Today, the Irish women’s rugby team won the 6 nations with a dominating triumph over Scotland. While women remain among the most successful products of Ireland’s sporting culture (Sonia O’Sullivan, Katie Taylor or Stephanie Roche for instance), women’s sport remains dreadfully underfunded in Ireland. Not until the height of the Celtic Tiger was an actual plan put in place to actively fund greater participation by women in sport in Ireland with the Women in Sport programme that began receiving Irish Sports Council funding since 2005.
Below is a graph I put together for a class I’m lecturing on sport in Ireland since the 1980s. It shows the paltry level of funding that women’s participation in sport receives from the main funding body for sport in Ireland. While undoubtedly the savage cuts faced by the Irish Sports Council since the crash in 2008 have some bearing on the small amount of funding directed towards women’s participation in sport, nonetheless the fact remains that at no point in almost the past decade has the percentage of the funding given over to women’s sport in Ireland exceeded 6% of the total grants awarded – a disproportionately small amount.
As well as this graph, below are the actual figures for each year with the percentage that these grants for Women’s Participation in Sport form of the total grants awarded by the Irish Sports Council:
2013: € 953,630 (2.6% of total)
2012: € 1,023,220 (2.7 % of total)
2011: € 1,720,401 (4.1% of total)
2010: € 1,910,688 (4.4% of total)
2009: € 2,261,747 (4.9% of total)
2008: €2,510, 980 (5.1% of total)
2007: €2,570,517 (5.5 % of total)
2006: €2,052, 085 (5.8% of total)
2005: €650, 647 (2.2% of total)
Since the crash in 2008, not only is the absolute sum granted by the Irish Sports Council to help women’s sport in Ireland declining substantially, it is also an increasingly small proportion of the overall total granted to all sporting bodies from a peak in 2006 of 5.8% – a miniscule amount in itself – to just 2.6% of the overall total granted in 2013.
In the next few days, the Irish women’s rugby team (like Stephanie Roche and Katie Taylor before them) will be justly and rightly applauded for their incredible achievement in international rugby: winning the 6 nations for a second time in three years. It’s worth remembering these figures when these plaudits are being handed out in the media. If we are serious in Ireland about increasing the access to and resources for greater participation in sport by women in Ireland, then the percentage of funding given over to programmes that do just that needs to increase substantially from the miniscule amounts that have been the norm for the past decade.