Thursday, 1 February 2007
National Lottery Funding
As the Minister of State is aware, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism has the joyful task of making many sports clubs happy in allocating national lottery funding in the next few weeks. New Oak Boys Soccer Club in Carlow is one club that has made an application. This club is in a unique situation because it has the club house and pitches but requires fencing in order to be fully operational.
I will explain the background to the case. The Minister of State might be aware of matters in Carlow. New Oak Boys Soccer Club previously leased a small piece of green field — I would not call it a pitch — off Carlow Town Council that was adjacent to the former cattle mart site in Carlow. This site was bought by Gerard O'Hare, a developer, and is the site of the new Tesco shop in Carlow, along with other shops. It is a big shopping centre. The piece of land owned by the council and leased to New Oak Boys Soccer Club was used to put a road into the new shopping centre. As part of the deal, the developer in question relocated the pitch to Burrin Road, which is only a few hundred yards away, and put in a proper pitch, training area and dressing rooms with showers and changing facilities for both teams and referees.
The club is slightly unusual in so far as it has the most important things. Unfortunately, one thing it does not have is security fencing. It is regrettable that it needs it. I cannot understand the mentality of people who vandalise such a facility when areas are crying out for sports facilities. Unfortunately, a small minority goes out of its way to cause trouble. The new club house and pitch have been the scene of many spates of vandalism. As a keen sportsperson the Minister knows this cannot be allowed to happen. The danger is that one could have glass or needles on the pitch so it is vital to get the security fencing.
The grant from the national lottery covers security fencing but in the past, the national lottery has tended to ignore this aspect and concentrate more on buildings, dressing rooms and pitches. This case is the opposite to the norm and I hope the Minister ensures that the New Oak Boys Soccer Club gets a grant which will hopefully be approximately €60,000. Such a grant could allow the club to finish the fencing and have a state of the art soccer facility in the heart of Carlow town which will benefit boys, teenagers and adults in the town.
This club has a fantastic record. It has played in South America and taken teams to Manchester and other places. It provides a significant resource for the town and provides facilities for visiting teams in which to play. I hope the Minister of State passes my words to the Department and that it looks sympathetically at this case.
I will take this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Arts Sports and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue. I thank Senator Browne for raising the matter. The Department's sports capital programme is a very important element in ensuring that the country is adequately provided with high quality sports facilities to cater for the various requirements of governing bodies, clubs and local community sports organisations.
Under the sports capital programme, grants are allocated to sporting and voluntary and community organisations for the provision of sports and recreational facilities and equipment. Through the provision of sports capital funding the Government has provided unprecedented levels of funding for sport and its infrastructure. Since 1998 a total of 5,781 such projects have benefited from over €483 million in grant allocations.
The sports capital programme is advertised on an annual basis. Applications for funding under the 2007 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 15 and 16 October last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 24 November 2006. All applications received before the deadline, including the one received from New Oak boys soccer club, are currently being evaluated by officials against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme.
The assessment process takes into account a number of factors. These include the number and quality of the applications received; whether the project aims to increase active participation in sport and-or improve standards of sports performance in line with clearly stated targets and showing how the application will measure these increases or improvements — in particular, facilities will be prioritised which will help promote and enhance female participation in sport; whether the application provides evidence that the project is located in a disadvantaged area and meets a need for sporting facilities in the area; and whether the following has been provided — evidence of title to the project site, evidence of planning permission applied for or in place, drawings-specifications for the project and accurate costings for each element of the project. Other factors include whether the project is realistic in terms of scale, costs and grant assistance sought; whether a proven history of fund-raising is shown and a good level of own funding towards the cost which will allow the project to be finished within a realistic timeframe; whether the applicant has proved the level of own funding contribution towards the project; whether the project has a high priority in regard to the applicant's existing facilities; whether there is already a good level of similar sporting facilities in the area; whether the application includes details and evidence of consultation with other clubs, community groups, schools and the local authority, especially those that will use the facility; and whether the application clearly explains how the applicant will attract socially excluded people to use the facility.
Highest priority is afforded to projects in disadvantaged areas aimed at increasing participation. High priority projects include those which are essential or integral to sports participation or performance, for example, pitch development, floodlighting, changing rooms and showers. At the end of the assessment process each application is given its order of priority within its own county. There are 22 applications this year from County Carlow, which is an increase of 38% on the number in 2006. They are seeking a total of €2.74 million in funding. In 2006 a total of €702,500 was allocated to projects in County Carlow under the programme, which represented an increase of 58% on the allocation for the previous year.
Every effort is made to achieve a balanced geographical spread of funds throughout the country and a balanced spread among the various sports, while also affording priority to projects in areas of social and economic disadvantage. Senator Browne has made a good case on behalf of the club. I will bring his contribution to the attention of the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism and ask him to seriously consider the application which I hope will be successful on this occasion. The Minister intends to announce the grant allocations for the 2007 sports capital programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.