I am acutely aware of the particular difficulties and challenges currently facing sport and sporting organisations. Measures introduced by the Government to date have benefitted the sport sector including the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the series of enterprise supports.
There has been extensive engagement with the sport sector over the past number of months which has highlighted the significant, adverse impact of COVID-19 at all levels of the Irish sporting landscape. A COVID-19 Sports Monitoring Group, chaired at Ministerial level, has been established to engage directly with the sporting bodies. An Expert Group on Return to Sport, chaired by an official of my Department, has also been established to provide advice and guidance to sporting bodies.
Sport Ireland is also directly engaging with the sporting bodies on an ongoing basis.
A funding package of up to €70 million has been put in place to support the sector. The funding package, which will be administered by Sport Ireland,includes;
- Funding of up to €40m for the three main field sports organisations – the FAI, the GAA and the IRFU.
- a Resilience Fund of up to €10m to support the National Governing Bodies of Sport,
- a Sports Club Resilience Fund of up to €15m to support clubs, and
- a Sports Restart and Renewal Fund of up to €5m.
The funding will be invested through new grant schemes with Sport Ireland’s recognised funding partners, including the National Governing Bodies of Sport, Local Sports Partnerships and other funded sporting organisations.
The closing date for applications to Sport Ireland under the COVID 19 grant schemes was September 14. I understand that a large number of applications was received. 39 National Governing Bodies applied on their own behalf or on behalf of their member clubs. Sport Ireland is currently processing and validating the applications. There is significant interest in each of the 4 strands of funding. The process will be complete by the end of October and an announcement on allocations will be made at that time.
In addition to this funding scheme, I announced a special fund of €2.5 million as part of the July Jobs Stimulus to support the reopening of publicly accessible swimming pools in recognition of the particular challenges pool operators face in reopening to the public. This funding will also be administered by Sport Ireland. Sport Ireland is currently finalising the grant scheme. Full details of the scheme and the application process will be announced shortly.
I was delighted to welcome an increase of €36 million in funding for Sport Ireland in the 2021 Estimates. This funding will ensure continued support for the sport sector over the coming year, including support for Team Ireland athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Dormant Accounts Funding for Sport Ireland programmes has also been increased from €8 million in 2020 to €10 million next year. This funding will support programmes aiming to increase participation in sport and physical activity by people with disabilities and disadvantaged communities.
In relation to women’s sport, the Government has demonstrated its commitment to women's sport over many years, and considerable Exchequer funding has been allocated to programmes aimed at encouraging women's active and social participation in sport. This will also be the case in 2021. I would highlight in this regard the Sport Ireland Women in Sport programme established in 2005, which has provided funding support to a broad range of programmes aimed at increasing participation by women and girls. Minister Chambers has already been in discussions on how the Government can do more to support this initiative.
I would like to assure the Deputy that the importance of women's sport is something I will be highlighting in all my contacts with national and international sporting bodies.