Debt forces retirement

Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March 2008, 12:56 GMT

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Cash woes force McIlroy to quit

McIlroy had been expected to retire after this year’s Olympics
Larne runner James McIlroy has announced his immediate retirement from athletics, citing financial worries as the reason for his surprise decision.

In January, the 800 metre runner had indicated that he would quit the sport after this year’s Olympics in Beijing.

[b]“I just wouldn’t want to get further into debt,” McIlroy told BBC Sport.

“I wasn’t prepared to lose my house (for Beijing). I need to look for full-time employment because I wasn’t earning anything from athletics.” [/b]

McIlroy added that the recent indoor season, which included an appearance for Britain at the World Indoors in Valencia, had left him £300 out of pocket.

The 31-year-old lost his funding from UK Athletics a couple of seasons ago and McIlroy added that the lack of financial support and back-up has made his career an “uphill struggle” since then.

“The nature of the beast is quite hard. If you can’t see doctors and medical staff, it gets next to impossible,” he said.

"Ideally, it would have been nice to continue through to (the 2010 Commonwealth Games in) New Delhi but every sportsperson comes to this crossroads.

Give your thoughts on Athletics

[b]"I was getting absolutely nothing (in terms of funding) although I don’t want to go into it too much.

“The people you are up against, it’s a full-time occupation (for them) and they have a high-level network of support.” [/b]

McIlroy burst on the scene in dramatic fashion in 1998 when as a comparative running novice, he finished fourth in the 800m final at the European Championships in Budapest.

A couple of weeks earlier, he had run a Northern Ireland 800m record of 1:45.32 when placing fourth in a world-class race at the Nice Grand Prix.

The Larne man’s talent had been immediately noticed by Ballymena & Antrim coach Sean Kyle a year earlier when he turned up unannounced at the Antrim Forum.

McIlroy represented Ireland in his opening year on the international circuit but the Larne native opted to switch allegiance to Great Britain a year later when he also decided to change coaches to Kim McDonald.

The 800m runner did qualify for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney but despite reaching the semi-finals, he had lost the spark that had been on show two years earlier.

After missing the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton, McIlroy was touted as a medal prospect at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester but a poor tactical race saw him finishing a distant sixth in the final.

I progressed better than anybody else in Britain over the last 20 years

James McIlroy

McIlroy failed to make the British team for the 2004 Olympics in Athens but he managed to produce a personal best of 1:44.65 in August 2005 which was the fastest time by a Briton for more than a decade.

The Larne man went into the Commonwealth Games seven months later as one of the favourites but he failed to even make the final in Melbourne which probably represented his career low.

“I should have definitely won a medal in Manchester. I just ran it badly,” said McIlroy on Wednesday.

"In Melbourne, a lot of things happened behind the scenes that week which didn’t give me a chance.

"If everything had gone to plan, I think I would have won that Commonwealth Games but it wasn’t meant to be.

"Things (my career) started off brightly. I had a few bad years but I came back into it.

"People always say, ‘you didn’t progress’ but I think I progressed better than anybody else in Britain over the last 20 years.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time in running but now it’s time to call it a day.”

McIlroy added that the recent indoor season, which included an appearance for Britain at the World Indoors in Valencia, had left him £300 out of pocket.

Sympathies and empathies there. Anyone who is not entrepreneurial could struggle - coaches too. In 88 before Seoul I spent a month stuck at the sports school in Cologne getting two athletes ready for the Olympics. I got $2000 from the NF as a grant to assist two Olympic sprinters for five months which was great but still took my entire 4wks annual leave and “blew” all of it on this coaching plan. There are heaps of “hidden” costs in being an athlete or coach, such as daily travel to and from training venues which alone mounts up. In 88, my accountant calculated that based on the log book I keep of mileage done etc, the costs of running the car just for coaching purposes (never mind rego and insurance costs) exceeded $4000 for the financial year. So $2000 in - $4000 out, hmmm, you can see why coaches and athletes are often forced out prematurely. :rolleyes:

and what was fuel way back then? 5-cents liter? imagine the cost now!!
And you would possibly still only the the 2g - OR less…

This is why I reckon the IOC should fund athletes. Somehow. We’re giving them some amazing output in terms of the final product that is the Olympic Games, but they don’t invest in us athletes at all. It is totally unfair.

It takes years of training to make an Olympic calibre athlete, and the costs are all taken up by the athlete (and federation – if the federation is capable).

But what? Olympic athletes shouldn’t get paid because it’s traditionally an amateur event. No! Fuck that.

The IOC needs to pay for the athlete’s preparation as well as for when the athlete competes at any Olympic Games. It’s only fair.

That’ll be the day. But tThat’s not to say I wouldn’t love to see the IOC pay competitors.

And should they also pay coaches, what about officials too? And for just athletics? Or all the others sports too? And should payment be by way of assistance to make the Games, or as a reward for having competed in the Games?

But the IOC do have some development programs which most notably produced Maria Mutola .

The problem for the IOC and all other IFs and NFs for that matter is that as soon as they accept that their competitors and officials are professionals, they fear they will be liable to provide funding for things such as superannuation, insurance/medical benefits etc

This would be very hard to implement. What criteria do you use to select candidates? Do NF’s recieve it then distribute it? How do you track and account for the use of funds?

I agree that it’s time athletes start to recieve some of the revenue that they help to generate, but I think paying athletes to prepare is a tricky proposition. There is enough corruption as it is as I’m sure at least one Coach on this forum can attest to, having had an athlete on a team where there were more officials than athletes…

One of the reasons athletes don’t get any slice of any pie, from IOC, IAAF, or NF (other than the few who receive grants, airfares, accomm when in the process of representing) is that they aren’t organised.

Competitors in Tennis realised this long ago and now they run their sport through the ATP and the WTA. Ditto pro surfers (the ASP) and there are probably others… I raised this with some of the best of the day back in 1985 but nothing happened because most athletes are at the top where they can call the shots for so little time that the meet directors etc can just wait them out - even if they were motivated to create a professional athletes’ association through which to negotiate an enterprise bargaining arrangement or take-over the sport for the benefit of all but especially the players.

I agree entirely.