November 15th, 2019 was club funding’s All-Ireland Final. It was the date on which the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport revealed the winners in the award of the annual Sports Capital Grants.

Sport for Business has carried analysis over the past week outlining some of the winners and losers. Today we bring you a further detailed breakdown of where the money went and some insight as to why from Darren McMahon of 2Into3.

We have also started to receive a number of applications from sporting bodies and clubs who are interested in learning about how they can enhance their application in the next round likely to be opened up in early 2020.

If you want to know more simply fill out your details in the form below.

For now though let’s see what 2Into3 have to say about the most recent round of funding…

Ireland is often a country of the urban-rural divide; rural areas often feel overlooked with perceived preference given to Dublin.

One might form the view that Dublin has received more preferential treatment. Tim O’Brien of the Irish Times notes that the largest grants were given to Dublin clubs, with “southside rugby, golf, hockey and GAA clubs” featuring strong among recipients.

Yes, Dublin received 30 of the 31 local capital grants over the value of €100,000. Without a doubt, Dublin clubs could access higher level capital grants more easily than clubs in other counties.

However, delving deeper into the figures better informs the outcome. Questioning last Friday’s allocation by quantum is not a fair assessment of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport’s (DTTAS) policy towards the allocation of Sports Capital Grants.

108 Cork clubs received capital grants, whereas 95 Dublin clubs were approved. For the first time, Sports Capital was divided into three segments. Any invalid project from 2017 was given an opportunity to correct their documentation. These allocations were made in January 2019. Next came equipment only applications, allocated in May 2019. Finally, the capital applications were dished out in November 2019. At all stages, Dublin received less than the rest of Leinster and the rest of Ireland on per head of population basis per county.

With none of the 108 Cork clubs receiving a grant over €95,000 though we need to look closer at why Dublin clubs secure more higher-level grants than other areas.

Since 2014, Dublin has received significantly less funding per head of population that the entire country.

For various reasons, Dublin clubs are not applying for the same number of grants compared to other counties.

For example, 266 Dublin clubs applied for the local fund, while 253 Cork clubs applied. In recent years, the Sports Capital Programme made headlines over political intervention and the prioritisation of favoured sports in ministerial backyards, particularly in Dublin.

However, an examination of previous rounds proves that Dublin has significantly lagged behind the rest of Ireland, despite a plethora of cabinet ministers (and a Taoiseach) in the greater Dublin area. DTTAS is showing a preference to fund more regionally based applications.

Demand for Sports Capital is growing. Records from 2015 note that 1,503 individual applications were made. This increased 45% in the 2017 round to 2,179 applications, while 2018 noted a 7% increase to 2,337 applications.

Evidently, Ireland is consuming funding and politely asking for more. 2018 recorded the highest level of applications. Sports Capital represents one of the few channels for clubs to access capital funding.

Unfortunately, DTTAS simply cannot keep up with the demand. The funds are not available to do so. The below table shows the total amount received per county, relative to the total original ask. On average, clubs received 36% of what they sought, whereas Dublin clubs had a more favourable outcome, securing 49% of what they sought on average.

A glance at this year’s announcements shows that a total of 1,640 applications were successful, leaving 697 applications “unsuccessful.” To put this in perspective, that’s almost 30% of all applications.

In the 2017 round, every valid application received some funding. This policy was not continued for the 2018 round. The steep rise in applications, combined with almost €6m less in local funding may account for the non-continuation of this policy.

DTTAS was unable to maintain the high standard set in 2017. Expectations prior to the 2018 round were high and clubs shouldn’t be wrong to believe that they all could receive something for their application.

DTTAS included a more rigorous testing of applications in 2018, a revamped scoring system to better disaggregate applications. In 2018 and previous rounds, DTTAS has shown distinct commitment to allocate funds across the country, not just to Dublin.

In 2018, DTTAS administered improved weightings to the scores of clubs from disadvantaged areas and who had not before received Sports Capital money, proving that DTTAS wanted just allocations.

For the equipment-only grants, the top 75% of valid applicants nationwide received funding. A similar process continued for the capital grants but at the time of writing DTTAS has not provided public information on the allocation process of grant funding.

It is 2into3’s understanding that each individual county had a specific “pass grade.” A club’s opportunity to receive funding should not be determined simply by its location. Likewise, the amount allocated to a club should not be determined by its location.

DTTAS will undertake a review of the 2018 round soon. It is imperative that it examines additional means of improving the supports that clubs need to access to grow sport across Ireland.

This programme represents one of the few ways how clubs can access capital funding. €52m was made available in 2018 to local clubs, following on from the €58m for local clubs in 2017. Undoubtedly, this policy is commendable and doesn’t receive enough support by mainstream media.

However, while DTTAS has taken this approach to significantly invest in sport nationwide, it must realise that by doing so, expectations will rise and application numbers will increase.

Rural clubs need the opportunity to access higher level grants. Proceeding with the contrary means that rural clubs considering significantly ambitious capital projects may become extremely hesitate at applying through Sports Capital.

Again, the allocations of grants in Cork bears fruit to this sentiment. 30 Cork-based applications were made for a full grant of €150,000. In some cases, the total costs of these projects exceeded €200,000. No local grant in Cork received over €95,000. This means that the maximum grant that any of these 30 clubs could expect is approximately 63% of the grant sought.

Any of these ambitious capital projects will be slowed by such allocations. Budgets are limited, there will always be disappointed clubs and it is impossible for everyone to get what they want.

Without a doubt, the policy to spread funding across rural clubs, while allowing a smaller number of Dublin clubs greater access to higher funding is causing some disappointment across the country.

DTTAS now has the scenario where Dublin continues to be underfunded, while the demand countrywide means rural clubs are less likely to succeed. If DTTAS is to level the playing field on a per capita basis, for example, it will come at a cost for the regional areas judging by the current budgetary levels approved for Sports Capital.

Budget 2020 allocated €34m for Sports Capital. To encourage more non-Dublin clubs to think more ambitiously DTTAS may need to reassurance clubs that they can access ambitious grants. To do this, budgets undoubtedly need to increase for local club developments and DTTAS need to consider an evaluation of the six grading criteria to strike a fair balance for all.

Sport for Business working with our friends and partners in 2Into3 will be hosting a series of Masterclasses around the country early in the new year where we will be able to share the success of clubs that have won and point to the ways in which applications can be made in order to give your club the best possible chance.

These were a great success at the end of last year and we look forward to hitting the road again in 2020.

If you would like to express your interest in taking part in a Masterclass in your region let us know in the form below and we will be in touch with dates and venues based on demand from around the country.

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