I thank the Deputy. As the Deputy knows, the detailed scoring system was published on the Department's website prior to the commencement of the assessment works under the 2018 sports capital programme. The key factors used in arriving at the relevant score for each application include the likelihood of increasing participation and improving performance, or both; whether the proposed facilities will be shared with other users; the level of socioeconomic disadvantage in the area; the technical merits of the proposed project; the level of funding being provided for the project by the applicant; and the level of sports capital programme funding received in the last ten years by the applicant.
There were 2,337 applications received by the deadline, 186 of which were for projects that were deemed to be invalid in the 2017 round of applications. There were also equipment-only applications. We are assessing these applications.
We have changed the weighting for the 2018 programme to give a better chance to communities that are considered to be disadvantaged on the Pobal deprivation index, even though 50% of successful applications in 2017 were from such areas. We have also increased efforts to raise awareness of the programme in disadvantaged communities to try to have more such applicants.
There is no perfect system when a programme receives over 2,000 applications from all over the country. We are trying to be as fair as possible and encapsulate as many criteria as possible to try to score applications on merit. For the first time ever, allocations under the 2017 programme were based on the points the applications scored. Previously, some would have been picked and prioritised, even though they had not scored as well as others. The Minister, Deputy Ross, and I were keen to ensure in 2017 that the scoring system we had published on the website would be strictly adhered to and we are trying to do so again this year.
I will be happy to receive feedback from the Deputy at the end of the process. We are currently in the middle of it. We will be reviewing how the 2018 programme worked before establishing and publishing the scoring system for the 2019 programme. It is constantly evolving and changing, but the changes we made between 2017 and 2018 have probably been the most radical ever in trying to make the programme as accessible as possible to disadvantaged communities and ensure applications from them will receive as much funding as possible.