SFB Opinion – The Funding of Sport

There is always something of a contentious point among sports administrators on the balance to be struck between capital and current spending.

Perhaps it is likewise in other areas such as health and education but the balance in sport over recent years has tended to leave a trace of longing among those charged with filling the pitches and facilities that are being built with unprecedented levels of capital investment.

Yesterday Sport Ireland published the budget of its distribution to 57 National Governing Bodies of sport to run their core services and in the High-performance arena.

Read about the detail of the budget allocations here.

We knew from last October’s budget statement that this was going to be a case of ‘as you were’ in terms of funding and while that still amounts to a total of €10.8 million towards core funding, an additional €600,000 towards Women in Sport programmes and €7 million towards high-performance sport, there was still a sense that with increased activity in the economy and more money in tax revenue that sport might have done better.

The reality is that it has, just in different ways. The Sports Capital Grants announced in December will deliver the best part of €60 million into improving facilities at clubs and venues across the length and breadth of the country.

A new fund has been set aside of €50 million to help fund major infrastructure projects such as at the RDS for Leinster Rugby’s redeveloped home. Opening submissions for this funding are expected to be sought in or around Easter time.

The second phase of the National Indoor Arena is rising from the ground on the ever more impressive National Sports Campus and the green light has already been given for almost €20 million to fund the construction of a National Velodrome and Badminton Centre at the same location.

Generations

These are projects which will serve generations and are to be applauded.

Yet still there remains a sense that more is needed to fund the sporting bodies ability to get people playing more sport and getting more physically active,

Sport Ireland Chairman Kieran Mulvey spoke yesterday of the enormous scale of the remit they are given to cover all sports and to make a difference to the physical wellbeing of the nation.

The complexity of judging one worthy case for a particular sport over another is work that Solomon would think twice of taking on and yet this is the way that sport is funded. There is a responsibility when it comes to taxpayers money that it should be spent wisely and with regard to tangible returns.

That is an area where sport can sometimes struggle. The metrics of health and wellbeing where sport can rightly be judged to make its most important impact are changed over generations rather than single financial cycles.

Leadership

It takes real leadership to see beyond the next election and invest fully in sport.

There is real hope though that this is and will continue to happen.

Minister Brendan Griffin accepted that he and his Department wanted to do more. Department officials know where they want to be with sport and have a long-term plan to get there. Before Christmas Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who knows sport and health from his ministerial career, pledged to double spending on sport as well as culture and the Arts over the next seven years.

These are not empty promises, though the political leaders will accept that they need to be held to them.

There needs to be patience on one side that the next stage will be a greater contribution on the current spending, and that needs to be followed by action to get there at a faster pace than has been possible over the last two years of level funding.

Nobody was anything other than grateful yesterday for the money which has been hard won for sport.

Development

Substantial sums have been set aside for high-performance development.

Tennis, Cricket Badminton and Gymnastics will all receive between €120,000 and €175,000 towards developing the best talent this year.

At the next level, The Irish Rugby Sevens programme and Triathlon Ireland will get €220,000 each, Cycling Ireland climbs from €320,000 to €390,000 and the Confederation of Irish Golf from €400,000 to €410,000.

Hockey, Rowing, Swimming and Horse Sport Ireland will all bank over €500,000, Paralympics Ireland €665,000, Boxing €700,000, Sailing €735,000 and Athletics, despite a 5% fall on 2017, a total of €790,000.

Specific money has also been set aside for Ireland to compete at The World Equestrian Games (€110,000) and the Hockey World Cups in men’s and Women’s (€60,000) and to host the World Amateur Team Golf Championships (€100,000), the IPC European Para Swimming Championships (€50,000) and the Special Olympics Ireland Games (€60,000).

There are more figures to play with than on a leaving certificate maths syllabus.

Turning that into performances that will raise the spirit of the nation is the task now laid out for our sporting leaders.

They could always do with more money, but for now we have to play the cards that have been dealt.

We have to trust that better days are just around the corner, relentlessy move towards it and be ready when it turns.

 

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