Dáil debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Sports Funding

4:45 pm

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

This is a single Topical Issue matter but multiple topics are being raised so I will try to deal with some of them. The LSSIF was launched in 2018 by the previous Government to provide an open and transparent system for applying for funding for larger sports facility projects, including swimming pools, where the amount being sought by applicants was greater than the funding available under my Department's sports capital and equipment programme. The first call for proposals was confined to sporting bodies and local authorities. Following a detailed assessment process, the first allocations under the fund were announced in January 2020 and thus far, approximately €86.4 million has been allocated to 33 different proposals. It should be noted in all cases that the funding provided by the Department represents a proportion of the overall cost of the project and it was a requirement for all applicants to show a minimum of 30% own funding for their proposals.

I know there is huge ambition in the sporting system, including for the projects that have received funding, for projects that were given funding for planning and design and for projects that have been developed since that time. Drawdown of these funds is not where I want it to be but it should be noted that the allocations were announced in January 2020, just prior to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic gave rise to significant financial challenges and delays in construction for all grantees, with many of them having to reprioritise their expenditure plans due to significant reductions in their income streams. The Government provided significant support during that period, with a massive expansion in direct funding for sporting organisations and clubs to keep them afloat. In more recent times, the high rate of construction inflation has also resulted in grantees pausing some projects until they are in a position to secure the balance of the funding required to complete works. From my Department's perspective, every effort has been made and there has been direct engagement with all applicants to advance all projects as efficiently as possible. While the priority remains to advance all the successful projects, as it is now two years since the first allocations were made, and in view of the issues faced by grantees as a result of Covid, it was considered timely to review progress on all projects that were allocated grants. My Department has met with all successful grantees and work is at an advanced stage in completing the review.

I refer to the efficiency of the scheme. As the Deputy will appreciate, the funding provided under the LSSIF is substantial and, accordingly, the Government is trying to get value for money. While overseeing the spending of public money on capital works, it is a requirement to ensure that projects adhere to the public spending code. In the case of some of the projects awarded funds, delays were encountered, with grantees completing the due diligence procedures to allow a grant agreement to issue. It should be noted however, that letters have issued to 16 of the grantees, confirming that the Department is satisfied with the economic appraisals and other documentation submitted and is happy to proceed to the grant agreement stage. Furthermore, it is encouraging that based on the discussions with grantees, 22 of the 33 projects should be in a position to draw down funding in 2023. Accordingly, I expect significant progress on many of these projects in the short term. In the context of ongoing increases in construction costs, other projects will require additional funding to progress and I am aware of the broader ambition that existed across the sporting system to deliver additional large sporting infrastructure. Delivering on that ambition will require significant further investment and this is something I have ongoing engagements on with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The Deputy referenced a league table, although he did not say where he got it from. I question his data because we announced more than €160 million for the sports capital and equipment programme earlier this year, the largest ever investment in grassroots sport. That demonstrates a massive expansion in our delivery for the sporting system and for clubs and communities. This Government has been committed to delivering that. We are seeing massive drawdown of funding within clubs. We are seeing all-weather pitches being built, equipment being delivered and all sorts of delivery across the sporting system. I accept that we have to make further progress on this but the update I have given the Deputy demonstrates that drawdown for those 22 projects will occur in the short term. There is progress but I accept that there have been delays during that two-year window.


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