Sport Ireland confirms carded pregnant athletes will receive maternity pay

Olive Loughnane
Irish Olympian Olive Loughnane became pregnant during her career

Sport Ireland has introduced a maternity policy which guarantees 12 months' funding for pregnant athletes.

Under the policy carded athletes will continue to receive financial support until the birth, after which they are assured another six months' worth.

The action comes after Sport Ireland conducted research into how best to support its elite athletes.

"The athlete is at the heart of everything we do," said Chief Executive John Treacy.

"[The policy] will give our athletes peace of mind and support in their decision to start a family and continue to compete," he added.

The subject of female athletes suffering financially for having a child was thrust into the spotlight earlier this year when six-time Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix said Nike wanted to pay her 70% less after she became a mother.

In August, Nike changed its contracts for pregnant athletes saying they would not be handed any form of performance-related reduction for 18 months after becoming pregnant.

Sport Ireland's announcement has been welcomed by its own high-performance athletes.

"As one of many athletes whose best performances followed the birth of my daughter, I'm really excited to see the introduction of this policy," said former Olympian and Sport Ireland board member Olive Loughnane.

"It is really positive that female sportspeople will be able to make a life choice that is right for them, safe in the knowledge that they will be supported by their National Governing Bodies and Sport Ireland".