Athletes with No State Cash 'Crowd-Fund' Online to Stay in the Game; Eamonn Coghlan's Son among Those Using New Websites to Keep Competitive Dreams Alive

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 23, 2014 | Go to article overview

Athletes with No State Cash 'Crowd-Fund' Online to Stay in the Game; Eamonn Coghlan's Son among Those Using New Websites to Keep Competitive Dreams Alive


Byline: Warren Swords

IRISH internationals and Olympians from the world of athletics, swimming, tennis and golf, who receive little or no State support, have signed up to new websites aimed at sourcing funding directly from members of the public and corporations.

Some top athletes have complained about the shortage of State funding.

The companies behind the new 'crowdfunding' initiatives - which take a cut of the public donations - say that without the money raised, many top athletes could no longer train full time.

One of the athletes benefiting from crowd-funding is middle-distance runner John Coghlan, son of running legend and Fine Gael senator Eamonn Coghlan.

But while the senator backs his son's efforts to succeed, he also defends the Government's funding of athletes.

He said that some of those who failed to secure State funding simply weren't good enough to get it and in some cases would be 'better off going on and getting a job'.

Two companies - Pledge Sports and NTRAI - have a roster of athletes looking for corporate sponsorship or donations from members of the public to allow them to train full time. Crowd-funding - an online phenomenon used mainly to fund creative projects such as independent movies and music - is an increasingly popular means for athletes to fund their way to competition.

Last month, the Jamaican bobsleigh team raised $115,000 to cover their costs for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Members of the public can sponsor an athlete for as little as [euro]10 in return for a thank you on Twitter or [euro]100 for a training session with the athlete.

Pledge Sports athletes include John Coghlan, swimmer Barry Murphy, Olympic eventer Camilla Speirs, golfer Cian Curley and tennis player James Cluskey. On NTRAI, athletes include brother and sister hurdlers Thomas and Jessie Barr, European junior silver medal hurdler Sarah Lavin and tennis player Daniel Glancy.

Both companies have contracts with the athletes, and take a percentage of money raised, up to 8%, which is used to run the websites as well as promoting the athletes and managing sponsors.

Founder of NTRAI, David O'Shea, himself a former Irish 60 and 100 metre sprinter said: 'With NTRAI, we want to help athletes and sports that are less funded.

'We don't want funding to be an issue as a reason for people dropping out of the sport or not achieving their goals. We want to create more Conor Nilands going to Wimbledon or Derval O'Rourkes at World Championships.'

But former world champion Eamonn Coghlan is sceptical about the chances of some of those struggling to find funding. 'I just think modern day athletes look for too much before they've achieved greatness if you like,' he said.

The 1983 gold medallist said the current sporting grants were adequate and that the crowd-funding initiatives did not expose inadequate State funding.

'I think the mindset of modern-day athletes is they feel they are entitled to it,' he said.

'They put the cart before the horse. You've got to be able to perform and let your running do the talking or let your swimming do the talking. But don't do the talking before you have achieved success.' 'I just think modern day athletes look for too much before they've achieved greatness.

'Nowadays, if you have achieved success at 19, 20, 21, you are in the fold, you will get financial support from the sport council and it does allow you to pursue it. If you're not getting the funding, you are in a dilemma because the dilemma is - "Am I good enough to succeed at International level?" 'If you are, you're in line for funding. …

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