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It is rare that we respond to public comment but the tone of Ivan Yates interview last week on Newstalk with Annalise and a number of other athletes needs a response. Here is what we emailed Newstalk:
 
Thanks to George for bringing in a bit of balance to the completely lopsided interview that Ivan Yates conducted yesterday morning. (George Hook took Ivan to task later the same day on his show The Right Hook)
 
To target the hardworking athletes for wasting taxpayers money was completely unfair and was just trying to appeal to the high level of frustration out there with the state the country is in at the moment. While this frustration is justified to make the athletes the target is not.
 
They are not the ones wasting tax payers money. In the overall scheme of things the funding the sports council gets each year from government is a drop in the ocean (approx. 50-60million) in terms of the overall budget spend and it is still one of the smallest developed country allocations to sport.
 
If banks and commercial institutions had applied the same kind of rigorous criteria the athletes have to achieve before even seeing one red cent, it is likely that we would have a much stronger nation. Every sport has to apply annually for the Irish Sports Council funding and the application is assessed on objective criteria primarily based around performance targets. If you hit targets you get support, simple as that.
 
No Olympic athlete I know is “making” money they are just about getting enough in to cover their costs of campaigning. The athletes all approach their sport in a wholly professional manner most are doing it full-time but every piece of grant aid or support they receive goes into their campaign, they are not building up property portfolios or taking out mortgages.
 
What they are doing is representing Ireland on the international stage and the athletes success reflects well on the nation. Ireland competing on the international stage also strengthens our case for hosting international events which not only showcase Ireland as a destination but also generates significant income for the local economy. The Volvo Ocean race brought in €55m in economic benefit to the West of Ireland when Galway hosted one of the stopovers.
 
If we all subscribed to Ivan’s narrow view of the world we would all end up being couch potatoes watching sport on TV taking place in foreign countries and costing the tax payer a hell of a lot more money trying to solve the problems a sedentary lifestyle would bring to bear on the health system.
 
It is a shame Yates decided to take the negative line with these young people who inspire 100’s of kids within their own sports and potentially will have an even wider impact if successful at the Olympic games. We should be cheering on these athletes and getting behind them not trying to pull the rug from underneath them while attempting to make amends for the errors of others.


You can listen to Annalise's interview (Thursday the 18th of August, Part 4) here.
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