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.