Tony Cunningham ISC is presented with Olympic Executive Masters at OCI

December 11, 2012

Tony Cunningham ISC performance team was presented with his Olympic “Executive Masters in Sports Organisation Management” Diploma this morning at Olympic House in Howth by OCI Chief Executive Stephen Martin.

The  “International Executive Training Courses in Sport Management” scholarship provided funding for the research together with tuition fees, manuals and a travel subsidy to teaching modules.

Tony in addition to completing his research project, also attended  four teaching modules in

  • Lausanne, Switzerland from Sunday 5th September to Sunday 12th September 2010
  • Nairobi, Kenya from Sunday 16th January to Sunday 23rd January 2011
  • Paris, France from Sunday 17th April to Sunday 24th April 2011
  • Lausanne, Switzerland from Tuesday 6th September to Saturday 10th September 2011.


 Background: The Irish Sports Council is the statutory agency charged with the development of sport in Ireland since its legal establishment in 1999. Its two overarching aims are to increase participation in sport and to support elite athletes to achieve their potential in international competition. The focus of this study was on the latter of high performance and in particular its two main funding streams within this, the International Carding Scheme which directly funds athletes and Programme funding which funds National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of sport to run their high performance programmes. The budget for the Carding Scheme is allocated based on athletes achieving criteria while Programme funding is allocated based on assessments of performance plans. The potential problem is that these both come from the same budget with the rigid nature of the Carding Scheme possibly undermining the availability of investment for Programme funding, especially in recessionary times of declining availability of resources.

Aim: To better understand the impact that high performance funding has had on performance in the last decade, particularly the relative contributions of the two streams of funding.

Literature: The high performance literature has traditionally focused on macro level factors such as population, GDP etc. but there has been a trend in the last ten years to try and understand better the factors that affect high performance at the policy or meso level but mainly concentrate on transnational comparisons. This study sits at the meso level but seeks to identify factors specific to the Irish context.

Methodology: There were limitations to data available and these were from different sources and subsequently different in nature. The study was exploratory by design and a mixed methods approach was used to achieve its aim. A Pearson’s correlation was used to measure the relationship between funding and performance. A logic model was designed to evaluate the Carding Scheme. A synthesis of the findings of previous high performance reviews was conducted to identify factors related to performance planning. These were all examined together on a sport by sport basis to give a deeper insight into the critical success factors for high performance in Ireland.

Results: There was a positive linear correlation between funding and performance with higher levels of funding associated with increased performance and vice versa. 44% of the variance of each variable can be explained by the other. Findings from the Carding Scheme reveal 12% of youth athletes will progress to senior level. One third of athletes drop off the scheme every year with 40% only everlasting one year. The review of performance planning shows that there are still issues between professionals and volunteers in the NGBs mainly through a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities. The sport analysis revealed that a number of sports have performed better than others. The critical success factors identified were strong leadership and good governance structures.

Conclusions: The funding that the Sports Council has allocated in the past decade has had a positive influence on performance with the two streams interacting in this contribution, they should therefore not be treated as independent entities where possible. NGBs are all at different stages of development and this should be reflected in a sport pathway, similar to the athlete pathway were progression is monitored closely and resources allocated accordingly.



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