As president of the Irish Judo Association, I thank the Chairman and members for giving us the opportunity to appear in front of the committee. I will do my best to summarise what we submitted. It was already difficult to cut it down to five minutes.
Ours is a minority sport, with approximately 4,000 players in Ireland. However, we pride ourselves on being part of a family of more than 20 million throughout the world who play judo. As one would expect from one of the world's most inclusive sports, judo players in Ireland range across the full spectrum of ages, from toddlers to players in their 70s, and we provide opportunities for them to be players, coaches, referees and administrators.
As the national governing body for the sport, we have received €70,000 as a core grant from Sport Ireland. Like all other governing bodies, the grant covers costs associated with administration, participation programmes, coach development, hosting events, implementing strategic plans and the employment of professional staff. In 2017 we also received €4,000 under the women in sport programme and €45,000 in high performance grant money. The money is very much appreciated and we believe it is used to full advantage in our quest for increased participation and excellence. The Irish Judo Association could not survive without this financial support. As an association, we raise further funds through club and membership fees, which money is quickly accounted for. An insurance bill of €28,000 will soon eat into reserves and we are not on our own in that regard.
Like most other minority sports, we find it very difficult to attract major sponsors to assist in the development of our sport. The task is made more difficult by not having the personnel available to devote their full time to the pursuit of this revenue. In the last year we have attended conferences that encourage sports organisations such as ours to attract what is termed philanthropic money, an issue that was mentioned. It requires an initial investment and man hours, but, unfortunately, we are unable to provide either. The money may be available, but we cannot access it.
The Irish Judo Association has one full-time and one-part time employee whose workload is already at saturation levels. Ours is a voluntary sports organisation. The board of directors and the executive are made up entirely of volunteers. I am a teacher; the treasurer is a chartered accountant, while the secretary is an employee of a major multinational communications company. We give of our free time because we love the sport, as do many other volunteers throughout the country.
Governance in sport is very topical. As an association, we have spent a huge amount of time in an effort to implement best practice. We find that we have to expend significant time and energy in implementing the code of governance with limited resources. It is an extra cost which we are finding difficult to absorb. This has resulted in staff and volunteers working across multiple roles. Increased funding would ease the burden, but it is only part of the solution. As a national governing body, we recognise that with funding, particularly funding from the State, comes responsibility. We know and welcome this. Accountability and transparency are essential in any partnership. In my submission I mentioned the Children First Act 2015, with which we are fully compliant.
Any increase in funding would allow us to pursue our main aim of developing the sport throughout the country. We would dearly love to be able to employ development officers to promote our sport in schools and develop links between schools and local clubs. During the first session of the meeting we heard a lot about links between schools and clubs. It is only through such partnerships and pathways that a sport like ours will flourish successfully. Partnerships are essential, be it the partnership between the national governing body and Sport Ireland in the promotion of the sport from grass roots level through to high performance level, the partnership between a school and a local club, or the partnership among clubs at provincial level to provide a pathway for players to advance into the national squad in the hope of one day representing the country at the Olympic Games.
An increase in funding would also enable us to provide a higher level of quality competition which would help to attract more national and international players.
Last weekend, on Saturday, 24 March, we hosted the Irish Open at the National Indoor Arena. It was a huge success, with players from Ireland, the United Kingdom and many other European countries competing. We received a grant of €2,500 from Sport Ireland which was greatly appreciated. It paid for the hire of the facility. We have a great indoor arena, but it has to be paid for by the national bodies. Hosting such events exposes our players to quality competition and better prepares them for international competitions. Members may have heard of Lisa Kearney who qualified for the London Olympic Games. In that regard, the cost was in the region of €300,000, which was made up of €100,000 in technical support provided by Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland because Lisa is from Belfast; a further €100,000 in high performance funding, with the remainder coming from a variety of other sources, including fund-raising. We have three athletes who are in a position to qualify for the Olympic Games in Japan in 2020. We have received €45,000 in high performance funding this year. We are delighted with it, but it highlights the difficulty with which a minority sport has to cope in striving for excellence on the world stage. There is the same difficulty for our emerging talented players. Each year the Irish Judo Association allocates €30,000 towards the cost of this programme. Players, aged 17 to 23 years, have to self-fund the majority of their activity, which, as the father of one of such player, I know only too well. I am sometimes called Daddy Warbucks. Sport Ireland provides funding at high performance level but not for emerging talent programmes at national governing body level. We have an excellent working relationship with the Sport Ireland high performance unit and understand it has a finite amount of finances to manage.
The Irish Judo Association is a 32 county organisation and recognised by the Olympic Council of Ireland as the national governing body for the sport. Reference was made to the Commonwealth Games, etc. In the north of the country some players are affiliated to the Northern Ireland Judo Federation, NIJF, which is part of GB Judo. The NIJF made a successful submission to Sport Northern Ireland to fund an emerging talent programme, for which it obtained almost €1 million over five years. Many of the players included in its programme are players with the Irish Judo Association. As the money is government-funded, all judo players resident in the North are entitled to be part of the programme, irrespective of the national governing body to which they belong. The programme is proving to be a great success and Irish players resident in the North are benefiting greatly from it. As an association, we have to try to provide the same for players in the other 26 counties, but we do not have the finances to do so. The Irish Judo Association and the NIJF have a great working relationship and long may it continue.
I again thank the committee for giving me this opportunity. I will not repeat the points made about the value of sport.