Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 13 July 2022
Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport And Media
Governance and Related Issues in Cycling Ireland: Discussion
This meeting has been convened with representatives of Cycling Ireland and Sport Ireland to discuss governance and related issues in Cycling Ireland. From Cycling Ireland, I welcome the vice president, Dr. Tom Daly, and a board member, Ms Helen Kerrane, who are joining us in the committee room. From Sport Ireland, I welcome Dr. Una May, chief executive, and Mr. Paul McDermott, director of high performance and national governing bodies. I will invite our witnesses to deliver their opening statements, which are limited to five minutes. This will be followed by questions from members of the committee. The committee may publish the opening statements on its web page.
Before I ask our witnesses to deliver their opening statements, I will explain some limitations regarding parliamentary privilege and the practice of the Houses as regards references witnesses may make to other persons in evidence. The evidence of witnesses physically present or of those who give evidence from within the parliamentary precincts is protected, pursuant to both the Constitution and statute, by absolute privilege. Witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in regard to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with such direction.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise, comment on or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of Leinster House to participate in public meetings.
I remind all those joining us today to ensure their mobile telephones are on silent mode or switched off.
I now call Dr. May.
Dr. Una May:
I thank the committee for the invitation to address it this afternoon. I am joined today by my colleague, Mr. Paul McDermott, who is the director of high performance and national governing bodies at Sport Ireland. To begin, I wish to emphasise that Sport Ireland has worked closely with Cycling Ireland to provide support and guidance on its governance issues to ensure it can continue to operate as one of Ireland’s most successful national governing bodies, NGBs. Cycling Ireland is the NGB for cycling across the island of Ireland. Its stated vision is to develop an island enriched by cycling. It covers a broad range of disciplines, including BMX, cyclocross, mountain biking, track and road racing. The NGB currently represents approximately 25,000 affiliated members across 490 clubs. These figures have grown significantly from a baseline of around 6,000 in 2010.
Cycling is of strategic importance. It is referenced in both the national sports policy and Healthy Ireland’s national physical activity plan as a priority sport, as well as being a central component of Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s national cycle network. Cycling Ireland currently delivers a broad range of initiatives, projects and events across multiple Sport Ireland investment programmes, including participation, inclusion, women in sport and high performance. In the national sports policy 2018-2027, cycling has been identified as one of three key sports for prioritised participation. That is because of its contribution to overall health and well-being. In addition, cycling is a key mode of transport that benefits the environment while also contributing to fitness beyond the sporting context.
Through Sport Ireland's research, the Irish sports monitor, a significant increase in cycling participation has been measured since 2019, with a particularly strong growth during the pandemic.
As a means of transport, Sport Ireland has measured an increase in people who are using cycling as a method of transport to 11% of the population. In relation to Cycling Ireland's contribution, it contributes many positive aspects to Irish sport, including a high level of success in high performance cycling contributing to Sport Ireland’s overall medal targets annually and quadrennially. We have witnessed recent successes for Irish cycling at the Paralympic Games with Team Ireland winning two gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal, while at the Olympic Games, Cycling Ireland qualified its largest ever team.
The proposed development of a velodrome at the Sport Ireland campus will be an exciting addition to Irish cycling and will create the opportunity to bring major benefits to Irish cycling at national and international levels. The velodrome will not just benefit high performance cycling, but the cycling community at large as well as the general public in providing an opportunity to participate in a safe environment for cycling. Sport Ireland recently commissioned the KOSI Corporation to conduct an audit in response to observed governance concerns in Cycling Ireland. This audit highlighted a number of concerns across the board. Issues in relation to funding, ethical decision making, organisational culture and behaviours were just some of the issues highlighted in the report. Sport Ireland is pleased to see the progress being made by Cycling Ireland in addressing and tackling the issues which were brought to light in the context of the issues raised in the report. On 30 May, Cycling Ireland provided Sport Ireland with a formal written update on its progress in regard to the 2021 KOSI audit findings and wider governance reforms. Significant resources have been invested in addressing these recommendations. Cycling Ireland has communicated to Sport Ireland that all KOSI recommendations will be addressed in full by the end of September 2022.
Cycling Ireland has been allotted core and high performance funding. However, in the context of ongoing governance improvements, a payment schedule or what we refer to as a financial plan has been agreed for both core and high performance funding. In June 2022, Cycling Ireland requested a release of funding by Sport Ireland. This funding was sought by the national governing body, NGB, to ensure business operations continued without disruption. Sport Ireland agreed to release 50% of allocated funding within the parameters of the financial plan, which ensures Cycling Ireland continues to function while satisfying Sport Ireland that the risks presented are mitigated and public funds protected.
A number of changes in board and executive personnel have brought additional skills and experience to the organisation. I am happy to say the composition of the board now consists of a 50:50 gender balance among its ten directors, each of whom contribute a wide variety of credentials, skills, and experience. A number of new board sub-committees have also been established, each with approved terms of reference and with independent members either in place or identified for recruitment. More recently, Cycling Ireland has commissioned auditors, BDO, to complete work on a number of areas: to act as an external reviewer of Cycling Ireland grant applications going forward, up until June 2023; to investigate the Sport Northern Ireland sustainability grant application; and to conduct an independent review in relation to Cycling Ireland’s engagement with the professional cycling team EvoPro Racing.
On 20 and 21 May 2022, Cycling Ireland conducted consultative workshops - first, between the staff and the board and, second, between the board, senior staff and representatives of the wider membership of Cycling Ireland. Both workshops were facilitated by external strategic and governance specialists. These activities were specifically convened to address aspects of the KOSI recommendations, including ethical decision making, organisational culture and behaviour; and the role of the board and staff in working together. There will be further consultations with the wider community in place prior to the AGM in November. We will also see some additional governance reforms in a series of amendments and motions which will be tabled at that AGM in order to progress a further number of governance and structural issues that are arising. A nominations group under the direction of the governance and ethics committee will endeavour to ensure the candidates meet suitability requirements particularly in relation to a skills matrix. However, given the current structure of the constitution, certain amendments may need to be made in advance to facilitate this process. Cycling Ireland has made progress in appointing a new performance director and is on a good trajectory towards the continuation of its performance programme. We are also very confident that there is a new, emerging group of talented young athletes who are rising through the ranks and performing very successfully at an international level. I mentioned the velodrome previously. Sport Ireland is very keen to see it being commenced in the near future. I am hopeful. That will make a big difference to cycling in Ireland but it will also be a very strong addition to the Sport Ireland campus. Throughout its engagement with Cycling Ireland, Sport Ireland will continue to ensure the highest standards of governance are adhered to across the organisation. We are content with the progress made to date. We have noted that there is still some way to go but are very comfortable that there is good progress being made. We will continue to provide ongoing advice to support Cycling Ireland with this work as it goes through these reforms.
Dr. Tom Daly:
Good afternoon. I was appointed vice president of the board of directors of Cycling Ireland last March as part of the formation of a new board. My co-vice president is Mr. Conor Campbell and in the absence of an elected president, I am representing the board here this afternoon. I am joined by my fellow board member, Ms Helen Kerrane, who was also appointed earlier this year. I thank the committee for this invitation and we look forward to providing an update on the organisation’s affairs, and to answering the members' questions, as part of our commitment to transparency and accountability. I also thank the committee for its patience with our previous postponement of this session. As we explained then, we were awaiting completion of a significant overdue report, which we felt would greatly help the committee members to be more fully informed. Unfortunately, we have still not received this report and BDO, the firm commissioned to produce it, has confirmed that due to matters outside its and Cycling Ireland's control, it is not yet able to publish its report on the proposed commercial arrangements between Cycling Ireland and EvoPro Racing. BDO has also confirmed that Cycling Ireland has been especially keen to have this report published well before this, and especially in time for today's committee hearing. Due to ongoing interventions of legal representatives of the former president of Cycling Ireland and EvoPro Racing, respectively, BDO is unable to proceed with the publication of the findings at this time.
I want to provide a brief introduction to our organisation and its context. As has been said, Cycling Ireland is the national governing body for cycling across the island with more than 25,000 members. The membership has increased significantly over recent years. Cycling has been listed as one of three priority sports in the national sports policy, with Government committing significant funds to the area. Taken together, these developments represent both a once-in-a-generation opportunity as well as a significant challenge for Cycling Ireland. Our operations are very diverse. On the one hand we are working hard to give our high-performance athletes the best possible opportunities and on the other, we are delivering entry-level programmes to tens of thousands of children annually. In between, we expect to deliver more than 1,100 events this year encompassing a very diverse range of cycling disciplines and interests for all ages. In summary, we are working very hard to create an environment in which Irish cyclists of all ages and interests are provided with the opportunity to fulfil their personal aspirations and potential.
I will now address some of the legacy governance issues and related reforms this board is dealing with. One issue goes back to 2020 and relates to a capital grant application that resulted in Cycling Ireland being deemed ineligible to receive capital funding for a 12-month period. This was restored in October 2021. In parallel, Cycling Ireland was the subject of a governance audit, the KOSI audit report, commissioned by Sport Ireland. This was released in October 2021, revealing significant governance inadequacies and detailing 17 change recommendations. We have already implemented, or are in the process of implementing, 14 of these and expect all will be addressed by this September. Another such governance lapse began to emerge in December 2021 regarding the proposed support for a development academy for young Irish riders through an already established professional cycling team, EvoPro Racing.
Based on the potentially high and ill-defined costs, along with other issues contained in a heads of agreement presented to the board, the board subsequently attempted to agree an arrangement that would provide both parties with clarity on requirements and costs. This arrangement was produced to EvoPro Racing but was not agreed to. This issue created an irreconcilable disagreement at board level during the early part of this year and, as part of a resolution achieved with the help of Sport Ireland and the presidents of Cycling Ireland’s provincial bodies, the then president and several directors voluntarily stood aside to enable a new board to be formed. Given the profound effects of the EvoPro issue on the organisation, the board commissioned BDO Ireland consultants in February 2022 to investigate the details of the proposed arrangement. This measure was felt necessary to protect our reputational integrity and to uncover any operational, administrative and cultural weaknesses that would need to be addressed as part of our organisational renewal. Cycling Ireland has been most anxious to have this report finalised and believe it would have justified the board's concerns, proposed arrangements and subsequent decisions on the matter. However, as I have explained, its finalisation has been delayed by ongoing legal representations from the other parties involved. During the course of its inquiries for this report, BDO uncovered and reported to Cycling Ireland a failing over a number of years in the Union Cycliste Internationale, UCI, registration process for Irish-based professional teams. The UCI is the world governing body for cycling. The current board is in the process of remediating this issue with the relevant stakeholders.
I will briefly refer to the leadership of the organisation, which is primarily our board. The current board is composed of exceptionally qualified directors with proven domestic and international experience and with a broad range of relevant competencies. The board has established strong subcommittees in the areas of people and culture, governance and compliance and audit, risk and finance. We have also achieved a 50:50 gender balanced of directors. At our first full meeting in March 2022, we committed to a root-and-branch review of the operational structures of our organisation, beginning with an extensive consultation process with members. This is well under way and will be ongoing until the autumn.
We fully acknowledge and regret that serious mistakes were made in the past, which were unbefitting of an organisation that receives public funds and fees from members. However, it is important to stress that there was no personal gain for those involved. All acted primarily in good faith and were motivated by a passion for the sport. By voluntarily stepping aside, they have contributed to the organisation’s renewal of itself. I assure the committee that the new board of Cycling Ireland is resolute in its commitment to effectively serve our members, to foster a culture of integrity, to provide value for public funds and to adhere to robust principles of good governance. I thank the committee for its time and we look forward to answering members' questions.
I thank the witnesses for joining us today and for the exceptional work they are doing in developing the sport and the pursuit of cycling on the island of Ireland. I asked that the witnesses appear before us today to address the significant breakdown in trust that occurred as the result of the actions of an admittedly small group of people within the organisation in how they approached the grant aid process. We must begin to restore trust, hopefully to a significant level, so the 25,000 members of Cycling Ireland and people who are generally interested in and passionate about the sport of cycling can have that trust on an ongoing basis. The witnesses have done an exceptional amount of work since these anomalies and issues were first identified and I congratulate them on that. Asking them here was not about engaging in any kind of accusatory or Star Chamber process. It is about bringing as much information as we possibly can out into the open with regard to the ongoing reforms in governance that are happening, and will continue to happen, in Cycling Ireland, hopefully for as long as is necessary.
I have a few questions for the witnesses. It is important that these questions are asked and answered so we can continue with that process of restoring trust. Is there an ongoing Garda examination or inquiry into the false quotations that were given to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media? If so, has that inquiry arrived at any conclusions? Having been a member of Cycling Ireland for many years, I always thought there was a significant lacuna or vacuum in the area of communication between the board, the executive and the members. It is a very large organisation with 25,000 members, which is excellent to see. When it became apparent to the board that these issues had arisen, was there any ambition to make this information known to the members within the shortest possible timeframe? Why did it take so long for the members to be informed of these issues? They are substantial stakeholders within the organisation. They effectively contribute to the financial well-being of the organisation but I have always felt they were held at a remove from the board itself. That needs to be resolved. I would be interested in how exactly the witnesses intend to do that.
There is another aspect of Cycling Ireland's work, which is something I am passionate about. I have always considered this unusual so the witnesses might be able to help me on this. The memorandum of association states, "The main object for which the Company is established ... is to encourage, develop and organise cycling on the island of Ireland including but not exclusively racing and leisure cycling". Today's opening statement from Sport Ireland states:
Cycling Ireland is the NGB for cycling across the island of Ireland. Its stated vision is to develop an island enriched by cycling.
That is a very powerful choice of words. I would argue that a key element in delivering on those two objectives, that is, to organise, encourage and develop cycling and to develop an island enriched by cycling, is ensuring Cycling Ireland's 25,000 members can cycle in a relatively safe environment. Whether leisure members training for the next sportive or elite racing members training for their next time trial, TT, or hoping to make it onto a national team, their training place is essentially our public roads. There are no other options available to them right now. Our public roads are their de facto training facility. Do the witnesses believe Cycling Ireland has a role in advocating for safer roads in Ireland? Have they engaged with organisations like the Road Safety Authority or An Garda Síochána in the past, or do they intend to engage with them in the future, to ensure our legislation is sufficiently robust to protect Cycling Ireland's members when they are cycling on public roads? If I was a board member of Cycling Ireland, I would think that a critically important element of the work it does. In my experience working with many others in cycling across Ireland in the last four or five years, the voice of Cycling Ireland has been strangely silent on all these matters. I would be interested in the witnesses' perspectives on that.
The witnesses will be aware that over the last six months to a year, many club and provincial cycling organisations around the country have had difficulty staging events on public roads, be they TTs, races or whatever else. There seems to be an inconsistent approach within An Garda Síochána as to how these events are facilitated at local level. Some gardaí and their superiors seem to be exceptionally supportive of events and others seem to be implacably opposed. Has Cycling Ireland engaged with the Garda at a national level, or does it intend to, to put in place a agreed protocol or policy for when clubs or provincial organisations seek to organise an event?
It is fantastic that Cycling Ireland has achieved gender balance on its board. Is there a representative on the board who represents the views of the members of Cycling Ireland? I know it is difficult to arrive at a consensus on what those views might be. Who is the voice on the board for the 25,000 members who make a substantial financial contribution to Cycling Ireland each year? Who represents their interests in terms of how they want the organisation to develop, their interaction with the organisation, such as in the area of membership renewal, and their objectives and passion for the development of the sport in future?
I say "Well done" to our witnesses on a very successful Rás event this year. It was wonderful to see that historic cycling event coming back to life and making us all very proud to be part of Cycling Ireland. How does the investment of Cycling Ireland in that race compare with the investment it makes or intends to make in Rás na mBan or the Junior Tour of Ireland, which is currently ongoing? This is important. I refer to what the UCI is doing internationally to promote women in cycling, along with organisations such as the Amaury Sport Organisation, ASO, and others that are increasingly finding a way to bring women in cycling onto television channels and smartphones. It is important for Cycling Ireland, too, to be very active in promoting women in cycling at local, provincial and national levels.
I afforded latitude to the Deputy but the onus is on members to avoid making comments that may prejudice the outcome of proceedings of a legal nature. I ask our guests to bear that in mind when responding to Deputy Cannon's question.
Dr. Tom Daly:
I thank the Deputy for his questions and encouraging remarks. I will deal with his questions in order and defer to Ms Kerrane on certain aspects.
As regards the Garda inquiry, it is our understanding that there have been Garda inquiries into the issue of the sports capital grant. We do not believe they involve any current employees of Cycling Ireland. Our CEO was in touch with An Garda Síochána. He was asked to assist by way of giving a statement to verify some facts, but we do not believe he or any other employee of the organisation is the subject of those inquiries. I have no knowledge of the status of the inquiry.
The second issue raised by the Deputy relates to communication, or a lack thereof, between the board and the members. I sat through the annual general meeting, AGM, as a relatively ordinary member and was disappointed to subsequently discover there were these various issues going on and, possibly like the Deputy, I had not been told about them at the AGM. The board has committed to openness and transparency. Since the board was formed in March, we have issued two individual updates on all these affairs, insofar as we can, to each member of the organisation. We are committed to that. As part of our consultation process, we are meeting with members through various forums where we are open to questions, which will be answered. We are doing our best in that regard.
On the area of leisure cycling, safety and all that, we are in somewhat of a transition stage. Ms Kerrane will address that. To give an illustration from my experience of where we are, as a club secretary in Killarney I was heavily involved in submitting observations on cycling development and all that but I felt slightly uncomfortable about doing so because there was a question in respect of whether that is the role of a cycling club. The club did not do that kind of thing historically and there is nothing in our rules or constitution stating it is our role. We did it anyway. We were working with people from cyclist.ie, who are very professional at this type of thing, and there was a question in respect of what our role was in all this, as compared with their role. Cycling Ireland is in a similar state of transition in terms of discussing where we lie at a policy level in this area and where we should lie relative to the other organisations. I will hand over to Ms Kerrane to provide details of that.
Ms Helen Kerrane:
The Cycling Ireland strategic plan 2020-2024 has four main points regarding advocacy, one of which is to develop memorandums of understanding with organisations such as cyclist.ie. I understand that previous boards have attempted to do this but we would like to see the furtherance of that. There are many different groups and we do not want to end up with duplication of what is out there.I am concerned to canvass their opinion. We have member surveys. Any members of the committee who are also members of Cycling Ireland will have had an email drop into their inbox last week with a membership survey and I ask them to fill it in.
The Deputy asked about cycling safety standards and the RSA. We have worked with the RSA. It is in the strategic plan to do so.
As regards the question on safety and An Garda Síochána, that is as much a matter for An Garda Síochána it is for Cycling Ireland. I cannot answer on behalf of An Garda Síochána as to why there is a disparity in how different events across the country are treated. We would like to work with it on that. In Northern Ireland, Cycling Ulster and Cycling Ireland discuss these matters with the PSNI and have developed an accredited marshal training platform so that accredited marshals can be allowed to stop traffic there. It is a structured training plan. It is not just about a person stepping out with a red flag.We could consider having a formal discussion in the South of Ireland with An Garda Síochána, national governing bodies, Deputies and other legislators as to whether that could be attained here. This is for the safety of everybody, not just of cyclists. I agree that safety is the number one issue that comes up when members ask about what is happening. That is true whether the member is a parent, as I am, with a daughter who cycles, or a normal commuter, as I am. I cycled here today. It is multi-factoral. We can do better and we will seek to do this in the future. It is in our strategic plan that we will consult with organisations and bodies. I cannot speak for the previous board but I can do so for the current one.
As regards the Deputy's final point, regarding who are the representatives of the members of Cycling Ireland, Dr. Daly and I, along with many other people, have not lost our links to cyclists. There are several of us on the current board who have been involved as commissaires or racing organisers or come from a racing background. I have raced and I am commuter and a parent. I trained my kid how to ride. I do long-distance cycling and have done track cycling. You name it, I have done it. We are here for Cycling Ireland. We may have been nominated by various organisations and structures to the new board. I was nominated by Cycling Leinster, for example. We are here for cycling as a sport and a utility, however, and we are here for its future. We are the ordinary members. I have been to many AGMs and look forward to attending more of them in future.
Dr. Tom Daly:
To get back to the question on safety, Ms Kerrane mentioned the Cycling Ireland arrangement in Northern Ireland. Initial steps in that regard have been made in the South. Our CEO recently visited the relevant people at Garda headquarters to initiate a discussion on the matter. He was accompanied by one or more of our members from Northern Ireland who were involved in the development of that scheme in the North of Ireland. Initial steps have been made to, it is hoped, make progress in that area. It relates to the standardisation of safety issues in the context of the running of events, the enhancement of all that and giving reassurance to the Garda and the public on how it might operate.
I can only reinforce Ms Kerrane's observations on who is representing cyclists on the board.
I may stand to be corrected but I do not believe there is any person on the board who is not a cyclist of one type or another. Quite a number of us have been heavily involved in clubs all our lives. It is fair to say that members who do not have that experience are very anxious and working hard to learn about the organisation and the people involved in it.
The Deputy's final question was on the funding of our key events. We aim to give appropriate and proportionate funding to all key events. There was a higher level of funding given to Rás Tailteann this year, as opposed to Rás na mBan, for a number of reasons. One reason was a commitment given by the previous board. The other is that, as the Deputy will be well aware, Rás Tailteann has a tremendously important strategic role in Irish cycling as a motivator and a pathway from the crucial underage and junior levels into the senior, high-performance level. We need to be able to showcase the event in order for it to attract commercial sponsorship and for it to be able to stand on its own two feet. The increased funding this year was to enable it to be resurrected after a lacuna of a number of years in order that it could be highlighted to potential sponsors. That was part of the reason, as well as the value of the event itself. It has been made clear to the Rás Tailteann organisation that this increased level of funding will not be sustained by Cycling Ireland.
I thank all the witnesses for their attendance. My first question is for Cycling Ireland. It is very difficult to conduct a committee hearing on governance without having the relevant report in front of us. Are the witnesses able to speak on the KOSI audit report today and can they give any indication of its main findings? Second, how much did the BDO report cost and where did the funding come from for it? Are there potential ongoing cost implications arising out of that report, particularly if it calls for further reviews? Third, who appoints the board of Cycling Ireland and how are the appointments to the board conducted?
Dr. Tom Daly:
In regard to the KOSI audit report, we have issued a briefing document to the committee, which contains a summary of its findings and the progress Cycling Ireland has made on each of them. There are 17 findings, summarised into perhaps 13 recommendations. I can take the Deputy through them if he wishes.
Dr. Tom Daly:
The total invoice to date for BDO's work is €65,000. That cost is across a range of measures, some of which were recommendations of the KOSI audit report to bring good governance to the organisation. Some are in respect of the investigation into the EvoPro Racing affair. The funding includes Union Cycliste Internationale, UCI, registration matters and various measures relating to the successful implementation of the KOSI audit findings. We will also be working on a protected disclosures portal, various details relating to the Sport Northern Ireland grant funding response and third-party auditing of future applications for a set period, as recommended in the KOSI report.
I assure the Deputy that we feel these costs are justified in terms of ensuring good governance and, most importantly, in terms of transparency. We want to move forward but we need the background knowledge of what the issues were, what needs to be addressed and what measures must be taken. In a sense, I view these costs as almost an investment in the future of the organisation. We need these reports and these measures as foundations or building blocks for that purpose.
Dr. Tom Daly:
In normal circumstances, the constitution regulates the appointment of members, who are nominated and elected at AGMs, and then there are a certain number of appointed members. This year, because of the reform of the board in the earlier part of the year, as I outlined, there is a greater number of appointed members. They will have to appear at the next AGM and the board will have to be ratified. That will be decided at our AGM in November.
I thank Dr. Daly. My next question is for the witnesses from Sport Ireland. Dr. May said in her opening statement that Sport Ireland agreed to release 50% of allocated funding to Cycling Ireland in June to ensure its continuation. How much was this funding and what safeguarding measures are in place in respect of it?
Mr. Paul McDermott:
On the core funding for the year, the allocation for Cycling Ireland was €420,000, 50% of which is €210,000. On the high performance side, the grant allocation agreed by the board of Sport Ireland in December was €520,000 for the year, with 50%, based on quick sums, being €260,000. The reason we pay in arrears is to make sure Cycling Ireland can fund itself. The board asked for the money against certain headings, including salary, operational costs and events. We are able to set the grant against particular requests. That is the assurance we have when we pay in arrears.
Obviously, our preference and the normal, standard way of paying the grant is to give 75%, usually in January, when the relevant governing body applies for the grant to be drawn down. It is onerous on a governing body if it is paid in arrears because it is not able to plan. In a way, it is a form of sanction if funding is not given until the organisation meets certain requirements. In this case, there is the question of all the KOSI recommendations being in place, the implementation of the IPAgovernance review and all of that. Following its AGM in September, we hope to be able to return Cycling Ireland to a standard financial arrangement.
Dr. Una May:
We are very confident in the progress that has been made to date. Cycling Ireland has been very transparent in the work it has been doing and we have been part of numerous elements of that. We have seen the outcomes and received the same communications members of the board have received in terms of Cycling Ireland's transparency. In particular, the reconfiguration of the board is really key to the success of the reforms. Cycling Ireland now has a board that is strong and has all the required skill sets available to it. That gives us a high level of reassurance.
I wish Dr. May every success in her role. It is a big job and I have no doubt she will be top-class in it.
Credit is due to Cycling Ireland for the gender balance on the new board, which is really important. The accredited marshal scheme is in place in the Six Counties. Will the witnesses flesh out where they are at on the introduction of the same scheme in the Twenty-six Counties?
The velodrome was mentioned. What stage of development is this? Is a completion date in sight?
Over the weekend Irish Athletic Boxing Association, IABA, members voted against changing its constitution to allow meetings in the North. Is this an issue that either Cycling Ireland or Sport Ireland have? Are they willing or looking to bring change so that they can have EGMs or AGMs in the Six Counties? Is it an issue that they have or are they seeking to resolve it? Would Sport Ireland send a communication to all the NGBs which have an all-Ireland remit to ensure they recalibrate their constitutions to allow them to have meetings across the island of Ireland. It sends out a really negative message if that is not done.
Dr. Tom Daly:
I think Cycling Ireland is very conscious of the different traditions on the island. The current federation was established in the 1980s from an amalgamation of a 26-county federation, a six-county federation and a 32-county federation. There is a big historical context. There is also recognition that some riders from the North identify with British cycling. There is an arrangement between Cycling Ireland and British Cycling around all of that. All that is very much respected. The idea that we may not be able to hold meetings in Northern Ireland would not occur to anybody in Cycling Ireland. We are fully integrated. There is no difference.
Dr. Una May:
I will answer for Sport Ireland. The suggestion that we would communicate that is quite reasonable. We have quite a number of NGBs which are all-Ireland or 32-county bodies. It is appropriate that we would communicate with them. We do not have any reason to believe there is an issue there but we would be quite happy to send out a reminder that if there was a similar situation in any NGB that we could address that. That would be perfectly appropriate. It is a good point.
We are very close to submitting a planning application for the velodrome. It will be at the end of this month. That would allow us to commence construction in 2023 with a completion date in the latter part of 2024. We are excited to see the progress on that.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
That is one part of it. It is possibly the last major piece of infrastructure in the national sporting facilities we need. We have a very strong track cycling team, able bodied and Paralympic. I hope people enjoyed the outstanding success of our paralympians last year. The paralympic programme resides within Cycling Ireland as part of its high performance programme. It is broadly acknowledged that the sprint disciplines in the velodrome cannot really be done by people travelling backwards and forwards so it will really open up the sprint disciplines in the track cycling for European, World, Olympic and Paralympic. We will be able to expand the track programme, not only at global and international competition but also at national level. It will be a new and exciting offering for the cycling community because it is an important discipline. The Deputy referred to safety. Unfortunately it gets dark and wet in Ireland in winter. Having a velodrome will be an asset to the whole cycling community and hopefully the community in west Dublin who are closer to Abbotstown.
From talking to the high performance director of cycling and various executives over the years, what they are most excited about is being able to operate and develop coaching programmes within Cycling Ireland. We will be able to develop coaching, cyclists and a lot of cycling expertise. There will be no shortage of usage for the velodrome. We have been able to generate quite a significant amount of success. It is not untypical that high performance athletes are used to travelling and training overseas but it will definitely be a landmark, pivotal moment for cycling in Ireland. It will be hugely exciting. We know that Cycling Ireland has plans and will be able to use it to its upmost for coaching, technical expertise, Paralympics, the able-bodied Olympic team and generally for clubs and others who want to expand and engage track cyclists. It will be very exciting.
I thank all the witnesses and particularly Dr. Daly and Ms Kerrane. I am very conscious that becoming volunteer members of a board, particularly during a difficult transition period, must be acknowledged. It should be acknowledged that Cycling Ireland is more than just the board. It is about the members and cyclists on the ground. The good work by all the volunteers in the country must be recognised and deserves to continue to be supported. Serious concerns have been raised around governance. They are of more concern to the members of Cycling Ireland as they are to ourselves who must pose questions on behalf of taxpayers.
I appreciate that there are legal issues with the BDO report, which was commissioned in February 2022. When might we expect to see the BDO report published and the details around the EvoPro issue being made public? I appreciate that it is subject to legal concerns.
On the KOSI audit report on governance, is Cycling Ireland satisfied with its progress and that the three outstanding recommendations are made?
My main questions are for Sport Ireland. The last time we had an issue around a governing body was when Dr. May's predecessor John Treacy was here and we discussed the IABA. I asked whether we had another FAI-type situation. As events have transpired, it may have been even worse but he denied that would be the case. Apart from IABA and Cycling Ireland are there any other NGBs about which Sport Ireland has serious governance concerns? Who are they and what actions will be undertaken on that?
Dr. Tom Daly:
On expectations around the BDO report, four days ago I would have almost given the Senator a guarantee that we would have it today but subsequent interventions ruled that out. We have been most frustrated with deadlines coming and going. All I can say is that we are pressing extremely hard to have it published but I cannot give any projection beyond that.
Dr. Una May:
I certainly hope that I will not face an FAI-type issue in my time. It is important to acknowledge that we have a very solid and strong audit process which is what exposes some of the issues which we would not otherwise identify. We are carrying out on average ten governing body audits a year. We are monitoring very closely what is going on within national governing bodies. The audits occasionally raise concerns for us. I would not say they are serious concerns but there are definitely issues that arise.
I am going to pass over to Mr. McDermott because he is directly dealing with the governing bodies.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
I would not like to say a blanket "No" and say there are no other issues with governing bodies because there are always issues in governing bodies. We have a suite of interventions and a way of working. The KOSI audit programme, for example, is done by a very effective team of auditors who do great work. That would be one intervention. There are others. Governance is not a fixed thing in time. It changes and there are changes in personnel. The Senator raised the issue around communication between board and executive membership, for example. That is quite a common issue that can happen in governing bodies. Concerns can be raised. There can be a moment in time when the chief executive of a board may be changing. At any one time, if I may give a very general answer, we will always have two, three or four governing bodies which may be having some problems that we seek to resolve. We have a number of interventions to help with that. We will see some of the problems cycling has gone through, which Dr. Tom Daly and his colleagues are addressing as a board, in other sports. They may not come into the public realm. Sometimes they can be resolved quickly.
In respect of the IABA we know they are quite long-standing issues. We continue to work with the IABA to help with those issues. I attended the convention in Roscommon on Sunday. I would not like to say there are no concerns with the governing bodies sector because that would not be right. Nor would I want to mention anybody today to the effect that there is anything critical arising.
Of course. Mr. McDermott is aware there is a seriousness about the issues which happened at Cycling Ireland and certainly at the IABA. There are ongoing issues in respect of addressing gender balance and other matters at governing body level. In terms of specific serious concerns-----
Mr. Paul McDermott:
There are a couple of sports which we are working with at the moment to address issues which have arisen in governance. I would like to make another general point. The pandemic and that period of our lives which we have emerged from raised certain fractures in certain sports. Again, it is about these relationships between members, executives and boards. We are working through them. I would be confident in the next three or four months, by the autumn, that a couple of sports which are currently experiencing difficulties will see those difficulties resolved. They certainly will not want to come here or get into the public domain. I would not to give a blanket statement that there are no issues. There are always issues. We are always working with sports. I certainly hope nothing will come before the committee. We have KOSI audits which we are working through. We have had other independent reviews into governing bodies. We are working through them step by step with the help of the boards. I am confident that any issues I am dealing with today will be resolved in a matter of weeks.
With the Chair's indulgence, I have one further question. Contrasting Cycling Ireland with the IABA, in Cycling Ireland we had a board which voluntarily stepped aside. Excellent volunteers like Dr. Tom Daly and Ms Helen Kerrane stepped up to the mark. As is clear from the weekend, the outgoing IABA board has lost the confidence of the clubs and members. It certainly arguable and our committee put it to Sport Ireland that because the outgoing board lost support, no matter what governance proposal the outgoing central council put, it was never going to carry with the members. There was a correct response in terms of what happened with Cycling Ireland, in contrast with what happened in the IABA. The approach of Sport Ireland and the Minister to the IABA should be to engage with the new council and not be talking about threatening funding cuts. That is appropriate obviously if there is no governance reform but that reform in the IABA was not going to come as the existing regime did not have the confidence of the members.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
I attended the meeting in Roscommon on Sunday. The Senator's observation is valid and the Northern Ireland vote may have reflected that sense of frustration. A lot of speakers on the day had strongly held views which they expressed. They also need to remember that they are members of a company limited by guarantee. They have obligations to the well-being of the staff, clubs, boxers and so on. We will always engage with the IABA. We never said we would withdraw. Some of the issues there are very long-standing. We hope the IABA community which turned up in numbers, with 105 clubs represented on Sunday, will go back to the substance of the recommendations. There was not a lot of conversation about their substance. The governance review written by Brian MacNeice was independent and was commissioned by the IABA itself. It addresses how the clubs can engage better with the IABA, which is something we would support. There is a period of two months in which the IABA can come back to us. I will let Dr. May speak to that.
Dr. Una May:
We have given it two months. There is an initial proportionate cut in its funding but we have said we will engage with it closely. If we can see progress within the coming two months, then we can re-engage more effectively on a future plan, an exit from the situation it is currently in and the implementation of some if not all of the reforms we believe to be critical in order to ensure the success of the organisation.
I am also going to deviate slightly. It is quite a contrast when I read about the submissions, discussions, workshops and sessions with stakeholders that took place in Cycling Ireland. By contrast, in boxing there was a report produced to be accepted or not, with no engagement with stakeholders or workshops. It was on the front page of the Sunday Independentthat the IABA had to accept it or Sport Ireland would cut its money. That is not acceptable from Sport Ireland. It should be representing the clubs, volunteers and sports people. The report was commission by Sport Ireland as stated here by Mr. John Treacy. Sport Ireland was asked at short notice by the IABA to do a governance review after this committee asked the IABA to come in here to discuss governance issues. When it came in, there were no problems, yet we have a report produced by MacNeice, who published the previous report four years ago with the same people at the helm, which found there were issues then and there are still issues now. That is why it was voted down so comprehensively on Sunday.
I just want to contrast the way Sport Ireland dealt with Cycling Ireland with how it dealt with the IABA and boxing in general. That is really what needs to happen. We need a change at the top of an organisation to get confidence from the people. The volunteers and sports people are the people we should be representing and supporting. They give thousands of hours of service. That is why we are here today. We have a positive report coming from Cycling Ireland. Changes are being made, there are more changes to be made and they will be made. Every organisation should be treated in the same way within sport in Ireland, should issues like this arise. There should not be an attempt to force through an opinion against the volunteers and members who are the heart of any sporting organisation. That needs to be taken on board. The same needs to happen at the IABA if boxing is to move forward in Ireland.
I compliment the witnesses for the way they have taken this on. I apologise for being late as I was coming in and out for votes. The issue was highlighted to us. They have taken it on to bring the sport forward. That is what needs to happen at any level in any sport. We are at a serious juncture in another sport. I ask Sport Ireland to treat them all the same in working with the membership. We have a strong tradition in sport in this country and it is important that we maintain it. We are delighted when we see people excelling in all sports. The the volunteers and workers on the ground are the ones who bring people to that level. They need to be supported.
Dr. Una May:
I am not sure if it is just a comment or a question but I think it is a fair observation that Cycling Ireland has taken this matter very seriously and has implemented the reforms required. Unfortunately we have not seen the same in boxing and the IABA has been in possession of the report for some time.
The report that was commissioned, however, was carried out in consultation with all the members, so everybody was part of the process by which the report was reviewed. The views, opinions and challenges members saw were part of the review. Therefore, the outcomes and the recommendations detailed in the review identify many of these issues and recommend pathways out of the problems that have emerged.
It is important to note as well that, in advance of the EGM, Brian MacNeice had offered to meet with every one of the clubs to help people to understand better what was involved and what the implications and the content of the recommendations were but there was a very small take-up of that offer. One thing is very clear from Sport Ireland's point of view, that is, that we treat all governing bodies equally. We give everybody the same opportunity and try very hard to support governing bodies to try to meet.
In response to Senator Malcolm Byrne's question about the idea as to what we do around our audits, there are often other problems, and we always provide the guidance and support we can in order to ensure we do not get to these situations. Unfortunately, in boxing it escalated beyond our ability to resolve the matters and the matter was taken into the hands of an independent review, which the boxing members chose not to act on. The detail of those recommendations is really important and, unfortunately, it seems that a lot of the members did not fully comprehend or embrace the detail within the recommendations, many of which, I think, would resolve a lot of the concerns we have heard in recent times.
I do not know if Mr. McDermott wishes to add anything.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
I accept the Senator's point. I will not get into a debate about it. The independent report recognised, as we all do, that there were in the IABA long-standing issues, some going back a number of years. In the last 18 months three particular issues arose: the issue within the central council itself, the issue with high performance, and the review. We do not have a partisan approach. We wanted to help the IABA. It commissioned the report. It was done independently. My role was simply to have one interview with Brian MacNeice. Mr. MacNeice spoke to the people in Irish boxing. All the clubs were allowed to make submissions. We talked to a wide range of people. We have to accept, however, as we do, that the clubs and the grassroots feel a disconnect. There is no question about that. That was heard loud and clear on Sunday. There is a body of work to do to repair that. It is fair of Senator Malcolm Byrne to make the contrast with Cycling Ireland, the board of which is embracing the need to stay with the KOSI report, the IPA governance effectiveness review and so on. It is to be hoped that, in the aftermath of Sunday, people will reflect and understand what is required of the IABA to address the issues. Sunday was a landmark day. It moved the situation forward. However, has it addressed the issues of substance? Not yet. Those issues of substance remain to be addressed, and we remain open to working with the IABA to address them. It is in everybody's interest. We absolutely recognise the importance of Cycling Ireland as a governing body and cycling as a sport and a pursuit in Ireland. Likewise, we value the contribution of Irish boxing not just to Irish sport but to the wider community. That is why we spend so much time engaging with the IABA, and we hope to continue to do so. We have to recognise, however, notwithstanding how much more we understand about boxing after Sunday, that the issues of substance remain unresolved.
I accept that. There is no confidence in terms of the top level, be it the chair of the board or the CEO, among the vast majority of the membership. Changes like those made in Cycling Ireland need to be made if this is to be progressed. I am very confident that the members would accept the report on that basis, but there is absolutely no confidence there at present. Mr. McDermott said there were long-standing issues that went on for many years and that have been left to fester and to build up. They were not dealt with until this committee started engaging with them. It was only then that a governance review took place. Sport Ireland needs to look at this in that light if it wants boxing to move forward and to get back the confidence of the members. They are the volunteers who train every Monday to Sunday night, bringing up all these boxers as kids. They are the people we need to support as a Government and as a committee because they are the people who put in the long nights, including winter nights, and voluntary hours to train these people - in all sports - to make them successful.
I will open the floor for a second round. Before I do so, though, I have two or three brief questions. Again, I welcome Cycling Ireland and its board members and thank them for their genuine efforts in trying to ensure the publication of the BDO report. They have done tremendous work since these revelations.
As for the appointment of the performance director in February 2022, a high-performance subcommittee has been established within the board to advise. What importance do the witnesses place on ensuring we have a national and an Olympic team that is fit for purpose? How does that coincide with the high-performance unit? What potential impact might the issue of not having a performance director in place over the past year have on progress as we move forward to Paris?
Dr. Tom Daly:
In response to your question about a high performance director, Vice Chairman, the need for that was highlighted in various reports, including a review of the last Olympic cycle. Also, one of the issues very much highlighted by the KOSI report was overreach by board members in the past into operational issues such as high performance. The appointment of a high performance director is part of addressing that. That was an appointment made through a competition. The high performance subcommittee is in the process of being formed. The composition of the subcommittee is not complete yet. Invitations have been sent out for members with relevant expertise. That subcommittee of the board will be an advisory subcommittee. In other words, there will be involvement by board members, or it will be influenced by board members, in team selections and high performance selections. All of that will be separated. It is part of the building of the key infrastructure in moving high performance forward.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
Obviously, the loss of the performance director so close to the Olympic Games was not what we would have wanted to see. In high performance we have a performance director-led model, so a performance director is in place. He is not a coach; he runs the programmes right the way through the pathway and is the leader of that programme. To have taken the leadership away or to have lost the leadership close to an Olympic Games was less than ideal. Cycling Ireland put in place a variety of interventions to mitigate that loss, but the loss was less than ideal. We believe that Cycling Ireland has high potential in respect of high performance. We believe that cycling is a core sport, whether at European, world, Olympic or Paralympic levels. The performance director Cycling Ireland has now is a high-calibre individual, and we believe he can lead that programme into sustained success. However, they are expensive programmes - there is no question about it - and sometimes that can raise an eyebrow. However, if we want to be successful on the track or the road or with the Paris cyclists, the organisation has to be led by a suitably qualified person with the right coaches and so on. We hope that that person, in any programme, can be sustained right the way through an Olympic or a Paralympic cycle and that we will not lose him or her close to a games because that is not fair on the athletes. Their ability to reach their potential is reduced at the high point of their sporting careers. That was unfortunate, but it happened for all sorts of complex reasons. Certainly, it is not something we would like to see in any environment.
Dr. Una May:
In recognition of the risk that that gap produced, we worked with Cycling Ireland and it appointed an interim performance director who was a member of staff of Sport Ireland Institute. We have that level of continuity connecting the athletes into the services provided through the institute. We recognised a risk associated with that gap. In the absence of somebody in that role, we provided a supporting position that would help to bridge that gap.
Mr. Paul McDermott:
No. Where we are at the moment is that there is a gap. The first thing we have to acknowledge is that the boxers, coaches and service personnel are of the highest standard. I am sure people will accept the Irish high-performance boxing programme is globally recognised, but it is a performance director-led model. We would like Bernard Dunne to still be in post. He is not, unfortunately. We would certainly welcome him back. I am not sure about anybody else. If it is not Bernard we need somebody else in post soon. It is one of the priority lines we are going to try to agree with the IABA and one of the points of urgency with it. As the various contributors said, there is an urgency here to get the IABA back and functioning to a high level. I pay tribute to the coaches, including Zaur Antia, John Conlon, Dmitrij Dmitruk and the others. They have done a fantastic job but they are only filling in a gap. Just to acknowledge, for example, Zaur Antia. He travelled from one major championship to another. He is obviously a highly-regarded professional but that is a lot to ask of a person. We want this to be resolved sooner rather than later because there is a gap and you cannot expect this of the people - they also lost their operations manager and other staff. Those gaps have got to be filled sooner rather than later.
Okay. I have another question around the Union Cycliste Internationale, UCI, registration process and the issues around Irish professional cycling teams not being registered. What type of damage has been done to Cycling Ireland's credibility with the governing body in terms of ensuring that process or relationship has been rectified?
Dr. Tom Daly:
Just as a slight matter of detail, they were registered. In terms of the process used, there were inaccuracies as I understand it in Cycling Ireland's registration process. It has undoubtedly done reputational damage in line with the other issues. The only thing we can do, as we have done with all these issues, is to uncover the facts, not to hide anything, to be transparent, to deal with immediate issues and to deal with the background structural, cultural or regulatory issues within the organisation that allowed these things to arise in the first place. We are dealing with that at the various levels. There have been disciplinary proceedings in relation to that within the staff, which I cannot comment on individually, but Cycling Ireland did not shrink from its responsibilities in that regard. BDO is looking into it in more detail. Once we were informed about it, we engaged immediately with the UCI and informed it of the issue and that engagement is ongoing with it on the issue.
I thank all our guests for very forthright and helpful contributions. As I said at the beginning, this has been a very important element of the process of restoring trust in Cycling Ireland and its governance structures. We can go forward from today with a hugely greater degree of confidence in how exactly those governance issues are being addressed and will be addressed in future. I am delighted to hear the velodrome is becoming - I hope, I think - a reality at long last. I recall visiting New Zealand with our ambassador there about two years ago. We were brought to one of its two national velodromes and met two renowned, world-class track cycling coaches who happened to be Irish but were basing themselves there because it was the only place they could get a role or function with their coaching skills. To be able to attract that kind of talent home again and to develop our locally home-grown talent would be a really exciting time in Irish cycling. I wish Dr. Daly and the board of Cycling Ireland every success in getting that under way as quickly as possible.
In conclusion, I was not casting any aspersions, and apologies if it sounded that way, on the cycling pedigrees of either of guests from Cycling Ireland, because those are very substantial and honourable. Dr. Daly explained earlier the appointment process to the board but I am thinking about the optics of this. I argue that in an organisation as large as Cycling Ireland and that has as large a national footprint, there always needs to be some sort of mechanism so the 25,000 members have a say, although many of them do not turn up to meetings. We have our AGM in Seven Springs Cycling Club in Loughrea every year and out of I think 90 members 25 turn up and the rest pay their sub and say that is all they are doing. The commitment was made to go on further than that and it is welcome but there needs to be perhaps some mechanism whereby the 25,000 members would have a role or what we might describe as a voice on the board. Granted all board members are a voice for cycling and they have all risen up through the ranks from their local cycling clubs but I just think that is important from a perception point of view on an ongoing basis.
As I said, I thank both of the Cycling Ireland guests for the work, for stepping into the breach and doing incredibly important work in restoring that trust and providing a really strong, solid foundation for the future of cycling in Ireland.