Deputy John Deasy has said the “paltry” funding given to the Camphire International Horse Trials event in west Waterford doesn’t tally with its international status and high-calibre competition.
Raising the issue with Irish Sports Council CEO John Treacy at a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr Deasy said Horse Sport Ireland provides a Home International hosting grant of €5,000 while some horse classes receive prizemoney from the HSI breeding committee — but that’s it.
This is despite the fact that the annual summer event in Cappoquin has “been built up over the last 14 years” to achieve “international status”. With “only two other 3-star courses in Ireland”, the lay-out on the banks of the Blackwater has a first-class reputation among top-level riders.
Looking at “where we have been relatively successful over the last few Olympics, the equestrian area really stands out... and for a very significant horse trialing event” — comprising cross country, showjumping and dressage — “€5,000 seems a very small number to me,” Deputy Deasy said.
“Considering the kind of success people who attend these horse trials have gone on to achieve internationally, not just in the Olympics but in world-class events”, he felt “a more significant amount of money should be contributed” — wondering whether the Sports Council should consider funding such events directly.
John Treacy replied that “without a shadow of a doubt” equestrian sports — which “fit with our natural environment” — have proven to be very successful for Ireland internationally.
“The unfortunate part is our funding has been reducing, with a knock-on effect to Horse Sport Ireland whose funding is probably down over €400,000 over the last number of years. They currently allocate €84,000 to [around eight] events around the country... and as part of that Camphire gets €5,000.”
“I suppose it’s never enough,” he accepted, “because they are huge events and very important for the local economy as well.” (Camphire, which will be held from July 22-26 next year, also includes a Trade Village and Country Fair sourcing local producers.) “But the reality is funding is down... and they [HSI] have a huge demand in regard to some of those shows.”
While acknowledging “I’ve no doubt that what you do must be very difficult — just the competitive aspect of different sports looking for their allocation,” Deputy Deasy said “€5,000 is a paltry figure to be honest.
“Maybe, given its success and given how the Irish equestrian area has grown, some consideration should be given as to how the Sports Council can help these events out a little bit more,” he added.
Mr Treacy said HSI “are undertaking a strategic review at the moment and that issue is definitely coming up in terms of international events... So there are plans afoot in terms of trying to support some of these... with some more funding.”
With Deputy Deasy asking “When is that going to be finalised; and do you have an input?”, the CEO said “we did give feedback to it.” Asked “was that to increase the amount?” the Sports Council chief said: “No it wasn’t that specific. We were [talking] more on a macro level. But I know it’s part of what they’re thinking around that strategy at the moment.
“Look, we’d like to be in a position to give more money to these shows because I agree with you Deputy Deasy, they’re very, very important and there are some fine shows right around the country, and nowhere closer to my own heart than west Waterford.
“We do know they put on world-class events and they bring in international riders and it’s obviously something we will encourage HSI to do, to invest more money in these shows,” Mr Treacy concluded.