Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Athletics Ireland membership hits 60,000 but target in doubt

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Athletics Ireland membership hits 60,000 but target in doubt

Athletics Ireland recently announced that the number of members in the association reached the 60,000 mark for the first time on Thursday the 16th of November 2017.

They also stated the following......"One of our main strategic priorities for 2016 - 2020 is to continue to grow our membership to 70,000 by 2020. By achieving 60,000 members we have already achieved the 2017 target set out in our strategic plan."

I was wondering if this claim was true so I examined it closer.

At the end of 2016, Athletics Ireland added an extra 179 members in the month of December. If the last month of 2017 is much the same and I add say 200 to the 60,000 figure then I come up with a projected membership figure of 60,200 for the end of December 2017.

Athletics Ireland claim that they are on target to reach 70,000 by 2020 but I calculate that they would need to be at 61,000 by the end of 2017 to achieve that.

You can see this in the chart above. The dark green graph showing the figure of 60,200 is in line with the growth of previous years. The 70,000 target graph in light green would require a much higher rate of growth.

Based on this, the current membership is about 800 behind what is in the plan and if that growth stays the same (800 x 4 years) then the membership figure at the end of 2020 is likely to be around 67,000, not 70,000.

However despite that, it's still a positive news story for Athletics Ireland as its membership grows. The more members it has, the more financially secure it is. It would be a different story if the membership was dropping. As long as they don't have spending plans based on having 70,000 members in three years time then it shouldn't matter too much.

However, if you dig into the stats it's not all rosy. All of that growth in membership is coming from Juveniles and from Masters i.e. those aged 35 and above. The number of senior members i.e. aged from 20 to 34 is in decline.

The chart above shows the status of Senior membership at the end of October 2017. With just two months to go, it's 731 behind the number at the end of 2016 and it's very unlikely that many senior members will be added by years end.

The important thing here is that the vast majority of the masters membership would be categorised as recreational runners. It's very likely that a large percentage of the senior membership are probably in the 28-34 age bracket and are also recreational runners. This implies that the number of senior athletes in the 20-27 age bracket must be really dropping.

This obviously has a big implication for the numbers involved in actual traditional athletic events like track and field. It's from this pool that athletes aged in their early to mid 20's that are likely to represent Ireland at the Olympics and major championships.

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