Finances are biggest hurdle facing Ironi J'lem athletes

nah (photo credit: Aron Lewis)
(photo credit: Aron Lewis)
Cash strapped athletics club Ironi Jerusalem - the largest in the capital - is struggling to achieve high standards of performance due to a lack of funding. This was characterized by a lack of winning, top-notch athletes at the Jerusalem round of the Israeli athletics Grand Prix. The inadequate facilities are evident at the Givat Ram stadium, which also doubles as the group's training site. The 'changing rooms' are little more than an open tent with a few boxes for equipment. The apparatus in the gym has mostly been hand-built by the club and is not sufficient for all the athletes' needs. Karney Lahad, athletics director for the Jerusalem Municipality, says, "With more resources the athletes would be able to compete at a higher level and the world of athletics would see that Israel has a lot to offer." Athletics in Israel rarely attracts a large number of spectators, and as a result events raise little money from tickets and receive even less in sponsorship funds. Personal sponsorship is also vital for developing a successful athlete, however such deals are not common in Israel. Alex Lipnik, ranked second in Israel's cadet class for the high jump, says, "The big problem with the lack of funding is that it affects our training. The majority of the athletes cannot afford to focus all their energies on training and have to work to support themselves." However, Lahad stresses that "this is not just our problem, it is an issue across athletics in Israel, but the situation is worse in Jerusalem." The Ironi club attracts many religious observant athletes, who are often forced to sit out competitions in Israeli athletics, where many of the meets take place on Saturdays. Ironi receives around NIS 130,000 per annum to finance its activities. Most of that money is spent on coaches' salaries, transportation to competitions, registration fees in the Israeli Athletic Association and insurance for the athletes. The money is sourced from the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Science and Technology, Toto (the council for regulation of gambling in sport) and from the registration fees of the athletes. Each athlete under the age of 18 is supposed to pay NIS 1,500 per year to participate, however a large amount of the athletes either don't pay this fee at all or receive substantial discounts. Next year, the club hopes to receive more money through the Ministry of Technology, which is scheduled to increase its contribution to athletics from NIS 1.5 million a year to NIS 6 million. Those in charge at Ironi Jerusalem, however, are unsure exactly how much of this additional funding they will receive.