Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport
Sport in Ireland - Challenges, Strategies and Governance: Sport Ireland and the Federation of Irish Sport
Before we begin, I remind members, witnesses and those in the Gallery to turn off their mobile phones. We will now consider the issue of sports in Ireland. This is the second hearing on this issue, which we have included in our work programme for 2017. Today we will continue to examine a number of areas, including how governance is supported and promoted within the national governing bodies, the significance of annual reporting and ensuring compliance with State funding requirements, how financial compliance is managed through audit procedures and how the greatest efficiency and suitability can be achieved through the sports capital programme. We will also continue the discussion on gender quotas on State-sponsored sports boards and seek the views of Sport Ireland and the Federation of Irish Sport.
Sport Ireland provides support for national governing bodies in areas such as governance, planning and compliance, while the Federation of Irish Sport supports these bodies working collectively for the betterment of sport in Ireland, and so make up a vital component of our analysis of sport in Ireland. In this regard, I am delighted to welcome to the meeting today Mr. John Treacy, chief executive, Mr. Paul McDermott, director of high-performance and NGPs, and Dr. Una May, director of participation and ethics, from Sport Ireland, and Mr. James Galvin, chief executive officer, and Ms Sarah Keane, board member of the Federation of Irish Sport. I thank them for attending.
Before we commence, in accordance with procedure, I am required to read the following. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I remind witnesses that the opening statements which have been circulated to members should be no more than five minutes duration. I invite Mr. Treacy to make his opening statement.
Mr. John Treacy:
On behalf of Sport Ireland, I thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to speak today. Sport Ireland was established in 2015 as the single statutory agency responsible for the development of sport in Ireland. We place a high premium on good governance and encourage high standards in governance from all funded bodies. We believe in empowering sporting organisations to take responsibility for their governance and meet the challenges they face. Sport Ireland assists all funded bodies to achieve excellence in their work through a number of interventions in the area of governance. This is broken down into a series of meaningful pieces of work, ensuring growth and stability moving forward.
Sport Ireland was the first statutory body to adopt the community and voluntary code as best practice in 2013. In 2016, the Minister of State, Deputy Patrick O’Donovan, identified corporate governance as a key priority for Sport Ireland funded bodies. To this end, the Minister of State addressed the national governing bodies for sport and highlighted that the adoption of the community and voluntary code would become a condition of funding. That would make it mandatory for all Sport Ireland funded bodies to start the process of adopting the code during 2017, on a comply-and-explain basis to be completed by 2021.
In anticipation of moving our funded bodies towards compliance under the code, Sport Ireland has already incorporated a number of questions in our annual grant application process. This provides us with a clear picture on where we are on our journey to comply with the code. So far, seven national organisations have fully adopted the code and 26 funded bodies are working on the journey to compliance.
Governance across the board is of paramount importance to Sport Ireland, which is why we have put in place a range of monitors and supports to ensure that funded bodies are adequately responding to the issues they face. In addition to the grant application form, we get mid-year reviews from governing bodies which detail operational plans, compliance documentation such as financial statements, anti-doping codes and codes of ethics. We also carry out an audit function each year, whereby a comprehensive programme of auditing funded bodies is undertaken. Reports are submitted directly to the Sport Ireland audit committee. The committee reviews and tracks progress. Part of those audit reports refers to implementation and plans, and we in Sport Ireland work with governing bodies to ensure we have full compliance in terms of what the audit reports state. We have dealt with many national governing bodies in that respect.
There were a number of disputes in recent times within sport and Sport Ireland. All national governing bodies are expected to include a form of dispute resolution in their constitutions, which has taken time but has been done. Through the Sport Ireland website, funded bodies have access to a dedicated section covering governance, which includes information on good governance, governance principles and the governance code, along with a number of detailed publications and toolkits, including the better board, stronger sport toolkit which was developed with funding from the European Commission. It is now available for use and Sport Ireland played a key role in the development of this resource.
Throughout 2017, we in Sport Ireland will work in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration and will host a number of flagship governance events for funded bodies, directed at board members, chairs and chief executives. We also have an organisational development and change unit that offers a series of services to governing bodies, volunteers and administrators in the area of advisory services, such as HR, governance skills, knowledge training, project management etc., which is available and has been well received by governing bodies.
Sport Ireland supports the core concept of gender representation on boards as it is consistent with our strategic and operational practice, promoting inclusion at every level of sport. Addressing gender imbalance on boards is primarily an equality measure. It would create benefits in terms of advancing the governance culture of boards by widening their representation, expanding expertise and generating a cascading effect through the other representative and governing committees within sport.
A great deal of work is directed at ensuring gender balance and much progress has been made in this regard, but we acknowledge that the introduction of mandatory quotas presents challenges. There are many high-profile female athletes, administrators and officials in Irish sport and the participation gap, we are very happy to say, has been closing. However, there remains an issue of gender balance in sports administration and more progress is required.
Should gender quotas be introduced for sports bodies, the primary issue of the process involved will need to be addressed, that is, the independence of sporting bodies. Individual M&As and constitutions may not provide for a speedy implementation of any proposal. While it would be preferable that the introduction of gender balance happens soon, it needs to be acknowledged that this process will take time. We have seen evidence of this in terms of dispute resolution, where amendments to constitutions and M&As were required.
Current funding from Sport Ireland to national governing bodies and local sports partnerships has decreased by 19% since 2007. There is a challenge to restore funding, as all Sport Ireland funded bodies, including governing bodies and local sports partnerships, need support.
As everyone knows, sport plays a very significant role in raising the level of physical activity within the population and makes a major contribution to the health of the nation. The national network of local sports partnerships is vital to the ongoing achievement of our goals in increasing participation in sport and physical activity. The continued success of Irish athletes on the world stage represents the most successful sustained period in the history of high performance sport in Ireland. This success is built on the foundation of Sport Ireland's high performance strategy and the work of the institute. If we are to realise our full potential in achieving an active population, experience sustained success at an international level and build on these foundations, there is a need for progressive funding for Sport Ireland and to deliver on the functions of the Sport Ireland Act. We believe strong Government investment in sport is merited, given the economic, social, cultural and health benefits it brings to the country.
With regard to the sports capital programme, the National Sports Campus has developed to become the epicentre for sport in Ireland. We have a national aquatic centre, the institute's high performance centre, the headquarters of Irish Sport, a horse arena, a national cross-country track which was opened this year and the headquarters of Special Olympics Ireland. I am delighted to say the Taoiseach will be opening our national indoor arena tomorrow morning. The centrepiece will obviously be the indoor athletics centre and the gymnastics centre. There will also be a national indoor training area that will cater for up to 20 sports and more. Work is under way on Cricket Ireland's training facility and additional office accommodation.
The next priority for the board of Sport Ireland is the funding and progression of phase 2 of the national indoor arena. This will see the construction of covered synthetic pitches, primarily for soccer, Gaelic games and rugby but which will be capable of accommodating all field sports, together with ancillary changing and strength and conditioning facilities. Planning permission has been granted for the development of the national velodrome and badminton centre which, following departmental sanction, has been brought to tender stage.
Sport Ireland welcomes the recent announcement of the next round of the sports capital programme. It is our contention that future funding for local and regional sports facilities should be guided by the need to best support increased participation in sport and support for elite athletes. We believe multi-sport facilities should also be prioritised, recognising that adults transition between sports throughout the course of their lives. It is the view of Sport Ireland that consideration needs to take into account the activities towards which adults are increasingly gravitating, including running, cycling, outdoor adventure pursuits and recreational walking, among others. In this regard, apart from investment in traditional sports infrastructure, the way in which the wider natural and built environments are designed needs to be addressed in order that taking part in sport and physical activity is an easy choice. From a high performance perspective, Sport Ireland is of the view that investment in high performance equipment should be catered for in future rounds of the sports capital programme. In 2014 two sports that received a capital injection were sailing and rowing and participants in both went on to win medals in Rio de Janeiro. It was a critical intervention that had a direct impact on our high performance programme.
The biggest challenge facing sport is the threat posed by doping. Earlier this month Sport Ireland hosted the leaders of 19 national anti-doping agencies at a special summit in Farmleigh, at which issues in the global fight against doping were discussed. The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, addressed the conference. Following the meeting, the group issued a strong statement that highlighted how the world's anti-doping system could be reformed and how non-compliance should be met with the strongest possible action. It is vital that all of the recommendations proposed by the group be implemented to protect the integrity of sport and protect clean athletes. We have all read about the McLaren reports in recent times. A system of anti-doping is only as strong as the weakest country. We all need to make sure we get our systems up and running.
There are three key areas concerning strategy. We have touched on corporate governance. What we need are strong, dynamic sports organisations to drive sport in Ireland. This will obviously be a key strategy. As a new agency we are developing our own strategy and will need to resource the sector in supporting the national governing bodies.
On participation, the narrowing of existing gradients is a challenge. The investments in the national physical activity plan, measured through the Dormant Accounts Fund, are to be commended. Should these interventions be found to be successful following robust evaluation, Sport Ireland recommends that every effort be made to have them scaled up and rolled out nationwide using more mainstream Exchequer funding sources, with possible private investment.
On the high performance front, funding for 2017 has remained static. Ireland experienced unprecedented success in London, winning six medals, but this success was not replicated in 2016. We had many fine performances across the board but won only two medals. We need to ensure we increase our investment in high performance sport. We are looking to countries such as New Zealand and Denmark which are investing far more that we are in the high performance system. One gets a direct result from investment in high performance sport. We need to ensure we keep pace with the rest of the world.
Our Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games review has been completed and is with the Department. We look forward to announcing the recommendations and discussing them with the committee in due course. I thank it for its time and certainly would welcome questions members might wish to ask.
Mr. James Galvin:
The Federation of Irish Sport welcomes the opportunity to present its ideas as part of the "Sport in Ireland" module. We fully appreciate the broad and challenging nature of the committee's remit, with the ongoing pressures of constituency work. It is crucial, however, that Irish Sport work in partnership with the wider political and policy communities in shaping future policy. This platform is a key part of that process and I am thankful for the opportunity. The Federation of Irish Sport is the representative body for Ireland's national governing bodies, local sports partnerships and other voluntary sports organisations. Its membership comprises over 100 sports organisations. It is a not-for-profit organisation which champions the value of sport.
I shall address the topics in sequence. We compliment the Ministers responsible for sport on raising these vital issues and giving them a forum. I will begin with governance. While the governance of Irish sport has been topical in recent times, a huge amount of work is being undertaken in the background to implement best practice. We have seen difficulties emerge in other sectors in recent years and the reputational damage that has been done as a consequence. It is in all of our interests to get this right. Many smaller national governing bodies, however, expend significant time and energy in implementing the code of governance, with limited resources. It is an extra cost that some organisations have difficulty in absorbing. These are not opt-outs or excuses but facts. Many national governing bodies are under-resourced, resulting in senior and volunteer staff working across multiple roles. The austerity years have added to these difficulties and the funding levels of Irish sport, despite modest increases in the past two budgets, are still significantly off peak current funding levels in 2007. Increased funding is not the only part of the solution, but it is an important one that needs to be acknowledged.
We fully recognise that with funding, particularly State funding, comes responsibility. Our members know this and welcome it. Transparency and accountability are key to stakeholder confidence. Applying the governance code effectively will require the parallel establishment of a monitoring and evaluation system that will document processes, train members and evaluate their performances. In addition, the federation recommends the setting up of an internal audit function in Sport Ireland to assist national governing bodies in improving compliance. Such measures will need to be resourced appropriately.
It is important to acknowledge the positive role of Sport Ireland's organisation development unit in building capabilities. The unit is valued highly by national governing bodies and local sports partnerships. It is important to recognise the practicalities of implementation within Irish sport and elsewhere. For governing bodies established as companies limited by guarantee, almost all of the changes would require a change to the articles of the company which, in turn, would require 75% of the members present and voting at the meeting to approve the changes. In some cases, boards are made up of individuals from specific committees; therefore, the matter is not uncomplicated. For some, it will mean changing fundamentally how the organisation has operated for its entire existence. Therefore, it will require time and, in many cases, a supportive approach to the governing bodies to bring about this type of change. We believe all sports should be asked to embrace these general principles but that discussion should take place with the relevant bodies individually on implementation and timescales.
There are many ways to address this issue, one being adopting a tiered approach, based on funding support or other measures, which has been adopted in the United Kingdom, or a comply or explain approach, for example, or both.
Irrespective of the approach, we believe strongly in getting Irish sport to embrace not just the concept of good governance but the real practical changes to effect it.
The Federation of Irish Sport welcomes the recent discussions with the Minister and Minister of State on the subject of gender quotas on boards. We fully agree with the spirit of the policy, and will continue to proactively engage with all stakeholders and the wider commentariat in that regard. However, its implementation may pose particular challenges for some of our members. For example, consideration and understanding should be afforded to single-gender-dominated sport bodies. It is clear, however, that where male and females participate in the same or a similar sport and they are under the one governing body, diversity on boards is more prevalent. Therefore, this is something that should be encouraged, as has happened whereby various sporting organisations of specific genders are partnering up to deliver for the sport as a whole.
There are inherent risks in appointing people to positions based on their gender rather than appropriate experience, competence and qualification for the role. Aggressive implementation could lead to resentment, and run contrary to the intentions of the policy. Parallel to discussions on quotas, we need to have a much wider debate about the traditional barriers to women's representation on boards.
Clearly this issue is not confined to sporting bodies. It is reflected in the private and public sectors and at the highest level in the Civil Service. It is also reflected in directors' remuneration and overall disparities in levels of pay. There are findings, insights and solutions to be shared from other sectors, and we want to be part of that wider conversation. Given the collective nature of directors' responsibility, there may be a detrimental impact on recruiting competent people if they believe that quotas are promoting candidates beyond their ability. The evidence that this changes over the medium term needs to be examined as part of these discussions.
Similar to our comments on governance, we believe that Irish sporting organisations should be required to embrace the principle and agree an implementation plan as appropriate to show a real intention to address the issues. Our view in this case is that a tiered approach should be considered as sporting organisations differ vastly in terms of their operations and their capacity. Furthermore, where change is embraced and committed to from the sport, it is likely to become part of the culture of the sport rather than a tick-the-box exercise.
Irish sport realises that the Government continues to have to make difficult decisions on funding. Sport has already taken huge hits and any further curtailment in the investment will greatly damage sport and its potential. Investment is essential to the future well-being of Irish sport as such funding initially provides the programmes that lead to driving participation and unearthing new talents. Those talents are then nurtured by the funding to create the high-performance sportsmen and sportswomen who do our country proud.
While new facilities are extremely worthwhile, they bring additional operational outlays which must, at least for a period of time, be funded. This must be taken into account when comparing and considering Government investment in sport. We contend that it is investment as opposed to grants to the statutory agency, the governing bodies, local sports partnerships and others involved to deliver a service to people in Ireland through their day-to-day work of developing, promoting and delivering sporting opportunities and structured competitions, events and the entire relevant infrastructure to support those involved.
Irish Sport has come a long way since dedicated Government investment and funding commenced in 1997. Sport extends across virtually every activity in constituencies, villages and towns throughout the country. Sport is a driver and partner of policy formation offering different perspectives, new thinking and innovative solutions. Traditionally Irish sport is a sector that does a lot with relatively little. However, society has changed and so has the way in which sport operates. What was acceptable in many cases previously is not acceptable now and the role of the governing bodies and others is vital to the infrastructure of Irish sport and ensuring that sport does not just happen, but happens in a safe and sustainable environment.
We now have the opportunity to embark on a wider conversation about how sport is funded, its role in shaping public policy, and corresponding Government strategies and interventions. We need a government with the vision to recognise and embrace this opportunity by encouraging and facilitating this debate. Government funding is an integral part of the development of our sportsmen and sportswomen, young and old. Without Government funding it would not be possible to provide the very successful grassroots and developmental programmes organised and administered by national governing bodies and local sports partnerships in every county of Ireland ensuring that our sportsmen and sportswomen get the opportunity to realise their potential.
I will now outline the key building blocks to ensure Ireland's sporting future. We wish to see the implementation of a national sport strategy that maximises the power and positivity of sport across Government to enhance the lives and health of all Ireland's citizens. The strategy should be both aspirational and transformative with ring-fenced funding, dedicated political oversight and review mechanisms.
We wish to see the restoration of funding levels for sport to 2008 levels next year. We wish to see them increased by 20% by 2020 through costed programmes and initiatives to deliver targeted outcomes in terms of increased participation and retention levels as well as high-performance sport. We also ask that a system of multiannual funding be introduced. Multiannual funding would facilitate the development of more strategic and longer-term planning for sports bodies, and would provide them with more certainty about their funding than currently exists. It would also allow Sport Ireland to make funding decisions on the basis of these longer-term plans.
We need to provide the next generation with the best opportunities. We need to commit to the delivery of at least two hours' mandatory sport and physical activity each week, as recommended by the Department of Health and the WHO, while trying to formalise links between schools and community sports clubs. All of this will impact on the quality of service and capacity of NGBs and LSPs to recruit members, and develop and deliver sports programmes across the country.
The programme for Government refers to the "significant social and health benefits that participation in sport delivers". As we have outlined, that is only part of the picture. Sport interacts with policy in public health promotion, social integration, cultural identity, education, job creation and building relationships with the "new Irish" communities and yet we are significantly under-utilised and under-resourced as a driver and shaper of policy change. We have much more to offer and are willing to play that role.
Sport in this country is part of our culture and who we are. However, we must work to ensure it is inclusive and sustainable throughout the lifecycle. There is plenty in what we have outlined and what will have been received through submissions from the governing bodies, local sports partnerships and others on the national sports policy to put concrete solutions in place to address the challenges we face and to help sporting organisations deliver on their potential to bring sport to all of the people.
I welcome the witnesses. In Mr. Treacy's opening submission, he stated that to date only seven funded bodies had met all the community and voluntary code of governance guidelines and that 26 funded bodies are working towards the code. Why have so many not complied with the code? He also stated that Sport Ireland had put in place a range of monitors and supports to ensure that funded bodies are adequately responding to Government issues. I ask him to elaborate more on this and perhaps give the committee some examples of the monitoring and supports put in place.
Mr. Treacy stated that the audit committee carried out an annual review of selected organisations. What percentage of organisations are subject to this review on an annual basis? Regarding gender balance on boards, what is the percentage of females on various boards?
Mr. Treacy said that the biggest challenge facing sports was the threat of doping. I ask him to elaborate. What action does Sport Ireland intend to take to keep sport in Ireland clean?
Was Mr. Treacy happy with Ireland's performance at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games? The 2012 games in London were excellent. What was the difference between the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games? What plans has Sport Ireland put in place for the 2020 Olympic Games? Mr. Treacy spoke about investment in high-performance sport. He mentioned two countries, Denmark and New Zealand, which did very well in the 2016 Olympic Games. Why did they do so well compared with how we did?
I would also like to address a few questions to Mr. Galvin from the Federation of Irish Sport.
Mr. John Treacy:
We have adopted the community and voluntary code and are working with the governing bodies of sport on it. Up to now we were getting them to comply with it voluntarily. We work very closely with them. There were a number of interventions at conferences during the course of the year. When we talk about monitoring, we sit down with the governing bodies which engage in a self-assessment exercise on the code, to which the progressive governing bodies will sign up and with which they will comply, but it is a slow process. As Mr. Galvin said, many of them are very small organisations and under-resourced. They are probably a long way down the road, but as of now they comply with the code on a voluntary basis. That is the reason the Minister intervened to send the message that we needed to move more quickly.
The issue of governance was highlighted last summer and a lot of the governing bodies have moved on substantially. There are now professional staff in place and good progress has been made compared to the position we were in ten years ago in terms of how we monitored governing bodies. I talked about the audit function of Sport Ireland. We have limited resources, but Deloitte Ireland carries out an internal audit and, in turn, audits the governing bodies. It might audit up to five in a year and will look at corporate governance and their financial position. It comes back to Sport Ireland with its recommendations and we, in turn, sit down with the governing body concerned and go through the recommendations made. If there are significant issues, we work through them on an ongoing basis. We work hand-in-hand with the governing bodies to assist them in overcoming the issues with which they are dealing. We probably have a great deal more leverage if Sport Ireland is providing more than 50% of the funding of a governing body. Where we are providing less than 50%, we audit the funding given to ensure it is being spent for the purposes for which it was given. When it comes to corporate governance, our powers are limited. Therefore, if we are providing more than 50% of its funding, we have a great deal more leverage.
I ask my colleague, Dr. May, to comment on the issue of gender balance. I will then comment on the issue of doping.
Dr. Una May:
We are carrying out a review of the gender balance on the boards of all the national governing bodies of sport to establish the current percentages. We have been reviewing our own staff in Sport Ireland in which there is a very high percentage of females. We are happy, therefore, that there is a very good gender balance within the structure of Sport Ireland which can lead by example. There has been a decrease in the gender gap between males and females in participation in sport and we have been investing significantly in programmes for women in the past few years. We have invested nearly €1 million across the national governing bodies and the local sports partnerships to increase the participation of women in sport. This will lead to the development of and improvement in the skills and expertise of females which will then give them the capacity to be better representatives on boards such that it will not be about having a gender quota but about skills and expertise.
Mr. John Treacy:
At the Minister's request, we have written to all of the governing bodies of sport for feedback on the gender quota issue. The submissions are being sent in this week and we hope to be in a position to provide the Minister with data by the end of next week.
We are in a global fight when it comes to doping. I think Irish citizens are very good. Dr. May has led the anti-doping initiative since the inception of the Irish Sports Council. We have to ensure our voice is heard internationally and need to ensure every country is doing what we are doing. If the system is weak in a particular country, the entire system will be let down. That is why representatives of the 19 national anti-doping agencies met in Farmleigh to keep the issue high on the agenda and ensure it will not slip off the agenda of the International Olympic Council. The Word Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, needs to be strengthened to ensure it can sanction countries. Its powers of compliance and investigation also need to be enhanced.
Our programme for high performance athletes was hugely successful in 2012 and in 2016 we had more athletes in the top 20 than ever before. However, we did not achieve the same number of medals as in 2012, as our boxing programme did not deliver the same number of medals as in 2012. As that issue has been the subject of a great deal of debate in recent times, I do not have to add to it. We are already planning for the Olympic Games to be held in 2020 and will be making announcements on funding shortly.
I ask Mr. McDermott to comment further.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
There are a number of points that are worth making about the performance of Irish athletes in Rio de Janeiro. We had a target of winning three medals and won two. Those who watched the games know where we missed our target. Unfortunately, a lot of things went wrong for our boxers, some of whom felt they had been judged wrongly. However, we have a lot of work to do to get the boxing programme back to where it was. We had 14 athletes who achieved a place in the top eight and more athletes in the top 16 and top 20 than ever before. We were generally happy with the performance. Any Olympic medal is hard won and converting a top eight place into a medal position is very difficult. Obviously, the performance in London was exceptionally good. It is also noteworthy that our athletes who competed in the Paralympic Games did exceptionally well both in London and Rio de Janeiro. We have a number of programmes which are delivering performances at the highest level. Our athletes are winning medals between games and year to year. The systems are stronger. We have to put up our hand and say we did not hit the target in Rio de Janeiro where we won two medals, but we did have a number of top eight, as well as top 16 and top 20, finishes.
The review of the Rio de Janeiro games has essentially been completed. The sports bodies are acting on the recommendations and the funding proposals and plans for this year are well advanced. We are working towards the Tokyo games and the high performance sports are already looking at the young athletes. We have had meetings in the past few weeks with all of the high performance directors who are already identifying the athletes who will be in Tokyo and how we can support them during the next four years.
We were asked about the performance of the athletes from New Zealand and Denmark. We looked at the systems in place in these countries to learn from them. We are trying to build a system for Irish athletes and Irish sports and generally trying to do it from our base in Abbotstown. We think we have made significant progress, but we have looked at other countries that have succeeded to try to learn lessons. There are two points to be made. We must understand how the best high performance programmes work and we are learning all the time. New Zealand and Denmark have about 20 years on us in their formal structures, but they also have much greater levels of funding available. Notwithstanding this, one does not win every day in high performance sports as everything does not go one's way every day, but we have made major progress. As we have learned the lesson that we can compete internationally, we have demonstrated our ability to win in a number of sports. We were very proud of our boxers at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Our athletes have delivered good performances in athletics, equestrian and many other sports. We accept, however, that in Rio de Janeiro it was a mixed bag. We will push on and prepare for the Tokyo games at which hope we will enjoy success.
In fairness, as a sportsperson I realise the efforts people put in. There is no criticism of anyone for his or her efforts. It was a very disappointing start that one of our athletes was sent home for doping. This country is known throughout the world for being very clean and professional and no stone should be left unturned to ensure we maintain our current good reputation. We are a small country and we have big expectations. We are here to help. This country is a sporting country and if more investment is needed or the organisations are not happy with the level of investment then they should say that. It is very important that we get everything right for the 2020 Olympic Games. What happened with the boxing 12 months before the previous Olympics did not help our preparation. It left a sour note. I agree that as far as boxing was concerned a few decisions went wrong but when one gets a knock one shakes oneself off and gets up again.
Athletics is a big thing in this country and as a small nation we want to see it doing very well. If Mr. Treacy thinks the investment provided by the Government is not enough he should not be afraid to say that. I wish him the best of luck tomorrow with the opening of the new area in the national sports campus. No stone should be left unturned for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Ms Sarah Keane:
I wish to add something to that in terms of the governance codes. Three governance codes are applicable to organisations of different sizes. Some boards must have operational and strategic functions because they do not have any staff. The second one is for organisations with fewer than ten members of staff and the third one is for organisations with more than ten staff. That in itself is a challenge. There are more than 50 principles in the governance codes so when our organisation reported to the Sports Council on how we were doing it took us 16 pages to go through where we were on each one. It covers risk management, financial policy, term limits, relationships between the board, relationships with the CEO and other operational staff, independent directors and how one runs one's meetings. It is a huge piece of work in that regard and that is why it is taking time for people to get through it. Everybody needs to be on the journey but it will take some time for most people to get through it.
As a governing body that was involved from the start and one of the first ones to do it, it has taken us several years to do it. A big point is that if one is a company limited by guarantee, which at this stage almost all governing bodies are, one needs 75% of one's membership to embrace those principles as well and that can take a lot of education, persuasion and time. That is the only way one will change the culture. Otherwise, it is just a box-ticking exercise. That is what everybody needs to fight for it not to be if we want to really effect change and ensure that governance works at the highest levels in Irish sport.
I thank the witnesses for their presentations and wish them the best of luck for tomorrow. I have been in Abbotstown on a number of occasions and it is a fantastic development.
Time is limited so I will go straight to the governance issues. How closely do Sport Ireland and the Federation of Irish Sport monitor the day-to-day activities of governing bodies and how are they held to account? Boxing has been mentioned. From the perspective of the public looking on, there seemed to be a total breakdown in discipline following the departure of Billy Walsh. There is a definitive difference between coaching and managing. Zaur Antia is the top coach in the world but Billy Walsh's management role was totally missed. I refer, for example, to the specifics of Paddy Barnes's weight issue and the fact that he could not perform due to his need to meet the weight. Michael O'Reilly did not train with the squad. Apart from the doping issue, why was he allowed to travel to the Olympics when he did not train with the squad? As regards the doping investigation, following his failed dope test, one could not make up the story in the sense that the draw was made in Rio when the news broke in Ireland. What is the sequence of events when a dope test is failed? Who knows or who should know? Why did the media have the information? It was unfair on the coaches who had to meet the media when they did not know he had failed the dope test.
As regards the management of the boxing team, there is a manager from the governing body but is there any management by the high performance unit? Who performed the management in the lead-up to the Olympics? One has the governing body, the high performance unit and the Olympic Council of Ireland. What is happening between those three bodies is that to a certain extent the athletes are falling through the cracks. I have raised the issue previously. One does one's four year preparation and one changes the management team when one gets to the Olympics. That has not worked and needs to be examined. Heads need to be knocked together to get it right. I do not have to go back to the Gary Keegan incident when he could not even get into the stadium.
I will refrain from naming individuals. I just want to get answers. I apologise for naming anyone. It is important that we get such matters right. For instance, in relation to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, IABA, I understand Abbotstown was ready for it but it did not move from the camp at the National Stadium. Why was that the case?
I know there are issues relating to the restriction on funding for the Olympic Council of Ireland, OCI. I understand it has received funding of €1.7 million in the past four years. It received €520,000 in 2015 and €303,000 of that was for salaries and expenses. It emerged after the Olympics that the Olympic Council of Ireland had cash reserves of between €1 million and €2 million. Did it need the funding from the Government or the Sports Council or in terms of value for money should the money have been directed somewhere else? Is the funding of the Olympic Council of Ireland being reviewed at the moment? What is the situation in that regard?
Mr. John Treacy:
He brought expertise, and particularly in the last two weeks leading up to competition he instilled confidence in the athletes. That was something that was missing. Discipline was another factor. Discipline fell apart. Let us put it this way; a vacuum emerged in terms of aspects of the management of the team. We outlined it a year before the Olympic Games and we put it on the record. I do not wish to raise those issues again. The chief executive of the IABA is meeting Liam Harbison today to talk about how it will utilise the institute from now on.
We encourage them to utilise the fine facility that is there. It happened leading into the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. All the boxers are out training in their clubs leading into the national championships. After the national championships, they all come together and we will have them on the national sports campus. I will refer the issue of the doping case to Dr. May.
Dr. Una May:
The importance of us taking every step we can to ensure that we fight against doping was raised earlier. One of those steps is for us not to leave any stone unturned. That means that we cannot stop testing in plenty of time before the Olympic Games to make sure that we do not get a positive in the last period of time. We will continue testing right up until the time that an athlete steps on board a plane. That would lead to the potential for a late announcement of a positive doping infraction. We have a very rigorous process in place and it is a very highly litigious society that we live in and anti-doping is at the pinnacle of that in sport. Therefore, we will not cut corners and sometimes if we have to make a decision as to whether an announcement is made before or after a weigh-in or before or after a draw, ultimately our process is about ensuring that the procedure is followed to the letter of the law and that we have a solid basis for a case which will go on long beyond the day of the draw.
Mr. John Treacy:
We acted very quickly. The athlete was notified within 24 hours. It was not ideal that he was in Rio de Janeiro but what we do is continue to test right up until the athletes leave the country. We are rigorous, and it takes time for analysis to happen. When we got the result, we acted on it straight away.
Mr. James Galvin:
I want to go back to Deputy Fitzpatrick's point and comment on high performance sport. It is important to acknowledge that many of the structures or key enablers for Ireland to deliver in high performance are now coming to fruition. These include the Sport Ireland Institute, Coaching Ireland, the National Indoor Arena, the National Aquatic Centre, and the high performance unit within Sport Ireland. We now have a greater number of high performance directors within national governing bodies, and a greater number of international events are being hosted in Ireland. Structures and key enablers are now coming very much on stream.
The Deputy raised New Zealand and while I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan's ambitious statement about us emulating the performances of New Zealand at the Olympic Games and in high performance sport, for illustrative purposes perhaps it is useful to point out some of the figures around investment in high performance sport. Between now and Tokyo, New Zealand will invest approximately €42 million in high performance sport per year. In the period between the London Olympic Games and the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, we invested in the region of €42 million or €43 million. Mr. McDermott might be able to clarify some of those figures, but it is approximately a quarter of the level of investment. I am prepared to concede that the New Zealand model is at a much more mature and advanced stage in terms of its life cycle for high performance sport, but that is the kind of level of investment that is needed to emulate those sorts of outputs.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
The Olympic Council of Ireland is responsible for delivering the team at an Olympic Games. Two points were raised, one of which was about the management. We have worked hard over the years with the Olympic Council of Ireland to ensure that when athletes from whatever sport go to the Olympic Games, they are surrounded by the same personnel, the same team manager and their coaches if possible, notwithstanding issues around accreditations and so on where there may be smaller numbers. Generally, athletes should be able to replicate their standard high performance environments at the Olympic Games. We do our best to achieve that and the members are right to highlighted it as a performance issue.
We have funded the Olympic Council of Ireland, OCI, for a number of years. People have to remember that there was a time when the Olympic Council of Ireland did not have reserves and did not have money. In order for us to help the Olympic Council of Ireland to contribute to the high performance system, it needed to professionalise, and that is the root of why we continue to pay a contribution towards the salaries of the staff of the Olympic Council of Ireland.
We also fund the programmes that the Olympic Council of Ireland run for Olympic Games. For example, it operated the pre-games camps in London and in Rio de Janeiro and we funded a good part of them. That is why it gets additional money in an Olympic year, because it has additional costs related to bringing support personnel to training camps. We support administration and programmes. We have had an operational agreement in place for about eight years, but that will all be reviewed and taken into account as we plan all of those things at the beginning of the cycle leading up to the Tokyo Olympic Games. We will engage with the OCI in due course and discuss funding and operations.
I refer to last week's meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Trump syndrome, where people do not get the answers they want to hear. I commend Mr. Galvin and Mr. Treacy and their other colleagues here today on their interesting deliberations. As one can see, it all boils down to money again.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has already put down the gauntlet that come 2020 he wants the issues with governance and gender quotas to be resolved. I asked the question of those here today and they have addressed it in some small way. Complications will arise. Where comprehension of the gender balance issue is concerned, there are organisations which are female dominated and vice versa, as in organisations which are male dominated. The question that arises is whether this can be introduced in time to resolve the gender balance issue.
Mr. John Treacy:
When we talk about governance, as Ms Keane highlighted, we are talking about many different principles. When governing bodies are looking at the various pieces, what the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is basically saying is that the organisations must comply or explain. If one is talking about leadership of an organisation, questions to ask include whether it has a strategic plan in place and if the board members know what are their responsibilities. They are corporate governance pieces that need to be there as essentials. Control mechanisms must be in place and transparency, and the leadership must behave with integrity. The vast majority of governing bodies can advance all those types of pieces in terms of the principles of the code. If they cannot advance them, they can explain why they cannot do so. I think all the governing bodies can get to that point by 2020. We need to be resourced to ensure that we have the human resources to advise those governing bodies in terms of compliance with the code and to give guidance to them. It is an important piece and if they cannot comply, they can explain why that is the case.
It is the same with the gender quotas. If it is an all-male sport, the issues involved in getting gender quotas on boards are far more difficult to overcome. Many governing bodies are moving in this direction anyway by ensuring that women are represented on boards. Some governing bodies have women as presidents, which is a very good thing. That has been happening for the past number of years. It is a matter of making sure that we give it the time, which is really the issue, and that we move in that direction.
The Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, and the Minister of State, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, have raised this issue and it is being debated. It is high on everyone's agenda, and it gives everyone time to think about it and act upon it. Keeping the issue on the agenda and raising it is very good because we all need to ensure that we have good corporate governance. Having females on boards is definitely adding to the quality of board representation.
Ms Sarah Keane:
To add to that, I have been on boards where there has been a conversation around term limits, for example. It seems to make sense to everybody when we look at it.
However, when it means people can be told they cannot be on the board next year they see it differently because it suddenly becomes real and affects them personally. Sport is part of our identity in this country, so it is more than a job for people. Whether one is a paid professional or a volunteer in Irish sport, it is a part of who one is and there is a passion involved in it.
To see where we struggle in Irish sport, one can take the example of a fire. Either the fire is dying out because people are just saying "Pathetic", or the fire is going out of control because people are too fervent about it and not practical in terms of what it is really about. That is the real challenge. Often it is the people who have to put themselves out who are voting it in, or not. To use a terrible cliché, it is the turkeys voting for Christmas who are involved in changing the governance. From a resourcing perspective, therefore, the training seminars currently being done by Sport Ireland are important. A lot of this is individual support to governing bodies, so how does the chief executive work with the board? How does the chairperson talk to the board about it? How can one educate, persuade and explain to the membership why it is good? If one goes tells members' governing bodies they need independent directors on the board they will sense that somebody who is not part of their sport is going to take over and make all the decisions. They may ask what they know about it as they are not from the sport. Those are the challenges one is facing. They can be overcome for sure, but it requires a real effort and also resourcing to help people to do it.
It is the same around the female side of things. In many cases what is happening in business by trying to get more women involved in decision-making and leadership positions, is happening with mentoring support. They are given individual mentoring support and when they go for a job they do so on their own merit. Whether they are male or female they go for it on merit, but they are given support to put themselves forward and prepare for it. That requires time, effort and resourcing. The idea of just putting a female athlete on the board goes against everything that is right about boards in terms of competencies and skill-sets. We go against good governance if we put people into positions without having the right skill-sets. That is our fundamental principle.
Diversity includes young and old, as well as different cultural backgrounds, although the focus on gender is highlighted. Only last week, a report on women in sport was published, and we are failing around the world on this issue. It is good that it is on the table for consideration at this meeting.
Ms Sarah Keane:
Yes, but to get it right it needs to be part of fundamental policy regardless of what politician or government is in power. It is in the policy from the Department that Sport Ireland is implementing on a regular basis. That is why the comply and explain piece, which happens around the world, is important. It is not a case of someone saying, "I'm on the journey but the journey takes 20 years and nothing ever really happens". It has to be more definitive in terms of targets. If there are 50 principles in the code and one is doing ten, is it ten per year? If so, one would have done 50 in five years. Or is one doing two per year? In that case, it would take 25 years to do it. That is why the detail of Sport Ireland's role is important.
I thank Mr. Paul McDermott for his views on track and field events at Rio last year. We came home with some very good results. I remember watching television one evening and seeing an Irishman in the diving finals. It was a great achievement. I am also a big supporter of the cyclists. We did not come home with our weight in gold, but I will come back to the earlier question. In his closing remarks, Mr. Galvin made a good point concerning sports policy, public health promotion, social integration, cultural identity, education, job creation and building relationships with the new Irish.
I want to ask about gambling, which has become interlinked with sport. Young people have told me that it is getting out of hand, especially with the use of mobile phones. One can sit down on a Saturday afternoon in the company of a few hundred people who may not know one is on the phone gambling big time. It is a concern that young people, including teenagers, are getting caught up in gambling. What can we do about it because they do go hand in hand? A bet is a bet, be it on horse racing, athletics or matches. Where do we stand as regards addressing the issue of gambling? What regulations do sporting bodies have to give us in order to make a start? Sometimes one can see that it is even arising among players.
Mr. James Galvin:
In the first instance, it is important to point out that education has a hugely important role to play in this respect. NGBs and all the stakeholders involved need to take responsibility for informing participants in their particular disciplines about the negative impact of the ills of gambling. The central point should be educational front and centre in order to get the appropriate messages out to people who suffer from the ills of gambling. Rather than simply focusing on sport, including the national governing bodies and LSBs, it is a much wider societal issue. It requires a more wholesome approach rather than simply putting it in the sports centre basket to resolve that issue on its own.
What type of sports events should we be seeking to attract? Our IRFU colleagues are currently trying to get the rugby world cup here, but could we try to get other events, including athletics, in future? We all focus on the European football championships but we do not hear anything about having the world boxing championships or the European athletics championships. Are we working on those areas at all?
Mr. James Galvin:
I will comment briefly on that. I have already outlined some of the structural advances that have taken place. Last December, the first event that took place in the National Indoor Arena was an international badminton competition which I attended. It attracted considerable attendances from overseas. That was a most positive start for the National Indoor Arena. We also have an international standard cross-country track on the National Sports Campus, which will attract further events to Ireland in the coming years. We work closely with Event Ireland with whom we are partnered. They provide services to national governing bodies who have the goal of attracting international events to Ireland. While some of these happen below the radar, there is an increasing demand for international events taking place here.
Mr. John Treacy:
To add to that answer, we fund governing bodies of sport. As part of that funding programme, if they have an event during the course of the year they will apply to us for funding. Many of those organisations are small, so we might provide 50% of funding, which may be only €5,000 or €10,000.
As Mr. Galvin said, the new National Indoor Arena opens up a whole world of indoor sports that we can host. As regards the cross-country track at the National Sports Campus, Athletics Ireland is going to bid for the European championships in 2020. In addition, Sport Ireland is funding the Irish Open golf tournament, which is strategically a very important event for the country. Golf is an important sport. We also walk hand in hand with Fáilte Ireland to bring events to Ireland. We have an ongoing dialogue with them, so there are things we can do together. If Fáilte Ireland is coming in with major money for an event, we leave them at it, but we tend to look after funding smaller sports.
Ms Sarah Keane:
It would be fair to say also that some of the conditions of funding have been quite restrictive. For example, one must have a certain amount of bed-nights for certain sized governing bodies and events. Some of the international federations require host fees to be paid by the national federation.
In this context, there have been discussions with the Department around the specific criteria for support for events.
Mr. James Galvin:
As a nation we should not feel inferior about attracting international events. The Special Olympics was a fantastic event and we have hosted the Ryder Cup. We have put in a very strong bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and this year we are holding the Women's World Cup. The facilities, and our capacity to attract these events and to put them on, are there.
I want to focus on the big picture but I will dive down a little bit to tie it all together. I see incredible passion in every one of the witnesses and that is very powerful. It is not surprising in the sports industry because that is part and parcel of what they do. I also perceive a certain degree of frustration at not being able to achieve the levels they want to achieve and which they believe Irish athletes can achieve. The two areas I will deal with are high performance and overall engagement participation rates. Both are joined at the hip because when a county wins an all-Ireland, Connacht wins the PRO12 or when people like John Treacy achieve what they achieve it lifts a nation, a region or a county like nothing else in our society. It brings positiveness in a way that is unique.
Funding levels have been cut since 2008. Sport Ireland has invested €34 million in high performance since London 2012 and invests €8.5 million per year but that is 20% of what New Zealand invests. We have finite resources and that will always be the case because we are a small country of 4.5 million people. It is not about throwing money at this, rather what is most important is how we spend that money. The questions asked by Senator O'Mahony were about value for money. Do we have joined-up thinking? Are there internal conflicts which cause issues that restrict us in achieving what we want to achieve? New Zealand has a similar population to us but spends €42.8 million per year while we spend €8.5 million. Britain sent 366 athletes to Rio and we sent 77. In Rio we ended up in 62nd place but in London we were 41st. Denmark has 5.7 million people and got 15 medals in Rio while we got two and New Zealand got 19 with a similar population to ours.
There are disjoints in a couple of areas. One is in finances and the other is 20 years ahead, as Ms Keane mentioned earlier. All we can do is try to bridge the gap. It is important to drill down to see what we are doing. What is the execution plan to help us to achieve that? Do the witnesses have information on overall engagement and participation rates? These are critically important and my sense is that more and more old fellows like myself are togging out and doing jogging or rowing, which I started about two years ago and in which there has been huge growth. Hamish Adams and others in Rowing Ireland are doing phenomenal work in that space and there are now 5,000 people in recreational rowing, with 3,000 in competition. Part of it is because of what the O'Donovan brothers achieved but it has been swelling up for a long period of time.
A study by Sheffield University last April made some key findings. It found that, from an overall health point of view, participation in sports and exercise at moderate intensity in adults reduces the risk of breast cancer in active women by 20%. That is incredible. The value to be gained in bringing overall well-being and health to the nation, as well as a general feel-good factor, is very much underestimated. The study also found that for every £1 invested in sport by the Government in 2013 and 2014, some £3.15 in social impact was generated. It is difficult to measure the social return on investment but these guys have done so and the return is powerful. I support the witnesses 100% but I have been to three Olympic Games as a mentor to athletes and I am concerned about some of the internal issues there are, as well as some of the frustrations the athletes feel. The funding they get is so much lower than other people on the track, in the pool or against whom they have to box. They are very dependent on family for finance and on corporates and business. Both of those step up to the plate in that regard but it is necessary because there is a gap in Government support.
Mr. John Treacy:
Funding for high performance has been static since 2008. We have tried to keep the high performance systems going but is about leadership in that space. As Deputy O'Mahony said, it is about having high performance people to direct the programme and ensure we get value for money. We are very tight with the sports governing bodies and they have detailed performance plans, on which Mr. McDermott will comment. We know where the spend goes and that there is no wastage and we get as much out of the system as we can. Many of the countries Senator Ó Céidigh named have been in the high performance business for much longer than we have but the institute has certainly kicked on.
On the question of whether everything was joined up, it is a lot better than it ever was. I was before this committee in 2009 with the OCI and things were not as joined up at that time. We get value for money in high performance but we need to kick it on further with more investment. Rio was expensive and some of the sports are carrying a deficit from it. Sailing is one such sport and there are one or two others because it was so expensive. Governing bodies for other sports are emerging such as hockey, which now has two teams which are very close to qualification. Sending a team to Rio is very expensive but a team adds a whole new dimension to the Olympic experience for all the other athletes and this is hugely important. We got a fantastic return in terms of places in the top 20. We did not get the medals, though, because of the boxing programme. We had anticipated three medals but we got some really bad judging decisions.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
I assure people that we have very good oversight of the money that is spent on the high performance programmes. For example, we continued to support hockey when it was not so successful but it was a huge breakthrough for them and the Irish system that we had a team in Rio and it performed exceptionally well. The women's team were the width of a post away from qualifying and had a exceptional result last week, with a brilliant win leaving them top of world league 2 and in line to qualify for world league 3.
They will have a great run at Tokyo. They are squads of 16 people. They are based on wider squads of 24 and 28. That is about 56 athletes in one sport, which does not have a huge resource.
As we go up, and as these systems get better, swimming, athletics and cycling, which was referenced earlier, have more athletes. These sports all have very strong and improving performance systems. What they are doing, as they should, is producing more and more athletes. There is a greater resource as one goes up the chain. We do have oversight on the money and we do try to make sure that the money is well spent. There have been an awful lot of medals, not only at the Olympics and the Paralympics, but in between. We averaged 60 medals per year on supported programmes in the last number of years. Before these programmes were in place the number was about 20 a year.
Can I ask a question briefly on that? National federations in other countries appear to focus on particular sports for high performance. For example in the UK, the national wheelchair rugby team was ranked sixth in the world. Just before Christmas the total funding was dropped. They are getting zero. I know there is a balance there. I would like to get Mr. McDermott's view on where he sees the balance from an Irish perspective.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
We will have to have increasing focus on those programmes which will deliver medals. It is a competitive process. When people come in for funding it is competitive. If a sport is not delivering we have to look at their funding and if a sport is growing we have to try to resource it. It is very tough to make those strategic decisions and to effectively reduce or close programmes or disappoint athletes. It is easier to do it if there is an increasing resource. It is very difficult to do it with a static resource, and to take from one programme to give to another. That is a very difficult choice for us to make, but if we have to make those choices we are not afraid to.
We are starting the Tokyo cycle. We have investment principles agreed with the board of Sport Ireland. We are going to talk to all the sports and all the stakeholders. If the resource is at that level, in order to get the biggest return on that investment we will have to be more focused. We accept that. This point has been made a number of times, and we accept it. We work constantly, daily, with the sports, with Paralympics Ireland, with the institute and with the service providers to make sure that the athlete is at the centre of the system and that everyone is working together for that athlete, that coach or that team. In order to generate best performance one has to make sure that everybody is dealing with the one plan. We have made significant strides. The fact that a lot of athletes are based at the institute in Abbotstown and the National Aquatics Centre has helped enormously because it gives visibility. We have additional plans to strengthen that system and to put more people from our side on the ground. We have the institute's service providers on the ground. The Senator is right to raise the point, because it is a performance issue, but we are working on it and we have pushed very considerably in recent years to get it right.
Dr. Una May:
The Senator is right and the Sheffield research supports many of the findings on what participation in sport and physical activity can deliver for society on the whole. The delivery of the national physical activity plan last year was a very big step in that direction. It is a joint plan between the Department of Health and our own Department. This demonstrates the degree to which its value is shown and recognised.
Some 4% to 5% of the population participate regularly in sport. The number has been increasing. We are looking at the type of participation and what activities people are doing. We are supporting activities that are seeing an increase. We are seeing drop-off rates from young people as they transition into different phases in their lives and how they participate more in individual sports. The like of swimming, running and cycling are all very popular. We have been investing in those sports.
The other big concern we have is around the social gradient. The finance we have received through the Dormant Accounts Fund has allowed us to target many programmes directly at people who are disadvantaged, be that socially, economically or physically, through disability for example. We have invested a lot of money to look at new models.
Mr. Treacy alluded to the significant monitoring and evaluation that we carry out on any programme we fund and any new initiative we introduce. We are looking to see what the outcomes of those programmes are, not just the outputs and not just how many people participate, but whether we are having the impact we want to have. Then we can evaluate whether these are programmes which can be rolled out at a bigger level. We have had some phenomenal success in some initiatives, for example in running we have the fit for life and the park run initiatives.
We have worked closely with other bodies. We work closely with and are increasing our engagement with the likes of Ireland Active on the increasing popularity, particularly for women, of personal excercise, that is, gyms and exercise classes and those kinds of activities. We are also doing a lot of work with the national governing bodies. Again with the help of the Dormant Accounts Fund, we are helping to build the capacity of national governing bodies, who would have traditionally been established to deliver sport for their members. We are trying to get them to recognise that they have the capacity and the power to deliver a greater social good for Ireland, not just for their own members and to help them to build their capacity and increase participation. This is a big ask for them in some cases because that is a shift from their focus, which is providing sport for their current members. What we are trying to do is see significant increases in membership.
Mr. James Galvin:
To follow on from Dr. May's comments on participation levels, I will outline some statistics that might illustrate the type of numbers that are involved in physical activity and sport. If we look at 2016, more than 14,000 secondary school students participated in Rowing Ireland's get going, get rowing programme. The 2016 GAA cúl camps attracted 127,000 participants. Swim Ireland passed the 10,000 mark in the number of participants in their swim for a mile. The statistics show there are huge numbers benefiting from physical activity and organised sport.
There is one area that needs to be addressed as a priority. That is PE in the national school curriculum. UCD research indicates that only 20% of children get the minimum amount of physical activity in national school. If we want to develop a society where children have the fundamental motor skills and physical literacy skills required to develop throughout their lives, to complement them both physically and psychologically, we need to address it at the earliest opportunity. That is among our four and five year old children, rather than later on in life when this has become a fundamental issue for people. If anything is to come out of this forum it should be the need to address and tackle issues physically and emotionally, coming back to Deputy O'Keefe's comment around gambling. We need to do so at the earliest opportunity in our education system. I am not foisting all of this on our teachers. It requires a holistic approach from coaches and from development officers in national governing bodies, but also within the education system.
Ms Sarah Keane:
Can I just add to some of the comments? In terms of high performance and the idea that when there is no more money we should halve sports, that is a valid discussion to have. However, we are very young as a high performance sporting system. If we do that now, we may be making the decision too soon in terms of the potential for sports. We need to be very careful about doing that at this point. The tiering is starting to happen informally. It is a competitive process and I am part of it so I understand that. It may be that it becomes more formal over time but it needs to be done as part of a planned process, ultimately as part of our vision for Irish high performance sport.
I will give an example of the challenges because some members have asked to get into the detail. Our sport of swimming had a national performance director, because that is the model we were all following in the last cycle, but we could not afford to have a national head coach. We had a person trying to do both roles. We made advances in our sport for sure. We had our best results in 20 years in the 2016 games, but we will not reach the medals unless we split those roles and unless we have that relevant support. We are doing that now, but in order to do it with no extra money we are going to have to cut the amount of exposure and the number of camps we can give our athletes. We have decided we have to. They are the decisions we are being faced with when there is no extra funding. We are making decisions with what we have and we are accountable for what we have, but is that really the best way forward in terms of achieving at the highest levels of world sport? It is not.
The other point I would make is that we have indigenous sport here and we have international Olympic sport. We are almost putting them against each other, because we are announcing pots of funding here and there. If that is additional funding, fine. If it is not additional funding, it comes from somewhere else. Then we are almost pitting people against each other as opposed to all supporting each other as part of one nation. That is very important. There is a sense of that within Irish sport, that there is more and more happening, and more and more promises being made. Even if one takes the campus, great things are happening there but unless the funding increases it comes out of another pot within Irish sport.
I welcome all the witnesses. I do not want to go over old ground because the witnesses have answered most of the questions succinctly. We all know the extraordinary power of sport and how it heals wounds and brings people together in the best and worst of times. We have an extraordinary ability in Ireland to celebrate success. I think of the Taoiseach of the time going out to hug Stephen Roche on the Avenue des Champs-Élyséesand the Jack Charlton homecomings despite coming third or fourth so we love success and I think we need more success. I was chairman of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly and Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. We see how under the Good Friday Agreement, people in Northern Ireland can choose Irish or British citizenship. It is an international Agreement agreed by the British and Irish Governments and a multi-party agreement in Northern Ireland. There is a lot of parity of esteem under the Good Friday Agreement. It is not just a one-way street but should be a two-way street. I mention this because I think we should look at the Irish team participating in the Commonwealth Games. There are already moves under way so that an Irish hockey team and possibly a rugby sevens can participate in the next Commonwealth Games.
We should look at making many of our facilities such as the Sport Ireland campus available for the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games in Northern Ireland. Sport Ireland has a national rowing centre at Lough Rynn. These are things we need. Is Sport Ireland looking at these aspects? I remember the huge divisions when the Republic of Ireland went to play in Northern Ireland in 1993. What happened in France involving Northern Ireland supporters and Republic of Ireland supporters last year was incredible. This is something we need to build on. It may not come from the political side because sometimes politicians are behind the curve but I see it on the ground and I think we need to look at this. People walk around with Manchester United, Celtic and Liverpool jerseys. We now need to look at participation in the Commonwealth Games. I understand that various organisations will resist it but what is the view from a sporting and logistics perspective? It probably need sextra funding. What is the view in terms of the good it could do from an all-Ireland perspective because Gaelic games, cricket, hockey, rowing, rugby, basketball, golf and many other sports operate on an all-Ireland basis? What are the witnesses' views on this observation?
Mr. John Treacy:
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Commonwealth Games is a great competition for developing athletes but it is a political decision. It is definitely beyond my pay grade. We work hand in hand with our colleagues in Sport Northern Ireland and have always had a great relationship with them. The Good Friday Agreement has been very good for sport, certainly for Ireland. We have free movement of athletes. Ireland has definitely benefitted from the Good Friday Agreement with many people born in Northern Ireland competing for Ireland, which is fine. They have a choice. They can compete for Great Britain if they so choose. It has given people their rights so it has been good.
We will work closely with Sport Northern Ireland as it prepares its team for the Commonwealth Games and we will fund many of the athletes who will compete in those games and we are happy to do so. It is very important to say that. We are all involved in sport and all have the same objectives and goals. Our high performance committee met yesterday and a representative from Sport Northern Ireland attended and shared information in terms of who they were funding going forward. We certainly welcome anything the National Sports Campus can in terms of hosting events. We will be proactive in making sure we are bringing events into Ireland.
Ms Sarah Keane:
Good collaboration is happening. For example, there is a UK Sport schools event in five sports, including swimming. Originally, only athletes from Northern Ireland were invited to participate but swimming now sends an all-Ireland team. This event is funded by the UK Government. Smaller events are happening that are supporting the all-island side of things. Quite a number of the programmes within the organisations are all-island so from that perspective, a team that goes to the Commonwealth Games is prepared by the all-island personnel - the national performance director of the team - so it is fully supported. There are athletes and coaches who want to represent Northern Ireland. They feel that sometimes it is their only opportunity to represent Northern Ireland. They are still very proud to represent Ireland on other stages. This factor needs to be considered. Most of the athletes with whom we work are, as Mr. Treacy noted, supported by all-island personnel and systems.
The witnesses spoke about Event Ireland and have worked closely with them. Event Ireland is under the remit of Fáilte Ireland, which is an all-Ireland body. I understand that there have been cases where people from the Republic of Ireland have competed in the Commonwealth Games. Are the witnesses aware of these cases? I understand a Donegal runner competed in the Commonwealth Games.
There is a precedent there. Sometimes, the sporting bodies are ahead of politicians. This is not the Government speaking. It is Senator Frank Feighan speaking. There are points of principle within the Good Friday Agreement that relate to this. All I will say is that we need to open up the conversation as long as it is helpful.
I have a question for Mr. Galvin. I was surprised when he stated that the implementation of the code of governance is an extra cost which some organisations are having difficulty absorbing. I put it to him that proper governance is critical to the correct running of the any organisation and can never be seen as a cost that an organisation should have difficulty absorbing. Is Mr. Galvin satisfied that there are no issues relating to codes of governance in the organisations the Federation of Irish Sport represents.
I welcome his comments on gender quotas. Does Mr. Galvin have figures for the current gender balance on the boards of organisations represented by the Federation of Irish Sport? On a positive note, I wholeheartedly agree with his suggestion that at least two hours should be devoted to providing sport or physical activity in schools. Is the Federation of Irish Sport engaging with the Departments of Health and Education and Skills on this matter? We mentioned the amount of money that is being spent to combat obesity in this country. An opportunity is there at the moment. Can Mr. Galvin give us any solutions regarding dealing with obesity?
I had a comment about obesity, which is a growing problem. How do the witnesses hope to tackle this problem? Mr. Galvin mentioned physical education while Mr. Treacy spoke about local sports partnerships. These are up and running. Are we back to money again because obesity is becoming a big problem?
All the inquiries about ticket touting seemed to piled up because of the court case. Let us leave it at that. Is there a danger that these inquiries will never be published?
Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe mentioned betting. Were all of the athletes at the Olympic Games briefed beforehand about not being involved in betting? There were a couple of incidents in which the rule was broken.
It was mentioned in the presentations that adhering to the governance code was voluntary. If organisations are receiving funding, why should it be voluntary?
If Mr. Galvin does not have time to answer these questions because of the time constraints, particularly on the day to day monitoring of governing bodies, I would like more detailed answers to be forwarded to the committee.
Mr. James Galvin:
Obesity was mentioned. The national physical activity plan is a cross-departmental plan that was launched by the Government last year. Dr. May and I are members of the implementation working group. The plan is a key pillar in addressing some of the issues raised, specifically obesity and getting as many people as possible active. However, activity is only one part. There is also a need for an educational awareness programme on overeating and such matters. Sport is not the answer to all of the social ills across the State, although it certainly has an important role to play. We will play that role, with the national governing bodies and local sports partnerships, to increase the level of physical activity and create as many programmes as possible to encourage people to participate.
I was speaking about participation in sport. People should be encouraged to get involved in it. As Mr. Galvin mentioned in his report, €1.13 billion is being spent every year to tackle obesity, while €400 million is spent on treatment.
Mr. James Galvin:
On the governance issue, for organisations there are costs associated with implementation of the governance code. Some of the organisations are extremely small and might have one professional staff member or none at all. Therefore, their ability is curtailed in implementation of the governance code and they may need external advice. As a result, a cost accrues. That is one of the challenges being faced.
Mr. James Galvin:
From a seminar held before Christmas which was organised by Sport Ireland and presided over by the Minister of State, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, and at which national governing bodies and local sports partnerships were extremely well represented, it is my understanding the vast majority of national governing bodies have signed up to the code of governance. We support its implementation in full across all sports and are supportive of Sport Ireland's role in that regard.
Mr. Treacy referred to the provision of high performance equipment under the sports capital programme. As he will know, there is a limit of €150,000 in respect of local applications and €200,000 in respect of regional applications. What type of equipment is covered and what is the typical range in terms of costs? Would there be anything above these limits?
On funded bodies, there is often concern among members of the public about bodies that receive Exchequer funding in the context of salaries, pay scales, etc. Are there salary caps for funded bodies? Is that something that would be considered?
Sport Ireland distributes funding to bodies. We have spoken about the merits or otherwise of having gender quotas and how bodies could be encouraged to comply. Is this something that might be considered in the future, given that there is serious concern among members of the public about the salaries of certain chief executive officers in bodies that receive Exchequer funding?
Mr. John Treacy:
In the vast majority of governing bodies that we fund, for which the figure is over 50%, the salaries paid are fine. I do not think there is an issue in that regard. The Chairman is talking about national governing bodies of sport that have very substantial commercial income, but at the same time they are independent bodies. We do not fund them at a level that might allow us to have that influence.
What is the level of scrutiny of travel and entertainment expenses paid in funded bodies? How deep does Sport Ireland go in examining the detail? I know that there are audits carried out. Are specifics sought?
Mr. John Treacy:
Yes, we conduct financial audits. As I said, for the vast majority of governing bodies that we fund, the figure is over 50%; therefore, we can make a really deep dive. Where the figure is under 50%, we look at the programmes we fund to ensure the money is being spent for the purposes for which it has been given.
On a related health issue, on which Mr. Treacy might have to come back to the committee as I do not expect him to be able to answer upfront, concern has been expressed in other countries about the materials used in the production of astroturf surfaces. It has been suggested they may possibly contain carcinogens.
Is that something you have looked at? In Holland, in particular, there has been a high profile case. Is it something that has come to your attention and is it something that you are pursuing?
Given the huge number of AstroTurf pitches that have been laid around the country in the last ten or 20 years, is it a significant concern? Every report we read now has a concern about something. Is it something that merits further scrutiny?
In terms of our international comparison with other countries and our performance at the Olympic Games, there is an adjusted socioeconomic table which shows that we were placed in the 40s in 2012 Olympics and the 60s in 2016. How much credence is given to that adjusted table? Is it worth further scrutiny? Are we underperforming, given the factors, or are we overperforming?
Mr. Paul McDermott:
I think it is well established that GDP is a very significant indicator of success in international sport. One can look at those tables and see who is doing well and who is not, in terms of developed nations with high per capitaGDP. The issue in any of these things, including medal tables, is that when one looks further down the table and one is talking about two to six medals, one performance or one athlete winning a couple of medals can really throw the table off. If it is looked at over time, we have to accept that per capita GDP is a very strong indicator of performance.
In terms of the Olympics, some concern has been expressed in recent years that, for example, in international soccer, some players now hold club soccer higher than international soccer, and therefore the real litmus test is the performance of the clubs as distinct from countries. Is the Olympics still the pinnacle? Is it still what it always was and what it was meant to be?
Mr. John Treacy:
It always depends on the sport itself. For athletics it is every four years and it is the pinnacle of our sport. We recently saw golf becoming an Olympic sport, and despite the fact that we had a lot of golfers deciding not to perform, it was really a magnificent tournament in Rio. It was a great success, and it became a really important event. Justin Rose got great satisfaction in winning it. Soccer is generally played at under 23 level, and the World Cup is the premier event.
In terms of the federation, what level of funding would your organisations have from alcohol and gambling sponsorship? If you do not know, it would be great if you could furnish the committee at a later date.
In terms of team sports, we talked about broadening participation levels. Looking at over 35s and over 50s, for men and for women, and also disability team sports, is enough being done or can more be done? I know it is easy to say that more should be done, but it seems that it is almost culturally accepted that once someone gets to his or her mid-30s, he or she stops playing team sports. I think that is a pity because we are conditioned to participate in team sports from a very young age, yet when it comes to the mid-30s, people have no other avenue to do that. Is that something that is being worked on within your organisation?
Mr. James Galvin:
We are trying to gain further insights in terms of dropout rates. I think it is reasonable to say that at some point we need to articulate a vision for physical activity in sport. Countries such as New Zealand and Finland speak about being the most physically active nations in the world. In terms of the national physical activity plan, I think we need to start working towards that sort of a vision. In terms of transitions into and out of sport, the reasons are myriad and complex. It would appear from the research that the pinch point, or that point at which most people drop out of sport, is the point at which they leave secondary school education, for a variety of reasons. Then there are issues around girls and young women staying in sport, again for a variety of reasons. There is some research now which is showing that older people are becoming more physically active through a variety of sports, and the two sports that have been identified as being the most consistent in terms of participation throughout an individual's life cycle are swimming and cycling. In order to increase and maintain participation in sports, we need to look in an innovative way at how sports deliver their programmes. The traditional approach to particular sports does not have to be maintained. Perhaps the sports could be modified to make them more attractive.
Regarding the GAA and the inter-county scene, and the inter-district scene, possibly, is there more leeway for people with disabilities to become involved and represent their county in the same way they represent their country in the Special Olympics? Is that something that we could work on?
Ms Sarah Keane:
I do not think the research shows a lack of opportunities for teams sports past a certain age. The research shows that what people are interested in past a certain age is individual sports. That may be because of family commitments, or the difficulty of trying to get a group of people together. They can do individual sports early in the morning or late at night. The research is not showing barriers around team sports, but rather that the preference is around individual sports after a certain stage.
Can I ask both organisations to furnish the committee with what they see as the opportunities and threats to sport in Ireland from Brexit as well? Unfortunately we do not have time to go into it in detail today but we will be doing a lot of work behind the scenes further to the evidence we have heard, so if they could furnish that at their convenience that would be helpful.
Mr. John Treacy:
When we adopted the code, we were approaching governing bodies to embrace it and get them to sign up to it. In 2016 the Minister said that we need to move this along quicker and we need all the governing bodies to be signed up, to comply or explain this by 2020. It has moved from that to a mandatory adoption of the code. It is going in that direction. As Ms Keane says, there are a lot of pieces to it. It is a detailed piece of work, and we are dealing with many different types of organisations. Some are small, some are big, but we have a tiered system around it. We will be working towards it.
I thank all the witnesses for coming in. They were here for just over two hours and we appreciate their time. As Chairman I want to extend the gratitude of the committee for the work they do day in, day out which people do not see. Their work is critical to sport at all levels. It is appreciated and is hugely important.
I propose we break for ten minutes. Is that agreed? Agreed.