On 12 April, the Irish Winter Sports National Governing Bodies, including the Ice Skating Association of Ireland, together with the Olympic Federation of Ireland launched the Irish Winter Sports Strategy. This is a significant strategy which aims to overhaul and energise the winter sports environment in Ireland, and calls for a strategic approach to be taken in supporting and developing Winter Olympians, winter athletes and winter sports in Ireland.
With four main pillars, the mission of the strategy is to amplify the voice of winter sports in Ireland to achieve a shared vision of long-term sustainability and success, and to achieve equality of support for high performance winter athletes.
The pillars are as follows:
- Facility Development – the strategy calls for the development of a permanent ice facility in Ireland, a project which has a track record globally of being commercially viable, would be achievable through private funding at little or no cost to the tax payer provided government and local authorities can assist in securing land.
- Athlete Carding, Participation and Talent Development – the strategy calls for state funding support through the Sport Ireland high performance carding scheme for Winter Olympic athletes. Similar to their summer counterparts, the commitment of Winter Olympians is significant both from a financial and emotional perspective. State support would significantly assist the winter athletes when the majority of their peers nationally and internationally have some of their costs funded by the State.
- Visibility – the aim is to enhance the relevance and voice of winter sports in Ireland, and will be supported by commercial and marketing plans.
- Governance – A commitment to good governance and actions to establish a pathway towards compliance with the governance code of sport for any organisations where it is not yet in place.
Speaking at the official launch, President of the OFI, Sarah Keane said,
“The Olympic Games, winter, or summer is arguably the biggest sporting event in the world. For an athlete to represent their country on this stage is a huge honour. We call for equality within the sporting sector for our Winter Olympians to have access to the carding scheme and support in the same way as other high performance athletes do.
“We need to understand that winter sports athletes and federations need our support. Sustainable success doesn’t happen by chance, it doesn’t happen without support. We have high performing athletes across our sports, if we want to bring sport to the next level, if we want more than six athletes competing at the Olympic games, and if we want medals, we need to support our sports. We were very grateful for Minister Chambers on behalf of the government and representatives of the Federation of Irish Sport and Sport Ireland to meet with us and the winter federations and athletes to discuss this strategy and how we can bring it forward.”
CEO for the OFI, Peter Sherrard, added,
“The winter sports federations have put in a significant amount of work to establish a clear framework for improvement and success over the next four year period. The OFI is committed to supporting the journey with €50,000 funding to help the Federations fulfil the actions that it contains. Ahead of us, we have a very exciting project which has the potential to transform participation opportunities, while ensuring that the winter sports federations, by working together, are better recognised and supported, along with their athletes who represent us on the Winter Olympic stage.”
At the launch, Minister Jack Chambers met with the athletes and member federations to discuss the strategy and how the winter sport agenda can be advanced.
The full Irish Winter Sports Strategy can be viewed here.