17/11/2009

Call For 'Equal Funding' For Sports

There is controversy this week over statistics that show Gaelic sports are better funded in the North than non-Gaelic sporting activities, such as soccer.

Figures released by the Stormont Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) have revealed that since 2004, GAA sports have received around £3 million more in funding than soccer clubs.

Ulster Unionist MLA, Tom Elliott, claimed that this meant an equality and imbalance about the distribution of money to both sports across Northern Ireland.

Describing the current situation as a "large gap in funding terms", Mr Elliot said there is a real need to work towards balancing the amounts given to GAA and soccer clubs.

He encouraged the DCAL Minister, Nelson McCausland, to work in this direction.

Mr Elliot explained: "Since 2004 the Ulster Council of the GAA and GAA clubs have received £19,911,475.

"By comparison, the Irish Football Association and soccer clubs have received £17,150,044.

"Overall GAA funding has increased from £514,170 in 2004/05 to in 2008/09 £7,924,669, an increase of almost 16 fold in four years."

He added the GAA is an organisation that has a strong Irish nationalist ethos and attracts very few players from outside the Roman Catholic community.

In fact, members of the security forces were banned by the GAA from participating in its organisation for many years, he noted, as background.

Fortunately, he said this rule has changed - despite what he claimed was opposition from a number of NI counties - which he said highlighted the need of a more positive attitude among some GAA representatives in this country and for them to move towards a similar attitude to their counterparts in the Irish Republic.

"Along with this we have the GAA clubs and grounds named after Republican terrorists and sickening displays like we witnessed at Galbally," he said.

Mr Elliot stated: "Soccer is a very community orientated sport which is played by people across NI regardless of religious or political opinion".

He claimed yesterday that, although the two organisations promote some valuable qualities as team work, keeping fit and community spirit, comparing both, it is difficult to see how higher levels of funding for the GAA are justifiable given its limited appeal.

(CL/BMcC)

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