as they were allocated €500,000 from a pot of €1.75 million in additional high performance funding made available for National Governing Bodies (NGB) for sport (NGBs) by Sport Ireland.

The Irish women’s success in London has played a key part in this funding windfall. Pic: Frank Uijlenbroek

The funding, which was confirmed by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, will be used to assist NGB preparations for major competitions including the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and key World Championship events.

The money is earmarked – according to the press statement today – to “support the campaigns of the men’s and women’s senior teams to Tokyo 2020; to further enhance player support under the Carding Scheme; to advance the establishment of a base at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus; and the facilitate greater engagement with the Sport Ireland Institute.”

Reacting to the announcement, Hockey Ireland chief executive Jerome Pels welcomed the news, telling The Hook: “We are very grateful of the support Sport Ireland has given us this year; they already gave us a special grant for the World Cup and so this is fantastic.

“I still need to know the details of it. We just heard it was an additional fund made available by Sport Ireland for Olympic preparation and Olympic sports. There was no further information beyond that but it is only good for us and will help us to move forward to a higher level.”

In the aftermath of the World Cup, both coach Graham Shaw and the Irish players have spoken of the need for a permanent training base and, potentially, a new stadium for hosting games.

Pels said Hockey Ireland has been in talks with Sport Ireland in relation to a training pitch at the National Sports Campus, bringing them closer to their additional high-performance benefits and atmosphere that can bring.

Currently, there is a hockey pitch at the Campus used by Dublin North Hockey Club currently. It is not a water-based astroturf and so there are discussions whether they could replace this or add another pitch there.

“Sport Ireland has indicated they would like as many sports as possible around the National Sports Campus as possible, getting as many sports together working in a high-performance atmosphere. We buy into that which is important.

“Having a stadium is much further away and a bigger project but at least this is about having training facilities available as quickly as possible.

“We still need to discuss what all this additional funding means for us. It’s a very positive step and fantastic news. It has to be acknowledged that we are very grateful for the support received from Sport Ireland in featuring hockey so highly.”

Irish hockey is seeking to set up a permanent high performance base. Pic: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

Pels also added that a new sponsor for the men’s team is in the pipeline with an announcement on the way for late August or early September. There is also the potential of lengthening the agreement with Softco which Pels says is “a beautiful relationship that is working really well”.

For Pels, it is a scenario he could scarcely have envisaged when he took on the role in December 2016. The €500,000 additional fund almost doubles the Sport Ireland allocation for 2018 specifically designated for high-performance hockey; the original amount was €530,000 of a €900,000 total for hockey.

Sport Ireland told The Hook that Hockey Ireland must now present plans to them for the allocation, adding it was “current funding, not capital”.

Some will likely go to “back-funding” some of the additional costs associated with the extended World Cup run. But with the Irish women’s team’s major plans for the year already complete; the junior age groups self-funded programmes concluded and the men’s World Cup plans already set to be well-budgeted for, it will be interesting exactly where this money goes if not into the pitch at Abbotstown.

Indeed, the money is solely a 2018 allocation and does not form part of the new 10-year Sports Policy for Ireland – which aims to double investment – which kicks into gear in 2019.

“This is the result of a lot of hard work,” Pels says of the envious position his organisation finds themselves in as a result of Shaw and the Green Army heroes.

“Sometimes everything aligns at just the right time but we have had increased investment from Sport Ireland and SINI.

“This has allowed the women to be away quite a lot and have a very good preparation. It’s not the same level of funding as other countries but definitely, it all worked really well.”

The Irish men’s team is set to benefit from a new sponsor which will be announced in the coming weeks. Pic: Adrian Boehm

This new money came from a “corporate dividend” from the Irish Aviation Authority which was earmarked for sport last week, something which Minister Ross revealed on the Irish women’s team’s arrival home following the World Cup in London.

He promised a “significant” portion of this windfall for Irish sport would be destined for hockey and the funding comes as “the sport has demonstrated it now has two teams with realistic aims of qualifying and competing in Tokyo 2020” in the press announcement.

Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy, added: “In early 2018, Sport Ireland identified an immediate need for investment in order to offset the high costs associated with qualifying and preparing for 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo and participation in other key World Championship events.

The press statement added: “Following a detailed system review in 2017, Sport Ireland identified strategic requirements and specific needs within the High Performance system, not all of which could be addressed in the 2018 funding allocations.

“These requirements were to be a priority should any additional funding become available. The allocations announced today address these needs and reflect successes in performance from High Performance sports in 2018.”

In total seventeen organisations will benefit from this injection of funding with allocations ranging from €20,000 to €500,000.

** Sport for Business wrote a good article on how Hockey Ireland can capitalise on their success in the Sunday Business Post – have a read here: http://sportforbusiness.com/how-irish-hockey-can-capitalise/

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