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GAA players face swingeing cuts to grant scheme

Hopes of an improved deal for GAA players in the row over their government grants diminished further yesterday when the Irish Sports Council's funding was one of those singled out for particularly swingeing cuts by the so-called 'Bord Snip Nua'.

Following earlier budgetary cuts this year, Sports Minister Martin Cullen had insisted that there was only €1million in his coffers for the GAA players' grant scheme, which was funded to the tune of €3.5million last year in its inaugural season.

The Gaelic Players Union (GPA) have already been up in arms about this reduction and particularly lashed the minister's suggestion that one solution would be for this €1m to be used to fund a truncated form of the original scheme and primarily support players from the top countries, which the GPA derided as 'elitist' and against their own principles.

The minister said that he remained open to further discussions but it is now impossible to see him finding another penny to support inter-county players considering the massive hit that sport looks set to suffer in the wake of yesterday's recommendations,.

One of the reasons the GAA grant funding was already reduced was because the €3.5m they received in 2008 was taken out of the Department of Sport's capital (building) budget.

That capital fund was already hit in last winter's budget, which has blocked all sports capital spending this year.

In the wake of that the GPA argued that their scheme should be funded by the Sports Council (ISC), especially as their budget already provides the individual grant-aid for all of Ireland's other top elite sportsmen and women.

However, An Bord Snip Nua have recommended that the Sports Council lose a whopping €17.7m of their proposed 2009 budget of €52 m which represents a total drop of one third in their funding.

The report insisted that the ISC should actually be jettisoning some of its projects, not taking on new ones.

“The Council could also achieve savings by reducing the scale of funding allocations to the national sporting governing bodies,” the report recommended.

“At present the Council provides funding to approximately 60 such bodies. The Group considers that there is a need to prioritise among these organisations. On this basis, it proposes savings of €17.7m in the 2009 allocation of €52m.”

These words will strike fear across a whole raft of Irish sporting organisations -- from baton-twirling to top Olympic performers like boxing -- especially as many of them are utterly dependent on the Sports Council for their core (administrative and coaching) funding, never mind the additional grant-aid to their individual athletes throughout the year.

Considering their grant aid was already diminished by this year's earlier budgetary cuts, this spells a further, major obstacle for GAA players in their high-profile battle to claw back ground and funding for their own grant scheme.

Belfast Telegraph

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