The detail of how sport has fared in the 2018 budget became much clearer yesterday as Ministers Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin, together with officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport unveiled the wins that had been achieved.
Primary among them in terms of a headline project was confirmation that €16 million had been set aside for the construction of a new National Indoor Velodrome and National Badminton Centre at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus for completion in 2021.
This will follow on from the money already set aside to complete phase two of the National Indoor Arena, comprising covered artificial pitches primarily for the use of GAA, Rugby and Soccer but able to accommodate all field sports.
This will be delivered over the next two years with an opening date of 2019 already inked in.
In an expression of long-term commitment to major sporting projects, it was also revealed that a new large-scale sports infrastructure fund was being established with €50 million set aside to assist with major projects.
Over the next twelve months, a formal process will be designed to accept expressions of interest. Those who are accepted as being of sufficient scale and importance will go to a full cost/benefit analysis and model testing.
The fund has been created to set a framework for the development of projects which may include the stadium redevelopment at the RDS or for a National Cricket Stadium, both of which projects are likely to be poring over the detail of what will be required as it emerges.
The third major positive to emerge from the Budget briefing was the doubling of the money to be made available to smaller capital projects.
This is good news for those 2,320 applicants who made submissions in the round that closed earlier in 2017.
It was revealed yesterday that the total value of the projects submitted came to €155 million and the department fought to raise the amount of money that will be distributed from an original €30 Million to a new ceiling of €60 Million.
“There has been a clear and visible benefit to the Capital Sports Programme down the years,” said Minister of State for Sport Brendan Griffin.
“The strength of the submissions currently with the department gave us the determination to fight hard for a doubling of the money based on what it would deliver across the country and across so many clubs and sports.”
“We will shortly announce detail of how €56 Million will be distributed to local projects and another €4 Million to larger regional and national projects.”
“This will clear so many of the projects that deserve support and open the way for fresh applications in years to come as well.”
These big wins in the capital; spending arena will be tempered by a less than hoped for increase in terms of programme funding for National Governing Bodies and High-Performance Sport and no sign yet, at least formally of a multi-annual approach towards funding.
The 2018 amount to be distributed through Sport Ireland will be €48.5 Million, an increase of €1.5 Million on last year most of which will go towards three key areas.
The Gaelic Players Association deal will see around €700,000 set aside towards programmes and projects. €500,000 of support has been allocated towards the Irish Open Golf which will take place in Ballyliffin in County Donegal next year and €192,000 has been set aside specifically for the development of Women’s soccer through the FAI.
That will leave funding for National Governing Bodies, high performance and Local Sports Partnerships broadly in line with the current year and emphasising further the need to spread the base of funding through means of commercial or philanthropic development.
There will be disappointed over this given the strong emphasis on the need for long-term thinking oft-expressed within high-performance circles but there is no official response as yet and care will be needed to recognise the wins achieved elsewhere.
“The question of multi-annual funding was raised and explored but in terms of current spending that is a difficult part of very complex negotiations.”
“In terms of the national position now than we were at this stage of the last two four year cycles towards London and Rio and it is more likely to look at this as being a platform for future years funding rather than a figure we will have to fight hard to retain.”
The battle between capital and current is always seen through different perspectives, as is that between high performance and participation.
The capital wins achieved and announced yesterday will add to the sporting infrastructure of the country and deliver long-term benefit.
“The Government is convinced of the huge benefits, in terms of inclusion, health, wellbeing and child development, that arise from sport,” confirmed Minister Shane Ross who will also shortly oversee the publication of a new National Policy on Sport that will move the debate along again.
Yesterday was a winning day for sport. It did not achieve everything that everybody called for and wanted but that’s life, and especially that’s politics.
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