Trinity College has 49 sports clubs, all of which are funded by DUCAC, the governing body for sports in Trinity. DUCAC’s aim is to further the interests of all sports clubs in Trinity College to the best of its ability and works closely with the clubs to achieve this goal. Trinity sports clubs are supported and funded on an annual basis by DUCAC in accordance to their needs. DUCAC said that they have a duty to enable all 49 sports clubs to compete at their highest level. According to DUCAC, funding varies greatly among clubs and depends on the sport, competition, equipment, travel and accommodation needs.
DUCAC itself receives the majority of its funding from the capitation committee and supplements its income with profits from the Pav. The majority of these sports clubs are gender amalgamated. However, certain sports have two separate clubs for males and females. It is by looking at the funding attributed to these two gender-separate entities that an imbalance would seem to be apparent.
The funding gap
There is a significant funding gap between in the men’s and women’s clubs in many of the sports. Katie Moore, this year’s ladies soccer captain, expressed her concern on the issue. “I am not sure what the men’s team received this year but last year we applied for a quarter of what they applied for, and we didn’t receive the full amount,” said Moore. She elaborated on this, saying: “we usually get about €6000 to €7000 and in fairness this is enough to keep us going. Now the men’s soccer usually has a couple different teams – one for freshers, one for the league and so on. We only have one so require less funding”
The difference in the apportionment of last year’s funding which Moore speaks of is significant. The men’s soccer team received 80% of the soccer club’s funding for the year 2014/15, the women receiving only 20% of the total funding, or €13,825 less than the men’s club. This year, 2015/16, saw an improvement from last year’s percentage with the women’s soccer club receiving 27% of the total funding, still a margin of €10,280 less than the men.
Ladies soccer received a huge increase in sign ups on freshers week and would love to expand to two teams but cannot facilitate the demand due to lack of funding. “We signed up 80 players this year, we usually get 30 sign ups but this isn’t reflected in the budget as budget presentations and applications are done before we sign up players for the year so we didn’t foresee the huge increase,” said Moore. A need for better training facilities in winter is another issue faced by ladies soccer. “We usually use Botany Bay, the 5 a side pitch, which is bad when we have 30 training. We have now been given Santry to use but we’re only able to use the small training area as the rest is being used up by other teams,” said Moore.
According to Moore, the funding gap is a huge issue for a lot of clubs and the figures would support her case. In relation to their female counterparts, the men’s rugby, cricket and golf clubs each received over 75% of the funding allocated per sport in Trinity this year.
DUCAC have increased the funding allocated to ladies rugby this year by almost €1000, bringing their total funding to €6,658 for the year 2015/16. Men’s rugby received a decrease of €200 in funding this year, bringing their total funding to €22,450 for the year 2015/16. Though the gap has been closed marginally there is still a difference of €15,765. As of now, the Trinity ladies rugby club consists of only one team. DUCAC Chairman, Cyril Smith, said “women’s rugby at TCD is now developing that way in line with IRFU policy. Thus, while the women presently get a separate allocation, the ladies rugby now comes under the direction of DUFC and benefits overall from this.”
DUCAC administrator Aidan Kavanagh added: “They [ladies rugby] have been formally entered into the SSI league which gives them more competitive games and so at DUCAC we are supporting this increase in competition by increasing their funding. They have also begun the first stage of a development plan with DUFC men’s team and we would like to see them develop steadily to be regarded as one of the well-known and successful ladies rugby teams”.
Though the funding gap can be accounted for by the multitude of men’s teams and higher performance level that the men compete at, the vast difference in funding in the same sport gives sporting women less incentive to progress into higher divisions and discourages future female participation in the sport. Funding is an essential component of equality in Trinity sports as through funding, sports clubs can access more coaching, better facilities, maintain the numbers playing sports and reach a wider number of participants.
The traditional undervaluing of women’s sport makes it much more difficult to attract sponsorship. Trinity ladies Gaelic football, winners of the division II All Ireland, are well supported by DUCAC this year and yet struggle to acquire sponsors. Ailbhe Finnerty of ladies Gaelic football spoke to Trinity News on this issue, “Our main problem is trying to find sponsorship, money for anything extras like gear or new jerseys.” Despite their achievements, ladies Gaelic football find it much harder than their male counterpart to find sponsorship and must fundraise themselves in order to compensate. “We’re still struggling to find sponsorship for the current year and have had meetings discussing ways of fundraising including bake sales, bag packing etc. to try and raise money. The men’s teams find it much easier to get sponsorship and have gotten over €4000 this year which we are still struggling to find even a quarter of that,” said Finnerty.
DUCAC’s website states that it works closely with sports clubs to help increase their fundraising opportunities through sponsorship and alumni engagement. The ladies soccer team benefited from this collaboration with DUCAC as they usually struggle to attract sponsors while the men’s soccer team usually have a number of sponsors at hand. “We got a new home and away kit this year thanks to a new sponsorship deal with the Pav that DUCAC helped us get which was a huge win for us. We just have to have nights out in the Pav as part of the deal. Maybe if we maintain this sponsorship next season we can get training gear and stuff. If we could pick up a second sponsor that’d be great. I know the lads have a couple sponsors so they get a lot of gear,” said Moore, the ladies soccer captain.
Lack of engagement by alumni
Another difficulty faced by women’s sports in Trinity is the lack of engagement with alumni when it comes to donations. The ladies hockey captain, Clare Stead, expressed the need to rebuild relationships with their alumni. “What I’ve seen in recent years through the hockey club is that the largest differences in funding have been from the alumni contributions. The men’s club has a stronger connection with its alumni than we do with ours, so when it comes to asking people to donate back to their old club the men have much more success,” she said.
Although struggling to gain support from its alumni, Trinity hockey is one of the clubs which defies the usual trend of underfunding women’s sports. There is an approximate 50/50 balance of funding for the men’s and women’s clubs. It is followed closely by Gaelic football and hurling/camogie who have only a 10% and 2% difference in funding, respectively. Stead attributes this equilibrium to the high numbers of females that take part in the sport. “As one of the largest female sports clubs in Trinity, I think ladies hockey have built up a strong reputation that stands to us when looking for funding – and in fact our most recent source of funding gave exactly the same amount to us as to men’s hockey, which is really great to see,” she said.
Need for greater funding equality
According to the Trinity College Dublin website, over half of the student population is female (58%) and yet male sports clubs still receive a significantly larger portion of the allocated funding. Kavanagh, DUCAC’s administrator, argues that the committee aims to support all clubs equally: “At DUCAC we strive to support all clubs as fairly as possible regardless of gender. DUCAC considers that clubs compete under a particular sport rather than defining this sport by gender,” he said. “This year overall funding for the sports that have separate female clubs has increased by €6,348 so I would hope that that shows DUCAC’s commitment to these clubs in helping them to develop.” This anticipation of potential for growth in the allocation of funding, even before major success has taken place, is crucial to the development of women’s sport. The logical way to fund sports clubs would seem to be size and performance based. Yet if the lesser teams receive such minimal funding there is no possibility for their improvement.
In the interest of a fair society, women’s sport deserves an equity of treatment in all areas including funding. In Trinity, this is not the case and the underfunding of women’s sports teams is current and ongoing. Allowing money to become too much of a hindrance in allowing women’s participation in sport is nothing but a betrayal of the essence of sport itself. The underfunding of women’s sports stunts the development of women’s clubs leaving little opportunity for expansion. The protestation that women simply aren’t interested in sport is the exact attitude that discourages women from taking part in sport to begin with. It is important to note that this is not an issue exclusive to Trinity sports. But as Ireland’s self-proclaimed “leading university” should we not also be leading the way in gender equality in sport? Perhaps the most important thing that needs to occur in order to ensure gender equality in Trinity sport is an acceptance of its legitimacy as a concept in the first place.