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The grant of €21,000 per year for the Olympic cycle to Tokyo given to men’s hockey this week by the Olympic Council of Ireland was extremely welcome. The costs for this year alone shows how modern and expensive the game has become and how costly it is to maintain an international side ranked inside the top 10 in the world, one that qualified for the Olympics last year and the World Cup next year.
The money will be put to good use but it is a fraction of what the national team needs to remain competitive. Given that the players are not paid and that it costs them to represent Ireland every euro will be put to good use.
The spend on the men’s team for this year alone was in the region of €350,000 while the women’s side cost about the same. That’s €700,000 for two teams, which by the way is not enough.
Craig Fulton and his men’s side competed in World League 2 in March, World League 3 in South Africa in July and the European Championship in August. For each event 18 players travel with six additional staff including coach, video analyst, physio etc.
In 2018 the men play in the World Cup in India at the end of the year and will have a number of warm up events in preparation for that probably including the Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy in Kuala Lumpur and a trip to Germany for the Hamburg Masters.
It shows how difficult it is for a team sport to survive and needs to be reflected in what comes from the Government too. For example the individual athletes who received OCI grants will get €523 per month. The cost if 20 elite hockey players were to receive that figure would be €125,000 a year as well as the costs of playing in tournaments.
The €21,000 is a drop in the ocean. If Ireland is to hit the target of qualifying a competitive men’s and women’s team into the next Olympic Games something will need to change.