There was a very strong turnout from across the sporting, education and local authority sectors for a special briefing on the Government’s Large Scale Sporting Infrastructure Fund at the National Sports Campus yesterday.
Organised by the Federation of Irish Sport, the session gave officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport who are administering the fund the opportunity to go into detail about what would and would not be eligible under the fund and to take extensive questions from the floor.
Noel Sheehan outlined the reasons behind the establishment of the fund and its relationship to the Sports Capital Programme which has been a huge success at local and regional level.
The new fund was created in order to provide the same level of access and transparency around projects where the minimum Government investment would be €300,000 up to a maximum of €30 million on projects of up to €100 million.
Donal Hanigan then went through the specifics of the fund including details on the required ownership of the land and the ability for the government to place a charge on that land as part of the funding transaction.
Multi-sport use and collaboration were once more to the fore in terms of how each of the projects would be assessed and there was a strong sense that producing new facilities that would merely replicate existing ones would not be a favoured approach.
The objectives of the fund are aligned to those of the National Sports Policy. These include increasing active and social participation in sport and the quality of that participation as well as to improve high-performance levels and to increase access to sport for those with disability.
The amount of money on offer has been pitched at a minimum of €100 million over the coming years but as projects came forward that could yet rise in line with further commitments under the Ireland 2040 Capital investment programme.
There are two streams of funding, the first towards covering from design to tender and the second towards construction.
While Universities and third level colleges are not specifically included in the round, proposals which may incorporate them in partnership with National Governing Bodies and Local authorities will be considered.
A number of other suggestions, including a ‘matchmaker’ service which could link up smaller NGB’s with others to put forward multi-use projects, were also raised and will be taken away for further consideration.
The lure of big money investment is always attractive but the applications, which remain open top April 17th, will require detail and ambition, as well as clear impact. yesterday was a good step for those who are preparing to make a bid.