Thursday, 24 February 2022
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
14. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will consider making funding available to assist sporting bodies to improve their stadium facilities; if locations have been identified for such potential funding; the number of bodies that have contacted her seeking such funding; and the names and location of each. [10151/22]
26. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her views on the potential of Government to fund local authority-run community playing fields; if she will consider funding to purchase such land; and if her Department will fund the construction and fit-out of such facilities. [10149/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 26 together.
In relation to my Department's responsibilities, two schemes provide grant assistance to both local authorities and sporting organisations for the development and improvement of community playing fields, sports stadia and sports facilities generally.
The Sports Capital and Equipment Programme (SCEP) is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. Inevitably, the Programme is oversubscribed however, and it does not cover the purchase of land or buildings. Over 13,000 projects have now benefited from sports capital funding since 1998, bringing the total allocations in that time to over €1.1 billion.
The Programme for Government commits to continuing the SCEP and to prioritising this investment in disadvantaged areas.
The 2020 round of the Programme closed for applications on 1 March 2021. By this date, 3,106 applications were submitted seeking over €200 million in funding. This is the highest number of applications ever received.
Approximately one thousand of the submitted applications were for 'equipment-only' projects. These applications were assessed first and grants with a total value of €16.6 million were announced on 6 August 2021. The remaining capital applications were then assessed and 1,865 individual grant offers with a total value of over €143.8 million were announced on Friday 11 February 2022.
The grants as announced included a significant number of allocations to local authorities for the improvement of playing pitches and to sporting organisations for improvements to their sports grounds. Details of all applications submitted under the 2020 round can be viewed on www.gov.ie. All valid capital applications received a grant offer and all allocations can also be viewed on a county basis on the same site.
All unsuccessful applicants will be able to appeal the Department's decision. When the appeals process is complete, a full review of the 2020 round of the SCEP will be undertaken and any recommendations contained therein will be factored in to the terms and conditions of the next round. The precise timing of the next round of the Programme will be announced once this review is complete.
Funding is also provided by my Department to Local Authorities and sporting organisations for the development and improvement of community playing fields, sports stadia and sports facilities under the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF). The LSSIF is designed for projects where the grant sought is greater than the maximum available under the SCEP. The first allocations under the LSSIF were announced in January 2020 and thus far, approximately €86.4 million has been awarded to 33 different proposals. Details of all grants, including those related to stadium improvements, are published on the Gov.ie website. While the priority in the short term is to advance all of 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 the COVID-19 pandemic, it was considered timely to review progress on all projects allocated grants. My Department has now met with all successful grantees and work is at an advanced stage in drafting the review. I expect this work to be finalised shortly.
Once that review is complete the scope for awarding any additional LSSIF grants, adjusting the level of existing grants and the timing of any new call for proposals under the LSSIF will be considered.
In relation to contacts by sporting organisations, as the Deputy will be aware, the SCEP and the LSSIF are important to numerous communities and sports organisations throughout the country and I receive regular representations on both. I am always willing to engage with interested parties on the programmes given their huge benefits for so many people, communities and clubs. The recent record package of €150 million in new capital grants under the SCEP (when account is taken of the €6 million kept in reserve to deal with the appeals process) reflects the government’s ongoing support to sport as the sector emerges from the challenges of the past two years.