For Oral Answer on : 13/07/2023
Question Number(s): 108 Question Reference(s): 34694/23
Department: Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Tourism; Culture; Arts; Gaeltacht; Sport and Media if she is satisfied that there are sufficient facilities across the country to support the development of athletics; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The National Sports Policy 2018-2027 (NSP), approved by Government and launched in mid-2018, outlines the strategic approach to be taken over its 10-year duration for the provision of State support for sports facilities. Chapter 4 of the NSP identifies the priorities for Government insofar as sport facilities at local, regional and national level are concerned, confirming in particular the plan for State capital investment to embrace a broad range of facilities to promote participation across the sports spectrum, such as in clubs, schools and local community organisations.
The NSP also recognises the benefits of having a comprehensive and up-to-date database of sports facilities as the basis for effective and optimal planning of long-term facility investment. To this end, the National Digital Database of Sport and Recreation Amenities, currently being developed by Sport Ireland, is on track to be substantially completed by the end of this year. It is a major, multi-annual project involving the integration of multiple datasets from a wide variety of stakeholders that will, inter alia, increase our understanding of gaps or shortfalls in Ireland’s sporting infrastructure for any specific sports.
In relation to addressing any identified gaps, my Department provides grant assistance for sporting facilities through the Sports Capital and Equipment Programme (SCEP) and the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF).
The SCEP is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. Over 13,000 projects have now benefited from sports capital funding since 1998, bringing the total allocations in that time to over €1.15 billion. The Programme for Government commits to continuing the SCEP and to prioritising investment in disadvantaged areas.
The 2020 round of the SCEP closed for applications on Monday 1 March 2021 and by the deadline a record 3,106 applications were submitted. The final allocations under the 2020 round were announced on 31 May last year and the total allocation of €166.6 million represents the highest level of allocation ever made under the SCEP. Details of all allocations can be found on the Department’s website. Over €3.5m was provided specifically for athletics projects.
Following completion of the appeals process, my Department commenced a full review of all aspects of the 2020 round of the SCEP. This Review has now been published and is available on the Department’s website. Once the Review was finalised, I asked my officials to draft the “Guide to Making an Application” for the 2023 round to reflect the recommendations in the Review. This work is now complete and yesterday (12 July) Minister Martin and I published the new “Guide to Making an Application” for the 2023 round. We also announced that the Programme itself will be open for applications from 17 July until 8 September and I look forward to seeing a high level of applications for worthwhile sports projects including athletics projects.
With regard to larger projects, the NSP also provided for the establishment of the LSSIF. The aim of the fund is to provide support for larger sports facilities where the Exchequer investment is greater than the maximum amount available under the SCEP. The first allocations were announced in January 2020 and approximately €86.4 million has been allocated to 33 projects. The projects that received provisional allocations included a number of athletics projects and the amounts provisionally awarded to them are published on the Department’s website.
The first LSSIF allocations were announced just prior to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic obviously gave rise to significant financial challenges for all grantees with many of them having to reprioritise their own expenditure plans due to reductions in their income streams. In more recent times, the high level of construction inflation has also presented considerable challenges for grantees.
In view of these issues, it was considered timely to review progress on all projects that were allocated grants and meetings with all grantees have taken place. It is encouraging that, based on these discussions with grantees, over half of the 33 projects should be in a position to draw down funding this year. While this progress is very welcome, these discussions also confirm that some projects in receipt of LSSIF grants may not proceed in the short to medium term.
Following engagement with the Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, and in recognition of the challenges faced by some grantees due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the recent high level of construction inflation, officials in the Department have now written to all to all grantees inviting them to apply for additional support by 4 August 2023.
To be considered for additional funding, grantees have been advised that the key elements of the project should remain as set out in the original LSSIF application and that priority will be given to applicants who provide evidence-based documentation to support their application.
Once the application deadline has passed, we will consider a further allocation, with a view to ensuring that all projects still proceeding can be completed.
In relation to a new round of the LSSIF, Minister Martin and I will continue to engage with the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, in relation to the additional funding required and the timing and terms and conditions of any new round of the LSSIF will be announced in due course.