Irish Sports Minister Supports Year Of Women’s Basketball

14 June 2006

The Year of Women’s Basketball has the potential to lead to financial backing from government organisations.

Such is the case with Basketball Ireland, which has secured significant funding thanks in part to FIBA Europe's 18-month project to raise the profile of the women's game.

Irish Sports Minister John O’Donoghue was the guest speaker at the launch of the Year of Women’s Basketball in Ireland, which took place on Tuesday in Dublin. 

Sports Minister John ODonoghue speaking about the Year of Womens Basketball.
Sports Minister John O'Donoghue spoke about the Year of Women's Basketball.
Following the launch, he spoke exclusively to fibaeurope.com to explain the reasons for his government’s support of Basketball Ireland and his thoughts on the Year of Women’s Basketball.

FIBA Europe: What do you think of the Year of Women’s Basketball?

Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: Any initiative which promotes women in sport is a good idea. The promotion and development of sport has been at the context of our main population. While many sporting organisations have endeavoured to have an equality approach, the fact remains women are at a disadvantage in terms of sports participation. Last year as Sports Minister I set aside an amount of 750,000 Euro for the Irish Sports Council to commence programmes directly geared for women in sport. That funding continued this year and was supplemented by 1.5 million Euro. We in the government realise that part of our duty is to increase the number of women participating in sport and we are committed to ensuring this by various initiatives. We want women of all ages to become involved in these projects and develop a life long relationship with sport. Accordingly the Year of Women’s Basketball is extremely important, and appropriate in Ireland’s case, and we intend to continue investing in basketball to increase participation levels and excellence.

FIBA Europe: Do you have a basketball background?

Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: I have played but I have to say that I am not the greatest example of the sport. But I do greatly enjoy watching it.

FIBA Europe: What do you like about the sport?

Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: I think it is a sport that appeals to both men and women as shown by the growing numbers of participants in the sport in recent years. As a nation, we have a huge affinity with sport because it provides us with a unique source of well-being and it also is an important emotional outlet for people of every age and from every corner of the country. And sport, and in particular basketball, has for long a time been the life blood of communities throughout the island of Ireland. In the past the important role of women has been overlooked. Basketball provides the perfect outlet to ensure this doesn’t occur again in the future. Basketball and sport play a vital role in the lives of many Irish people.

FIBA Europe: Can you tell us about how sport, and in particular basketball, can benefit society?

Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: I think that there is general agreement on the importance of sport on the overall development of individuals. It is therefore crucial that everyone be given the opportunity to participate in the sporting activity of his or her choice. A growing number of women are becoming interested in sport whether for recreation or high performance. We must make sure that there are no barriers or obstacles that would prevent people from becoming involved with sport. Every opportunity must be provided to ensure equal opportunity and access to quality training facilities, resources and services. The link between participation and physical activity in sport and the enhancement of health and quality of life has been clearly established. At present, only 10 percent of women participate regularly in sport and physical activity. This is something we must work together to address. So I support the FIBA Europe Year of Women’s Basketball project in this regard.

FIBA Europe: Can you tell us about the role of the Year of Women’s Basketball in helping Irish Basketball to get additional funding?

Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: Back in 2001 the Irish Sports Council received 13 million Euro, this year it is well into the 40 mill. The Irish Sports Council for its part has adequate funding of 120,000 Euro towards projects related to the Year of Women’s basketball. I also requested that the Sports Council earmark 250,000 Euro to Basketball Ireland under their Women in sport initiative for the appointment of regional development officers. Basketball Ireland also received 534,000 Euro towards its core activities in 2006. This is substantial funding and is in recognition of the growing number of participants in basketball in Ireland over the last few years.

FIBA Europe: So some of this funding is directly related to the Year of Women’s Basketball?

Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: Yes. The funding of 120,000 Euro towards a number of projects for the year of Women’s Basketball was allocated specifically because of the Year of Women’s Basketball initiative. Also the increases given to Basketball Ireland were linked to the fact this is the FIBA Europe Year of Women’s Basketball.

FIBA Europe: Can you tell us about the changes you have seen in Irish basketball from an organisational standpoint that you have seen in recent years?

Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: Basketball has undergone substantial change over the last number of years under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Debbie Massey. The current basketball strategic plan has been largely implemented with the regionalisation of the organisation. It re-branded itself and now has 16 full-time staff. The increase in professionalism of the organisation is evident. It is perceived as one of the top performing non government bodies at an administrative and operational level in sport in Ireland.

FIBA Europe: You mentioned Debbie Massey in response to the last question. As you know, one of the goals of the Year of Women’s Basketball is to see increased participation among female administrators and Basketball Ireland seems to have a fine example in Debbie Massey. Can you talk about her leadership over the organisation?

Sports Minister ODonoghue took part in promotional activities surrounding the launch in Ireland.
Sports Minister O'Donoghue took part in promotional activities surrounding the launch in Ireland.
Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: Debbie Massey is a person of boundless energy who is a tremendous professional and she is completely dedicated to the sport because she loves it. She talks about it all the time – she is a tremendous ambassador for the sport. And may I say she is also pretty wonderful at getting money from ministers and sport councils. That obviously is an endearing facility to say the least in terms of those who participate in basketball in Ireland. I was in fact delighted to hear of Debbie’s recent appointment as the Vice President for the FIBA Europe Women’s Commission. Debbie has always shown great dedication and passion for basketball and I think that she is a wonderful example to others.

FIBA Europe: Do you follow the Irish national basketball teams? If yes, what is your opinion of the teams and what do you think about their upcoming participation in EuroBasket qualifying tournaments?

Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: Of course I follow national teams and indeed 2005 was a great year for both our men and women teams when they achieved their best results ever in European Championship competition. I am hoping we will do equally well this year. I am particularly pleased with the number of Irish born and bred players now making senior international squads. I must say indeed that we have also had a positive influence of players coming from outside the country who have played with various clubs in the country and who have made enormous contribution in terms of teaching young Irish people how to play at the highest level.

FIBA Europe: Will the Irish government continue to support Irish basketball financially?

Sports Minister John O’Donoghue: Most definitely. The government is committed to supporting sport and this is shown in the increase in the sports budget in Ireland from 17 million Euro in 1997 to over 243 million Euro in 2006. What is of immense importance to us at this point is to increase the number of women in sport in Ireland. Ten percent is a very low participation level on a regular basis. It is really important we get more women involved in sport. I regard basketball as the ideal vehicle for that because it is a sport which women are attracted to, more so perhaps than the major field sports. I encourage women to participate in all sports but I have a particular corner of my heart which leads me to ensure there is increased funding for basketball because I think it is a very good vehicle for attracting women to sport.


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