Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport were present at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on their areas of Government earlier in the week and put the sporting world on notice that the Government’s Large Scale Infrastructure Fund would be launched for applications early next week.
That will put organisations including Leinster Rugby and the RDS, Connacht Rugby, the GAA, FAI and Cricket Ireland, who have all expressed ambition for new facilities to benefit from this fund very much on notice.
Minister Griffin also revealed that letters of invitation to take part on the Sports Leadership Group who will be charged with putting targets and timetables around the key pillars of the ten-year National Policy on Sport are also en routs or awaiting signature.
This group was originally targeted as being in place within 90 days of the policy launch which would have been October 19th but it is always better to get it right rather than getting it quick and it will be important to get the right representation of different interests within the wider sporting family.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin also revealed that their findings would be reported on “around this time next year, maybe a little earlier” and that the implementation would now extend to over 12 years, reviewable every four in line with the cycle of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Among the other things we learned were that the current round of Sports Capital Grant funding has attracted total bids of €163 million of funding, for a pot of only €40 million and that it would likely be March or April of 2019 when the notification of awards would be made.
“We want to administer this as quickly as possible and get the money out to clubs and organisations but there is a massive administrative job of work to be done.”
“The 2017 applications that were resubmitted could be out before Christmas but that is dependent on a number of moving parts.”
“We would hope that the 2018 applications will be finalised in the spring but there will also be a slowdown in that if there are small anomalies in applications that we will be giving them a second chance to get those things corrected.”
On a question of governance Minister Griffin revealed that of the 76 bodies affiliated to Sport Ireland that 12 National Governing Bodies, three local sports partnerships and one other are already fully compliant with the Governance Code and that it was expected by 2021 that all of the bodies would be fully compliant.
The Government has published its National Policy on Sport which sets a blueprint for what we can aspire to, what we can expect and what we can focus on as those responsible for delivering sport in its many forms over the next decade.
It is a long and detailed paper, running to 57 individual action points and 108 pages, reflecting the time that has gone into its creation and the complexity of dealing with a broad canvas with impact points at every life stage and area of how we live as a society.
The reaction from across the sporting sector, both public and private has been positive and the Federation of Irish Sport has given it a warm welcome.
The lead financial commitment is that Government will raise spending on sport from a current level of €110 million to double that at €220 million by 2028.
There is a commitment to an annual fund for capital projects which currently represents around 40 per cent of total spending in the sector.
As part of the plan, the long called for multi-annual funding will be delivered, from 2019 onwards based on four-year cycles and reviewed at each cycle.
There is an undertaking to raise funding of high-performance sport to the level of comparator nations, with New Zealand as a standard. This would effectively mean an increase to €30 Million of annual funding in that area, effectively a trebling of the investment that will be available in 2018.
There were more financial incentives delivered by Ministers Ross and Griffin yesterday as well.
A fresh €1.5 million of funding towards high-performance programmes aimed specifically at Tokyo 2020 will be delivered.
There will be a doubling of investment exclusively targetting Women in Sport.
There will also be a €1 million commitment to disability sport through the funding of a Sports inclusion disability officer in all Local Sports Partnerships, as opposed to some as is currently the case.
A Policy is not a budget though and it is there to inform the strategic initiatives that will lead to delivery of the ultimate goals.
We now know what those are, in three key areas.
Overall participation in sport is to rise from 43 per cent to 50 per cent of the population, an equivalent of 260,000 additional people taking part in sport.
More targetted high-performance funding to lift the number of medals at Olympic and Paralympic Games from the 13 achieved in Rio to a target of 20 at Los Angeles in 2028. This does mean that funding will be spent more in some sports than others and introduce a more merit and evidence basis to the distribution of the finite pot. This will please some, and leave others on the sideline but sport understands the nature of competition and the aim of winning.
The third key goal is that all funded sports bodies, and this rolls all the way through to clubs, will be in compliance with the Governance Code for the Community, Voluntary and Charity Sector.
Sport Leadership Group
The next key milestone is only three months away with the formation of the Sport Leadership Group from the sector and from Government.
That is to be created by October 25th and will report to Government by July 25th 2019. Its remit will be to develop and publish a comprehensive set of key performance indicators covering all elements of the policy Progress in implementing the policy will be assessed against these indicators.