By Shane Stokes
A planned appeal by three international women riders who were not awarded funding through the carding scheme has been dismissed by Cycling Ireland, with the governing body refusing to sign off on the bid to reapply for funding.
At a meeting held last Saturday, the Women's Commission met the Cycling Ireland board to discuss the carding issue and to outline the inequalities in funding criteria which exist. Despite outlining several discrepancies, they were told that the appeals would not be considered as CI feels that Siobhan Dervan, Jenny Fay and Louise Moriarty fall short of what is required under the CI/Irish Sports Council criteria.
Clear inequalities are in place under the current Irish grant system, including the provision to award male riders with the top 18 teams [known as ProTour squads] International funding of €12,000, while simultaneously dismissing Dervan's submission that she is at an equivalent level. She is due to compete with the Italian pro squad Fenixs in 2008, a team that was ranked seventh in the world at the end of last season.
At the meeting the Women's Commission says it was told that Cycling Ireland consider the men's ProTour level to be a higher standard than the women racing in World Cups, even though this is the top level in that wing of the sport.
Currently, women with pro squads can apply under the team contract criteria for development funding only, and are subject to an age constraint of 27 years or under. No age limit exists for men on ProTour teams.
"Our main gripe was under equal opportunities," Valerie Considine of the Women's Commission said. "There aren't the same opportunities in place for the women as there are for the men. With a specific track programme or the Sean Kelly squad some [male] riders qualify for carding; however, no such programmes exist for the women. Therefore the opportunities are not the same."
The women's commission were told that there are plans to fund a women's track squad at some point in the future. However with the season already underway and nothing in place in terms of plans or funding, Dervan – Ireland's most talented female rider – is considering her future in the sport. Fay and Moriarty are also under financial pressure.
Out of a total of €215,000 allocated under the carding scheme, only €12,000 was given to female riders this year. This was for two riders riding in Paralympic competition, while those in the mainstream branch of the sport will receive nothing.
One small consolation is that the Women's Commission will have a greater input into setting carding criteria in the future, as well as having a say in the selection process for international teams.