JUNE POLICY UPDATE: OLYMPIC REVIEW AT OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE; ALCOHOL SPONSORSHIP DEBATE RUMBLES ON & MORE
The Irish Sports Council & Olympic Council of Ireland appeared before the Oireatchas Committee on June 19th to discuss London 2012 and the distribution of funding to sporting organisations. Conversation focused on high performance sport and in particular, the successes of and learnings from London 2012 however issues such as the value for money provided by sport and the positive impact sport has on people’s lives also featured.
ISC Chairman Kieran Mulvey also took the opportunity to ask the Committee Members to do the best they could to protect current budgets highlighting that whilst cuts to funding had not been as deep as they may have been the ISC was now operating close to critical mass and that further cuts would begin to really eat into sporting organisations. Senator Paschal Mooney outlined his view that tax payer investment in sport should be greater.
Senator Coughlan did suggest that some performances at London 2012 did not represent value for money. It was pointed out that Ireland finished 41st out of 205 countries at the London Games which, Pat Hickey suggested was a remarkable record for a country the size of Ireland.
Closer co-operation between organisations and athletes North & South, corporate support for the work of the Irish Sports Council, sports capital funding and governance of sporting organisations were amongst the other issues raised. Deputy Noel Mooney and Vice-Chair John O’Mahoney, who was serving as Chair following the promotion of Tom Hayes T.D. to Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, in particular focused on the latter issue.
John Treacy highlighted that the ISC gives governance training to the National Governing Bodies. Kieran Mulvey said that the ISC plays an oversight role in terms of sports governance. He pointed out that the ISC would show sensitivity when working with sports organisations but that if they were unhappy with a governance issue would ensure that it was addressed because of the funding provided to them.
This Committee hearing followed on from one on May 8th at which, Minister Michael Ring appeared in advance of the EU Council of Sports Ministers Meeting he hosted in Brussels the following week as part of Ireland’s Presidency of the EU.
Minister Ring noted how much of Ireland’s work on sport during the Presidency had centred on sustainable financing of sport, dual careers for athletes and the integrity of sport including, anti-doping. In this regard, he confirmed that Ireland had secured the attendance of Travis Tygart, Chief Executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency, to address the European Minister of Sport.
Sports Capital Funding, a bid for the Rugby World Cup, governance and anti-doping were amongst the discussion topics raised by the Committee Members.
Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, Leo Varadkar, was responding to Parliamentary Questions on June 27th. Sport didn’t feature amongst the priority questions. However, issues raised in written questions included a Rugby World Cup Bid, Sports Capital Funding, Cycling and Sports Facilities.
1. Rugby World Cup Bid
It was confirmed that the IRFU had recently presented a feasibility study around the potential hosting of the tournament which, was currently being considered. It was noted that the Programme for Government includes a commitment that event tourism will be prioritised so as to ensure major events continue to come to Ireland. Failte Ireland it was stated continues to support the holding of sports and other events that can boost tourism and, where appropriate, will provide advice and assistance to the sporting body which is seeking to secure an international event.
2. Cycling Facilities
In response to a question on the redevelopment of the toll paths along the Royal and Grand Canal into cycle ways it was confirmed that the Department is fully supportive of the development of cycle ways along canal paths and recognises the benefits of these initiatives but that it is a matter for relevant local authorities to progress and submit proposals for the development of such routes to the Department.
3. Sports Capital Grants
It was confirmed that no decision has been taken on the timing of the next round of the sports capital grant programme and that any such decision would have to be taken in the context of the likely capital provision for the subhead in future years. It was also confirmed that a review of the 2012 round was underway with a view to simplifying and streamlining the application process.
4. Sports Facility Strategy
It was stated that a draft National Sports Facilities Strategy was published as a discussion document on the Department’s website in September 2012. A final strategy, taking account of submissions received, is to be published shortly.
The issue of alcohol sponsorship and sport is continuing to receive significant media attention. It is understood that the Department of Health recently circulated proposals around the issue of alcohol misuse to include a proposed ban on the sponsorship of major events by alcoholic drinks companies to Cabinet for comment. Comments received are currently being considered with the matter due to be discussed again at Cabinet level. In the meantime, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport & Communications Report is due to be launched on July 2nd.