Sports Capital Programme: Discussion

I ask everyone to ensure their mobile phones are off. I welcome everyone and apologise for the late restart. I have asked witnesses to synopsise their opening statements, which will be taken as read. The first speaker is Mr. John Treacy, chief executive of Sport Ireland.

Before we commence, I am required by Standing Orders to draw the witnesses' attention to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

Mr. John Treacy

I am joined by Mr. Paul McDermott, director of national governing bodies, or NGBs, and high performance. I will be very brief. Sport Ireland places NGBs at the centre of its work. It is a strategic priority. We work with NGBs to ensure they are very strong, fit for purpose and in compliance with good governance. Many of them are now on the road to compliance with the community and voluntary code also. We also ensure they have financial and taxation policies in place. We place a huge emphasis on child protection, risk management and all of those critical elements to which every governing body must sign up to ensure they have good systems in place.

Governing bodies provide the framework for the delivery of sport across the spectrum from grassroots all the way up to high performance. They are a vital component for delivering on the world stage. This morning, we allocated €1.8 million to our carded athletes while earlier this year we announced €10.8 million for our core national governing bodies, not counting the three field sport bodies, namely, the FAI, GAA and IRFU. We also allocate through NGBs €600,000 for the women's sport programme and €7 million for high performance sports. Through the Department, we were able to secure an extra €380,000 to meet some of our critical key areas which needed funding in 2018. These include the World Equestrian Games and Eisenhower trophy, which will be held this year, as well as the World Hockey Championships and events like that which are a real priority for us. We were at a high of €13.8 million in funding for our NGB sector but we are now down at €10.8 million.

Obviously, we place a huge emphasis on increasing support for the NGBs which deliver for us right across the spectrum. They deliver real quality programmes on participation. We have seen increases in every aspect of Ireland's participation in sport. NGBs offer a wide diversity of activity and that choice is there. We also fund the local sports partnership and will be making announcements in that regard with the Minister tomorrow. All of the sporting organisations we fund definitely provide the taxpayer with value for money. As the bar is being raised in terms of compliance, there is a critical need to invest in NGBs as we go forward. They need staff and to have the right people in place to drive organisations forward. They need to ensure they keep volunteers involved and comply fully with all of the regulations. They must provide leadership in sport.

Critically, NGBs need more core funding. We have seen no increase in high performance funding since 2011 and our competitors are probably losing ground as more countries come into the high performance space and invest more and more. It is a critical piece. I was delighted to hear the Minister say this morning that one of the things he wanted to do was increase capital funding for governing bodies. That would be critical for high performance sports leading into Tokyo to provide equipment, including boats. There was a huge impact in 2012 when the Department provided funding to our rowers and sailors for boats and those were our two medal winning sports. It is also a critical piece.

Sport Ireland and governing bodies have benefitted from dormant accounts funding at a rate of over €2 million per year. That is driven by our own Department working hard with us to ensure systems are in place to allocate that funding and make the case for governing bodies in sport. It is money well spent and we get a great return on the investment. We commend the work NGBs do to deliver for sport in the country.

The next speaker is Ms Mary O'Connor, chief executive of the Federation of Irish Sport, who is accompanied by Mr. Roddy Guiney, chairman of the Federation of Irish Sport.

Ms Mary O'Connor

I thank the committee for inviting us. We are delighted to attend. We are here in our capacity as representatives of Irish sport. There are 70 national governing bodies of sport which are members of the federation along with 28 local sport partnerships, or LSPs. We were asked here today to speak about minority sport, but we do not believe there is such a thing in Ireland. We were asked to outline the benefit all sport and physical activity and the NGBs and LSPs which contribute to modern Ireland's vibrant and diverse sporting culture. Sport and physical activity is proven to stimulate volunteerism and promote diversity and inclusion. We are lucky in Ireland to be represented around the world by some world-class sporting ambassadors. To produce these sporting stars, we must invest in young talent, coach education and systems or pathways which allow them to maximise their potential.

At this stage, Irish Sport believes we need the following things. We need investment in our sporting organisations to allow them to maximise commercial and other revenue-generating activities and deal with the increased regulatory challenges such as the GDPR and child protection. Members may be surprised to know that up to 15% of the funds allocated to many of our national governing bodies are consumed by the cost of complying with the various regulatory requirements even before any funds are put into the sport itself. If we want to increase participation, international research has repeatedly found that it is people, programmes and targeted marketing and communications that make the real difference and not just facilities. I ask members to think of how the awareness of rugby, for example, is assisted by the significant investment from Vodafone or indeed about the change in perception of ladies Gaelic football since Lidl became a partner. We have a vibrant sporting community but we do need assistance to promote the sporting opportunities that are available - never mind to develop new ones.

On sports capital, funding for sport is always welcomed by our members but funding for facilities should not be at the expense of current funding and support for people and programmes. The investment should be strategic. Why continue to invest in individual projects nationwide in the absence of an audit of the facilities we already have? Our members would like to see better regional multi-sport facilities. We would ask that VAT exemption be extended to sporting equipment, particularly equipment for people with disabilities such as hand cycles and sports wheelchairs. We would like to encourage private giving and philanthropy to sporting bodies by bringing in the similar tax exemptions available through giving to other sectors such as art and education. We believe the public good delivered by sport is more than comparable.

Meaningful investment in sport by Government only began in 1989, which is nearly 30 years. We are 25 years behind the UK and some 20 years behind Australia. Now is the time to embrace the learnings from those 30 years so that we ensure that in 30 years' time, sport is delivering even more for Ireland and her people. To conclude, I know that the members of the committee are well aware of the huge contribution that sport can make to so many areas of Irish life: improving the nation's health, reducing anti-social behaviour, bringing communities together and, of course, boosting our national pride when our sporting heroes represent us with distinction. In the context of the overall budget available to Government, the ask is not very large but the effect of a substantial increase in funding, such as the doubling over seven years which the Taoiseach set out as an aspiration last year, would be immense.

I want to clarify that this was a random sample of governing bodies. No association is bottom of the list. We will now hear from Mr. Richard Fahey, chief executive of Tennis Ireland, who is accompanied by Mr. David Barber, chairman of Tennis Ireland.

Mr. Richard Fahey

We thank the chairman for inviting Tennis Ireland to attend today's meeting. We welcome the opportunity to engage with the Members of the Oireachtas at all times in respect of the sports capital programme and funding for minority sports. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport's current high-level goal for sport is to contribute to a healthier and more active society by promoting sports participation and by supporting high-performance sport and the provision of facilities. We strongly believe that Tennis Ireland supports this goal effectively but probably a bit too quietly.

Tennis Ireland is a 32-county governing body. We have just under 45,000 registered players with an additional figure of approximately 30,000 players who play recreationally or through programmes such as Parks Tennis, which has operated for over 40 years. We have a strong network of almost 200 clubs nationally. Unusually for a sport, we have an equal ratio of male and female participation. We are a sport that actively promotes lifelong participation in sport. We have people who play from the age of four or five up into their eighties and sometimes even into their nineties. On average, our players play 2.3 times per week so they are making a very significant contribution to the health and well-being of our nation. Tennis Ireland won the best national governing body, NGB, award at the 2018 CARA national inclusion awards in recognition of its Enjoy Tennis programme, which caters for over 800 people with a range of disabilities, and was a finalist in the NGB of the year category at the recent Irish sport industry awards. We are finalising a new strategy that focuses on participation, coaching, performance, competition, visibility, commercial and governance.

Our income has been relatively stable over the past number of years but it is important to note that like many other sports and unlike the GAA, soccer or rugby, we do not get income from TV rights. We do not get major grant-aid funding from international federations. The only other area of funding that is available to us which can be exploited is around increasing commercial and philanthropic income. We are very grateful for the funding we get from Sport Ireland. There has been a lot of debate today around the sports capital programme. Three things allow the environment for good sports development to happen. The first one is facilities, namely, places to play. The second is the type of programmes we have such as competition programmes, participation programmes like summer camps or coaching programmes to try to get people to play the sport. The third element is people such as volunteers or coaches. Governing bodies play a major role in those two other areas in terms of people, training and supporting volunteers and through the delivery and development of programmes.

Regarding what the challenge for us as a sport, and probably for all the sports represented here, if I look back on the funding we secured from Government, I can see that our core funding in 2008 was €436,000. In 2018, it is €353,000. That is a fall of 20%. If I look at our performance funding in 2008, I can see that it is €190,000. In 2018, it is €175,000, which is a fall of 8%. That fall took place in a very challenging environment for our sport and other sports in terms of increased expectations from our players, including- performance players or just players at clubs; volunteers; parents; the media; and Government in terms of safeguarding, governance, the GDPR, etc. They are all really important things and we fully support those regulations but they have put a huge strain on governing bodies in terms of meeting the day-to-day costs of compliance with those regulations while also trying to develop our sports. We appeal to Government to not just look at capital funding. We are very grateful for that but we also feel very strongly, as Mr. Treacy outlined, that there is a need to increase funding for sport to support our performance athletes but also to help us help clubs and participants around the country.

I now call Mr. Hamish Adams, chief executive of Rowing Ireland.

Mr. Hamish Adams

On behalf of Rowing Ireland, I thank the State for its contribution to our sport. The support we have received is critical to our sport's functioning. As a niche sport represented by 100 clubs on the island of Ireland, we require further investment to maintain the levels of participation and performance we are currently delivering. We are very proud to say that we have three current world champions and two Olympic silver medalists - the O'Donovan brothers. Unfortunately, at this point, they will be trying to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in boats that are four years old. To be honest, this is a huge challenge. We applied for funding through the sports capital grant. Unfortunately, even though our bid was valid, we did not receive funding. These are some of the challenges that all of the sports face in terms of the limitations around financial resources. I appeal for further support. I know that Sport Ireland has been very vociferous in supporting us in that area. Increasing the levels of funding because they are still below 2008 levels, as Mr. Fahey from Tennis Ireland pointed out, is one of our key asks.

The second issue is the desperate need for funding for sports equipment. The third issue concerns the ability of all the NGBs to contribute to the sports capital grant criteria. We know intimately what clubs can have the most significant effect on our sport and where they are. Having eligibility criteria within the sports capital grant, as we outlined to the Minister this morning, would be critical. We all know the huge role sport plays in our nation's health. We believe any further investment in sport is money well spent.

I now call Mr. David McGill, president of Badminton Ireland, who is accompanied by Mr. Ronan Rooney, chairman of Badminton Ireland.

Mr. David McGill

Badminton Ireland is the national governing body for badminton for the 32 counties of Ireland. We work with the four branches, Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster, and external stakeholders, including Sport Ireland. Badminton has been an Olympic sport since 1992, in which time we have produced three Olympians.

Badminton Ireland has more than 12,500 registered members playing the sport across 350 clubs. Our sport is almost entirely gender balanced, with 49% of our members being female. We cater for all ages, with 5,000 of our members aged 24 years and over and a further 5,800 under 18. Badminton offers a family friendly environment for players of all ages, from as young as eight years to over 80. We run a range of programmes and events throughout the season, from schools' events to master's tournaments. We invest almost 60% of our annual income in development activities and a further 20% in events which cater for players of all levels. However, like all national governing bodies, the increased administration required to ensure compliance with the governance code, the general data protection regulation and the Children First legislation has put a strain on our financial model and we expect this pressure to increase in the coming months and years.

The sports capital expenditure programme has been hugely beneficial for Badminton Ireland. Through the sports capital expenditure programme in 2014, we were able to implement a schools initiative called Shuttle-Time. The programme provides training, resources and equipment for the sport of badminton for schools, all free of charge. It has been hugely successful since its launch, reaching more than 44,000 children and 270 schools in its first year. That number continues to grow and has reached more than 59,000 pupils across primary and post-primary schools. We recently launched a new initiative in conjunction with local sport partnerships to bring the Shuttle-Time programme to DEIS schools in a number of areas. With growing concern about obesity levels in Ireland, particularly among children, we believe extending the reach of badminton further through the school system could help to improve activity levels for all.

Mr. Jim Leacy

Our association is the governing body for billiards and snooker in the Republic of Ireland and affiliated to the European and world bodies. We have clubs all over the country. I acknowledge and thank Sport Ireland for the support it has given to us up to now. For the past few years we have received €63,000 in funding from it, half of which goes towards employing one member of staff, while the rest is used to run the association and assist with the cost of international travel. As a committee member mentioned, sending people away to compete in international competitions is expensive and we can only give a very small amount from the grant aid we receive.

Snooker is watched by millions of people throughout the world. The world championships will begin in a couple of weeks in Sheffield when there will be huge interest in the sport. One of the disappointments is that we do not receive enough recognition when we win world or European championships. We have won European and world championships for many years, but the players do not receive any recognition, apart from us. That is a difficulty. Snooker is not an Olympic sport, but it is included in the world games. It does not seem to receive the recognition it needs.

The problems we face include trying to retain volunteers. It is very difficult to get and keep people involved in the sport. We struggle all the time to get volunteers. We have tried to increase participation by involving schools, but one of the difficulties is we cannot move a snooker table around the country. We have been trying to move fold-up tables to schools and have afternoon programmes whereby we can have three or four fold-up tables in schools to let the children become involved. Perhaps they might then get involved in the sport later.

The difficulties we face include the fact that most of the clubs we use are commercial enterprises. It is a business for the club owners and how we get them involved with the sports capital programme is a problem. As an association, we do not own any club or property; therefore, getting funding through the sports capital programme is a problem for us. A lot of people throughout the country play snooker, but they are not all involved with the association; therefore, we try to get the clubs to involve them to help us.

Mr. Seán Fleming

As president of the Irish Judo Association, I thank the Chairman and members for giving us the opportunity to appear in front of the committee. I will do my best to summarise what we submitted. It was already difficult to cut it down to five minutes.

Ours is a minority sport, with approximately 4,000 players in Ireland. However, we pride ourselves on being part of a family of more than 20 million throughout the world who play judo. As one would expect from one of the world's most inclusive sports, judo players in Ireland range across the full spectrum of ages, from toddlers to players in their 70s, and we provide opportunities for them to be players, coaches, referees and administrators.

As the national governing body for the sport, we have received €70,000 as a core grant from Sport Ireland. Like all other governing bodies, the grant covers costs associated with administration, participation programmes, coach development, hosting events, implementing strategic plans and the employment of professional staff. In 2017 we also received €4,000 under the women in sport programme and €45,000 in high performance grant money. The money is very much appreciated and we believe it is used to full advantage in our quest for increased participation and excellence. The Irish Judo Association could not survive without this financial support. As an association, we raise further funds through club and membership fees, which money is quickly accounted for. An insurance bill of €28,000 will soon eat into reserves and we are not on our own in that regard.

Like most other minority sports, we find it very difficult to attract major sponsors to assist in the development of our sport. The task is made more difficult by not having the personnel available to devote their full time to the pursuit of this revenue. In the last year we have attended conferences that encourage sports organisations such as ours to attract what is termed philanthropic money, an issue that was mentioned. It requires an initial investment and man hours, but, unfortunately, we are unable to provide either. The money may be available, but we cannot access it.

The Irish Judo Association has one full-time and one-part time employee whose workload is already at saturation levels. Ours is a voluntary sports organisation. The board of directors and the executive are made up entirely of volunteers. I am a teacher; the treasurer is a chartered accountant, while the secretary is an employee of a major multinational communications company. We give of our free time because we love the sport, as do many other volunteers throughout the country.

Governance in sport is very topical. As an association, we have spent a huge amount of time in an effort to implement best practice. We find that we have to expend significant time and energy in implementing the code of governance with limited resources. It is an extra cost which we are finding difficult to absorb. This has resulted in staff and volunteers working across multiple roles. Increased funding would ease the burden, but it is only part of the solution. As a national governing body, we recognise that with funding, particularly funding from the State, comes responsibility. We know and welcome this. Accountability and transparency are essential in any partnership. In my submission I mentioned the Children Act 2015, with which we are fully compliant.

Any increase in funding would allow us to pursue our main aim of developing the sport throughout the country. We would dearly love to be able to employ development officers to promote our sport in schools and develop links between schools and local clubs. During the first session of the meeting we heard a lot about links between schools and clubs. It is only through such partnerships and pathways that a sport like ours will flourish successfully. Partnerships are essential, be it the partnership between the national governing body and Sport Ireland in the promotion of the sport from grass roots level through to high performance level, the partnership between a school and a local club, or the partnership among clubs at provincial level to provide a pathway for players to advance into the national squad in the hope of one day representing the country at the Olympic Games.

An increase in funding would also enable us to provide a higher level of quality competition which would help to attract more national and international players.

Last weekend, on Saturday, 24 March, we hosted the Irish Open at the National Indoor Arena. It was a huge success, with players from Ireland, the United Kingdom and many other European countries competing. We received a grant of €2,500 from Sport Ireland which was greatly appreciated. It paid for the hire of the facility. We have a great indoor arena, but it has to be paid for by the national bodies. Hosting such events exposes our players to quality competition and better prepares them for international competitions. Members may have heard of Lisa Kearney who qualified for the London Olympic Games. In that regard, the cost was in the region of €300,000, which was made up of €100,000 in technical support provided by Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland because Lisa is from Belfast; a further €100,000 in high performance funding, with the remainder coming from a variety of other sources, including fund-raising. We have three athletes who are in a position to qualify for the Olympic Games in Japan in 2020. We have received €45,000 in high performance funding this year. We are delighted with it, but it highlights the difficulty with which a minority sport has to cope in striving for excellence on the world stage. There is the same difficulty for our emerging talented players. Each year the Irish Judo Association allocates €30,000 towards the cost of this programme. Players, aged 17 to 23 years, have to self-fund the majority of their activity, which, as the father of one of such player, I know only too well. I am sometimes called Daddy Warbucks. Sport Ireland provides funding at high performance level but not for emerging talent programmes at national governing body level. We have an excellent working relationship with the Sport Ireland high performance unit and understand it has a finite amount of finances to manage.

The Irish Judo Association is a 32 county organisation and recognised by the Olympic Council of Ireland as the national governing body for the sport. Reference was made to the Commonwealth Games, etc. In the north of the country some players are affiliated to the Northern Ireland Judo Federation, NIJF, which is part of GB Judo. The NIJF made a successful submission to Sport Northern Ireland to fund an emerging talent programme, for which it obtained almost €1 million over five years. Many of the players included in its programme are players with the Irish Judo Association. As the money is government-funded, all judo players resident in the North are entitled to be part of the programme, irrespective of the national governing body to which they belong. The programme is proving to be a great success and Irish players resident in the North are benefiting greatly from it. As an association, we have to try to provide the same for players in the other 26 counties, but we do not have the finances to do so. The Irish Judo Association and the NIJF have a great working relationship and long may it continue.

I again thank the committee for giving me this opportunity. I will not repeat the points made about the value of sport.

We will now have a question and answer session. The first speaker is Senator John O'Mahony.

As Deputy Robert Troy has to leave soon, I will allow him to go first.

I apologise for having to leave soon, but I am due to speak in the Dáil. I also apologise to the delegates for the delay in commencing this session, but we had to deal with other committee business first. I thank them for being here and their opening statements.

As rightly stated by Ms O'Connor, sport is powerful in terms of mental and physical health well-being, in reducing anti-social behaviour, in team building, in terms of leadership and in boosting national pride, as witnessed two weekends ago when Ireland won the Grand Slam and our rowers won Olympic medals. On many sporting occasions we all are proud to be Irish and don the green jersey. The sports we are discussing are termed "minority sports", but that is not what they are. All of the bodies represented are sports bodies. The level of participation for some of them is higher than for others, but that may be because some of them have greater facilities, resources, numbers of training and development officers and greater potential to recruit new participants than others. We invited the organisations to ask them what we, as a committee, could do to support them and what needed to be done at national level.

I was disappointed to hear in the opening statement made by Rowing Ireland that, despite what had been stated previously, a valid application for capital funding had been refused and that this put in jeopardy our chances of competing at the next Olympic Games in a category in which we were successful at the most recent Olympic Games. One would expect the areas to be prioritised for investment to be ones in which we were doing well. On that point alone, it is a pity that we did not hold this session prior to the last one because had we done so, we would have had more questions to ask of the Minister and his officials.

My first question is for Mr. John Treacy. He has outlined that funding was cut in 2007 but is now increasing. Approximately €10.8 million has been provided for 57 national governing bodies. It is a very small amount. From 2001 to date, €150 million was provided in youth field sport grants for three large organisations, the IRFU, the FAI and the GAA. While not wishing to diminish the work these organisations do, there is no fairness in the allocation of funding. I hope that in saying this I will not annoy the IRFU, the FAI or the GAA. In her opening statement Ms O'Connor said, "We were asked here today to speak about minority sports, but we do not believe there is such a thing in Ireland." According to Mr. Páraic Duffy, outgoing Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA, the federation represents all Irish sports and while the big three can negotiate for themselves, it works with the federation as it believes in the power of all sports. Unfortunately, the figures support the arguement that that is not the case. My question for Mr. Treacy is how can we balance the figures and support development officers in the respective sports in order that participants can develop and excel. I recently met a representative of Hockey Ireland who told me that it had eight development officers in the province of Ulster and only 1.5 in the Republic. We are not at the races. If we want to be at them and able to compete on the international stage - I accept that it is not all about competing and that participation is equally important - we need to accelerate the funding being provided for the respective sports bodies.

I regret that we do not have greater time to engage with the bodies present, but I again thank their representatives for being here.

Mr. Roddy Guiney

On the Deputy's reference to the point made by Mr. Páraic Duffy, to be fair, the big three have always negotiated separately, but they have been really helpful to the Federation of Irish Sport. In 2007-08, when money was not available and we needed money to do various things, they helped the federation to help sport. While I take the Deputy's point, Mr. Duffy, Mr. Philip Browne and Mr. John Daly believe in the collective power of sport.

We have asked them to help the rest of the sports but given their sheer size and where they stand in the pantheon of Irish sport they get to negotiate separately. I think that is quite understandable but they are very much behind the collective.

I accept that they engage in separate negotiations but from the point of view of the level of funding that is earmarked for the big three, is it right and proper that we should examine the situation? I put that question out there. The IRFU, the GAA and the FAI have the ability to generate huge resources from their gate sales and sponsorship that, to be fair, I do not think the respective sporting bodies before the committee today have. I accept Sport Ireland can only allocate the funds based on what it receives but given the scarce resources should we be looking at-----

Mr. Roddy Guiney

I am sorry to cut across the question but, first, we could look at some simpler things to fix. As somebody who has recently joined the federation it strikes me that if we were building a new stadium we would hire people with expert knowledge such as architects, quantity surveyors and builders. One of the things that could be done in sport - Mr. Adams referred to it also - is that while Sport Ireland does a terrific job - Mr. Treacy alluded to as well - and there is a depth of knowledge within all the national governing bodies, NGBs, yet when it comes to the allocation of sports capital funding and other grants the NGBs are not asked for their expert opinion and there is nobody better positioned in this country than they, in concert with Sport Ireland, to have a view on where money would be best spent.

A second issue that frustrates the NGBs came out this morning when we had a session with the Minister. It is that it would not take an awful lot of investment to improve the situation. The Taoiseach talked about doubling the funding for sport over the next six years. Mr. Adams made a point which I reiterate that very small additional moneys provided to the NGBs would make a huge difference. As he said today, if Rowing Ireland could get an extra 10% - he can correct me if I am wrong – it could double the participation and if it could get an extra 15% it could triple the level of participation. As a group I do not think we are asking for an awful lot. We do have a lot of knowledge within the collective and it should be brought to bear more on what happens in sport generally. I will get off my soapbox but one of the things about the sports capital funding that comes up again and again with our members is that they are not asked for their opinion.

I will give an example of a very simple thing. One of the NGBs said to me this morning that a club got a grant of €70,000 in the previous round of sports capital funding, and it is not in good standing with its NGB. The NGBs are being asked for more and more inputs, rightly so for sport, on things like Garda vetting, health and safety, child protection and data protection. It would be a very simple ask to put into the sports capital application form a question on whether the club is in good standing with its NGB, and by that we mean whether it is observing all of its policies. Clubs could be forced to get a letter from the NGB confirming that was the case. A lot of small things could be done and the group of people we represent would be delighted if they were done. It would be a start and it would look like people are taking us more seriously.

On the point about a greater role for the national sporting bodies in the sports capital funding allocations, that could avoid duplication and scarce resources being given to one geographical area while another area is bereft of funding.

Mr. Roddy Guiney

In terms of the development of the sport overall, who knows better where the moneys should be spent?

Mr. John Treacy

If I can make a very important point, when it comes to the three main field sports I do not think we should be taking away money from them because they deliver a huge range of participation right around the country. To go back on a historical point, when the cuts came in 2008 the Irish Sports Council at the time sat down with the three main field sports and, essentially, what we did was we asked them to take the first cut, which was 25%. We spoke to them and negotiated with them and all three of them said "Yes". What we were actually doing was safeguarding the other NGBs and the three main field sports went along with the policy decision Sport Ireland had made. People were taking it on the chin.

What we really need to be doing is working with the collective NGBs. We are putting more and more rules and regulations in place and it is a huge administrative burden for the governing bodies. We want them to have very good corporate governance in place. We want to have risk management in place. We want to have all the financial procedures in place, which is critically important if one is investing taxpayers' money. We need to resource governing bodies. One of the things that we have been able to do is start putting in professional people in governing bodies and that has made a huge difference. Now is the time to start reinvesting in the core NGBs so that we can grow them. If we go back to this morning's discussion on the federation, a small amount of money will do a huge amount and will really add to the participation in a wide range of sports. Not everyone wants to kick a football or throw a rugby ball. There are lots of opportunities and going forward we really need to strengthen the NGBs so that they can deliver. They are delivering and the local sports partnerships, LSPs, are helping them to deliver at local level as well.

Mr. Richard Fahey

I will make a quick point if that is okay. I echo what Mr. Treacy said in terms of the GAA, rugby and the FAI. I worked for the FAI for 15 years and it does fantastic work around the country. I would not take funding from those sports.

I should clarify, my point is that as more money becomes available it should be prioritised for the minority sports, as opposed to taking it from the more established ones. I have yet to meet a politician who advocates taking money away from anybody.

Mr. Richard Fahey

We are here outlining to the committee some of the issues that arise and the problems we have. I often say to my staff that they should not come to me with problems, they should come to me with solutions. One of the solutions that should definitely be explored is the betting tax. Currently, there is a 1% levy on all bets. In 2016 approximately €5 billion was bet on a range of activities. A total of €51 million was generated from the tax and all the money went to horse racing and greyhound racing. I do not say we should take the money off them either but if there was a modest increase of even 0.5% - if it went from 1% to 1.5% - that would bring in €25 million in funding. We must remember that betting companies generate their revenue from sports such as tennis, golf and rowing, perhaps not all the time as they do not happen every Saturday or Sunday like football or rugby but during the Olympics and at other times. Our sports are put at risk from those activities in terms of our integrity if a betting issue arises concerning a sport or an athlete and that can brand a sport. We feel that is a very simple and easy way of raising a significant amount of funding. We do not get TV rights. We do not get major funding from international bodies such as UEFA or FIFA the way other sports do. There is a very simple, clear way to go, and we would not be taking money away from horse racing or greyhound racing. We can let them have what they are getting at this moment in time because racing is an important industry but it is a very simple and easy way of bringing additional funding to our sport.

Mr. Jim Leacy

When we get people onto committees first they are full of enthusiasm and then when they are told that they have to develop a strategic plan and be involved with all of the other appropriate governance issues they lose interest and disappear. Minority sports would welcome any help they could get to encourage and help people to stay on committees and to assist with governance issues. I hope something could be done in that regard.

I thank each of the governing bodies who have come in as well as Sport Ireland and the Federation of Irish Sport. I was one of those who proposed this would happen. I come from a background of involvement in the majority sports of Gaelic games and so on, but there is a huge need for support as the economy recovers. I realise the problems faced by the sports council in that they cannot spread funding so thinly that everyone gets something because then nobody gets enough. One also has the four-year cycle of the Olympics and everything else which needs support. The facility we have provided everyone with today is the opportunity to highlight the issues. As Richard said, we need to come up with solutions at governing body level, Government level and Sport Ireland level. I was glad to hear that the major sports of soccer, rugby and Gaelic have massive participation. It is not a matter of taking from them, rather it is a matter of supporting sport. I was amazed to hear rowing athletes are training for the Olympics not only after bringing pride to Ireland but having been so entertaining in the aftermath. The hands of Sport Ireland are tied in terms of what they get from the Minister. Everybody is part of the solution. We have to get to that solution one way or the other because a small amount of extra investment would make a huge contribution to what the witnesses do, often in a completely voluntary capacity. I have heard solutions before involving tax breaks for those who contribute to philanthropy or otherwise. Perhaps that could be expanded. A betting tax could produce a lot of money for these bodies. It is not minority sports, rather it is sports which do not have the same ability as others to raise money.

Reference was made to grants for bodies which are not in line with the governing body. Tennis Ireland jumped out there with 25 unaffiliated clubs. Can something be outlined on that?

Does the list of funded sports ever change? Have sports been added or removed? I am conscious in my capacity as a political representative that where people applied to represent Ireland at billiards and their parents sought funding, none was there. Even if the governing body is not funded, there should be some contingency fund where somebody is representing the country. That would allow people to proceed, whatever their socio-economic background.

As someone who has been involved in sport all my life, I know it gives people self-esteem they might not be able to get in other areas, whether academically or otherwise. The witnesses represent governing bodies which are giving the youth of Ireland that self-esteem. If we need to confront Ministers to help, we have a responsibility to do it. The points about tennis and the list of sports may be on a website but I would be interested to know if things have changed over the years.

I apologise for having to leave. We had two votes on amendments to the constitutional amendment Bill in the Seanad. I also had to meet the Russian ambassador. I am delighted to be back here. I have missed a lot of the submissions, but I am delighted to see the witnesses here. I remember going to Abbotstown to see Sport Ireland. It opened the eyes of committee members to the work being done. We can sit here and listen to submissions, but I realise a huge amount of work is being done by Sport Ireland to bring various sporting organisations together. There are sporting organisations I had not even realised existed. People assume that politicians know everything, but we do not. I appeal to anybody out there to visit Abbotstown. I am sure more parents and schools have gone there. I was very proud to see how the funding had been spent and I am proud of how people have come together to do what is best for sport across the island of Ireland.

We have talked about a 1% betting tax. We have discussed how online betting is a huge issue and we have wondered what the best way is to get it to go back to sports.

Mr. Richard Fahey

The 1% levy is being collected at the moment from high street bookies but also from online companies. It has led to a huge growth in the amount being bet. In one respect, it is a problem in terms of how it has become all pervasive, but something must be given back to the sports they make their money from. While bookies provide some sponsorship, our sport has taken the view that we would not have a betting company as a sponsor or an alcohol company. They are not appropriate for the sport we have. We have taken away, therefore, a potential source of finance. We do not have that many sponsors. It is a challenge for us. The money is being collected from online companies as I understand it, however. Interestingly, we have perhaps the lowest betting tax in Europe. It is 2.5% in the UK and 15% in France. In Australia, it is 7% or 8%. As such, there is plenty of scope there.

I remember a time when it was 20% in betting shops.

Mr. Richard Fahey

It was then 10% and that was reduced by the then Minister, Charlie McCreevy, who changed the way it worked. The pervasiveness of mobile technology and the web means there has been a huge increase in gambling, which is to say an increase in the opportunities for people to gamble and for companies to use our sports to generate money.

I grew up playing Gaelic football and soccer. Most of the witnesses represent individual sports. If I were starting my life again, I would probably choose an individual sport, not that I would be any good. It was not something we were familiar with but the sporting bodies have made people familiar with individual sports today. I cannot commend enough the work being done across the island. I am enthusiastic about the all-island approach. Even as between Ireland and the UK, sport unites us. It has done so much. Sporting bodies have been ahead of the political curve in the work they have done. That must be recorded. I thank the bodies for the work they have done and the sacrifices they have made. When I was involved in football organisations, we took abuse. We take abuse in politics too, but we get well paid for it.

Various funding is available for the island of Ireland. What are we doing to ensure that sporting organisations are getting the most from that funding? Lotto grants from Ireland and the UK are available, and I like to see Ireland getting a bigger bang for its buck. What exactly is being done to maximise that funding?

Mr. Richard Fahey

This is probably a relatively minor issue for a sport like tennis, but for other sports this is an issue. Perhaps 70% of the funding we generate, in terms of our income, comes from within the sport, from things like capitation fees, tournament levies etc. Some 24% of our funding comes from Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland. That figure used to be higher, but it is less now. We have four part-time development officers who cover the whole island, so the level of service we are able to offer some of the clubs is probably not enough to justify the paying of the capitation fees. There are some clubs that just do not want to pay and which want to do their own thing. Our challenge is to encourage those clubs to affiliate to us. If they do not, we have no mechanism - and no responsibility, I suppose - to engage with them and to ensure that, from a regulatory point of view, things like safeguarding are in place.

I am sorry to interrupt, but what would the cost of affiliation be for a tennis club with around 100 members? Have some of those unaffiliated clubs received sports capital grants?

Mr. Richard Fahey

Many of the clubs have received sports capital grants over the years. In terms of costs, we have a model whereby a club affiliates to Tennis Ireland. A fee is allocated depending on the number of courts a club has. On average it costs €85 per court. If a court has three courts it would cost three times €85 for affiliation per annum. The clubs become members then, and we ask them to pay €10 towards the governing body. That allows the clubs to play in our open tournaments, leagues and various different areas. That funding is used to run the organisation, to support our performance players, for the running of our day-to-day office activities and to run the safeguarding courses. This year we carried out a lot of work with our member clubs around the sports capital programme. We let them know that the programme was available, how to apply and worked with them in terms of their applications. I sat with 20 or 30 clubs and went though their applications line by line. That all requires funding.

Is it the case that if the membership fee of the club was €50 per person Tennis Ireland would ask for €10 from that?

Mr. Richard Fahey

Yes. If the subscription fee is €100 per year then €10 is supposed to come to Tennis Ireland. That is how it works.

Ms Mary O'Connor

To reply to Senator O'Mahony's question on the rowing situation for the Olympics in Tokyo 2020, Ireland is always compared to New Zealand because of population and other factors. Over the next four years, Sport New Zealand is investing NZ$250 million in the high performance sector alone. In the same sector in Ireland, going by what has been generated this year, the investment is €28 million. There is a huge disparity there.

On Senator Feighan's question, Mr. Treacy and Mr. McDermott will have more knowledge of this, but every national governing body and any local sports partnership that receives funding fills out an operational plan. The amount of money spent by that organisation is submitted back to Sports Ireland in great detail so that it can see where the money is going. In terms of the return in investment, financially the results are there for all to see. Sport in Ireland stimulates €1.9 billion in household spending. It creates €2.4 billion in added value to the economy.

A key item that has not been mentioned today is the value of sport tourism. Many of the minority sports we speak about, the emerging or niche sports, contribute so much to Ireland's tourism offering. Sports such as golf, cycling and angling, which attract tourists, contribute €1 billion in receipts to Ireland each year. In terms of return on investment, for each €1 invested in coaching in GAA €12 is generated.

It is important that we see the value of physical well-being that sport generates, but the economic value of sport should be highlighted as well, as should the fact that investment in sport is returned tenfold.

Mr. John Treacy

Senator O'Mahony asked about the list. To my recollection, rugby league and an ice skating association have been added to the list in recent times. Cerebral Palsy Sport was on the list but is no longer there because it did not have the critical mass of people necessary - it did not have the volunteers and ran into some financial issues - so responsibility for that has been taken on by the Paralympics Association in terms of boccia players.

We work very closely with Sport Northern Ireland on the high performance side and are aligned in terms of the investment in that area. Sport Northern Ireland is very much in tune with ourselves in that respect. That is critical; sometimes the investment from both bodies helps to fill the gaps in terms of key personnel in the high performance system. We have lost some ground in terms of high performance. We were investing at the correct level around 2011 and 2012, but we are losing ground because we have not been able to increase that investment while other countries have. That is a critical piece for us. Mr. McDermott and I have put together a document. We believe that we should be investing around €17 million in the high performance system. We are probably investing around €10 million in it currently, based on information from the Sport Ireland Institute. To kick on in terms of high performance that is the level of investment that is required. We cannot invest in every world championships due to the level of investment required. We have to do what every other country does and choose our high performance sports, which are very much geared towards the Olympic Games and the Paralympics and invest in those, because we do not have the resources to spread the jam too thickly.

The campus has made a huge difference, and I am delighted that this committee has visited it in recent times. It is there for everyone, is a real sporting hub, and it is really important. The institute is available for our elite people. Even this morning, when we made our carding scheme announcement, our elite people were there. They all know each other now, which adds to the team spirit when the Olympics come around. Rather than working in silos, as had been the case previously, they all now know each other. For the smaller national governing bodies it makes a huge difference. The Judo Irish Open was held there last weekend. A major fencing tournament and a gymnastics event also took place recently. We now have events that the national governing bodies are proud to bring other international federations to compete in. That is due to the real investment in Irish sport in recent times. Some strides have been made, but we really do need investment in current funding.

I apologise for not being here earlier but I was tied up in the Seanad. My sole interest in the Oireachtas is in the area of people with disabilities and their inclusion. Mr. Treacy has just mentioned the Paralympics and cerebral palsy. In fact, we recently had a witness in this committee who spoke about transport, Mr. Padraic Moran, who is actually an Irish boccia Paralympian. He spoke about the issues he faced when dealing with public transport, and we are not going to deal with that issue today. However, there is a connection in terms of social inclusion.

My first question is for Mr. Treacy regarding his work. Paralympics Ireland has been mentioned. Different organisations are involved in the disability area, including the Irish Wheelchair Association, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland and others. I cannot list them all off, but I refer to the importance of making sure that people with a range of disabilities can participate. Moving out from that tight focus to a more general aspect, it is also important to make the witnesses' own sports and disciplines accessible, open and welcoming in two ways. The first is for people with disabilities and disabling conditions to participate and use the facilities as sportsmen and women, and the second is to come along and enjoy the sports.

Pulling back even further, in the context of social inclusion in general, we are public representatives talking about public money. There is never more around than there are entities looking for it. I refer to the extent to which all of the work of the witnesses is focused on and helping improvements for people in poorer socio-economic circumstances. This is not easy I suspect. Sports equipment costs money. I refer to a little fellow dying to play something and he has a skill for it but mammy does not have the money. Some communities are able to have good physical infrastructure but others, sadly, do not. There are three issues there.

Ireland was at the first Paralympic Games held in Rome in 1960. "Paralympic", as many people know, comes from "parallel Olympics", and refers to running the Olympics for people with disabilities in parallel with and using the same facilities as the regular Olympics. One man, Oliver Murphy, who is still alive and lives in Drogheda, was a member of that team. That Paralympics had a huge influence on the setting up of the Irish Wheelchair Association later that year. There are all sorts of connections between people, including esprit de corps, confidence and people getting on. It was mentioned that when contestants go out to the Olympics now, they know each other across the different disciplines. The same is so important for people with disabilities.

Ms Mary O'Connor

The Senator missed my submission earlier. One of the things the federation was looking for was a VAT exemption to extend to sports equipment. I refer in particular to people with disabilities and modifying equipment for people with disabilities to use, such as hand cycles, sports wheelchairs and so on. I think I speak for all the national governing bodies, NGBs, here that a lot of work has gone on, through Sport Ireland, in coaching and also the Cara centre in Tralee around modifying individual sports to include people with physical and intellectual disabilities. I refer to GymABLE and there are loads of others. All of the sports are engaging in that. To be fair to all the NGBs in Ireland at the moment, they are all looking at making their sports much more holistic and moving away from the competitive elitist model to make sure there is a recreational and participatory side to their sports. That is to be commended.

Mr. John Treacy

We have sports inclusion development officers in place right around the country, mainly through the local sports partnerships. They are trying to get people involved in sport by knocking on doors, getting people out and participating. That is a huge step in respect of disability sports and for people in disadvantaged areas as well. It is a critical area now that it is happening. Through dormant account funding we were able to do that and make that investment in recent times. It was probably one of the casualties of the cutbacks. We are reinvesting in those programmes again now. It is important. We have also been investing in the Cara centre. It does a lot of the training around disability sports and disability training. That is also critical for us.

In disadvantaged communities, the way to make an impact is by knocking on doors and getting people out by starting clubs in those communities and finding the leadership. Many of the NGBs invest much time in that work. On the high performance side, the Irish Sports Council made a policy decision very early on when it was getting off the ground that athletes, able bodied and from the Paralympic movement, would be funded at the same level. There was parity. We invest heavily in the Paralympics and those programmes. I will ask Mr. McDermott to fill in the committee a little more on that.

Mr. Paul McDermott

We are very happy to work with Paralympics Ireland and we have an excellent working relationship. As Mr. Treacy said, the important thing is that from the very outset of our high performance programmes, Paralympics Ireland was given complete parity. For example, at the announcement this morning, we had a number of Paralympic athletes there who were funded under the international carding scheme. Badminton Ireland is here today and we are delighted that it has an opportunity to bring para-badminton to Tokyo. There are some excellent young athletes and we were delighted to meet them today. From our point of view, we are at the stage where we do not think about it. Our Paralympians are treated the same as our Olympians. The programmes are hugely successful in terms of swimming, cycling, and track and field, which is particularly excellent in the throw and with Mr. Michael McKillop. We are delighted with that and we are working with Badminton Ireland and the other sports to expand it.

In Ireland, we take a certain amount of pride in the fact that our Paralympic athletes and our Paralympic team are given a status and that equity both in terms of the media and with the public. That is something which is hugely important and in which we take pride. Our high performance programme is completely integrated and just part of how we think about how we do our business in the Sports Ireland Institute and in every single programme. We are very happy to do that and, hopefully, they will continue to be successful in Tokyo. However, it is high performance, so we also make sure that the rigor remains. They have always continued to deliver. As the committee will be aware, a major event in the National Aquatic Centre this summer will be the European para-swimming championships. That is a big event for Paralympics Ireland to host. It is a big challenge for it and we are delighted that it will be on the national sports campus.

Mr. Seán Fleming

As a point of information for the Senator, in the same way as all the other governing bodies here, we have an adaptive judo programme. It arranges for a mainstream approach where children and adults are trained within their own club. Recently, however, we have opened up a club in Belfast for children with autism only. It is a thriving club. We recognise in judo that inclusion is very important, and I am probably speaking for everybody else here in that regard. It is not just to do with the high performance players or those on the development programme. We are here to develop sport throughout. I wanted to mention that because we look on that special club as one of our success stories.

Mr. Richard Fahey

Tennis has the "Enjoy Tennis" programme which is aimed at people with disabilities. We work with people from five different disability groups in 65 of our 200 clubs around the country. From that point of view, it is an area we feel passionate about. I mentioned earlier the three things required to make a sport happen. We have decent facilities but we could do with more indoor courts. We do not have one in Munster and that affects our programmes, but facilities are generally decent.

What we lack are the people. We need development officers, etc., who can go out and train people who can then work with people with disabilities. Our role as a governing body is to help people to help themselves. We are going out to the clubs and helping them to help their members. That is what we are trying to do. However, we do not have the staff. As I said before, we have four part-time development officers to cover the whole country for our sport. That is an area where we are very weak.

It is the same in disadvantaged areas. We do not have many tennis clubs or facilities in disadvantaged areas, which is a difficulty. However, we have a programme called Parks Tennis which we actively support. It has been running for 40 years and has done fantastic work in disadvantaged communities throughout the country. Once again, however, where we are lacking is in the funding to roll out and deliver those programmes. A small bit of extra funding can help us do a massive amount in a very short time.

Mr. David McGill

Mr. McDermott referred to para-badminton. We also run a para-badminton event. It is the second largest event we run during the year. It is an international event. Thanks to the use of the National Sports Campus facilities, it has become the biggest in Europe. It attracts 180 participants from around Europe annually. We run it in June. It has been very beneficial for promoting para-badminton in Ireland. We have started a para-badminton academy on the back of it and this will be run out of the National Sports Campus.

Mr. Richard Fahey

Ireland is hosting the world blind tennis championships in Shankill in April. We would welcome it if members of the committee cared to come out and take a look. I think they would be fascinated to watch the ability of these people. I did not realise that the committee did tours. We would be delighted if members would come out to our national tennis centre at some stage. We would be delighted if members could also visit our national tennis centre and see some of our performance players and observe the amount of work and effort they put into their sport.

I have some questions. Earlier, Mr. Fleming referred to regulatory challenges, the code of governance, compliance with the Children's Act 2015 and vetting. Is this something for John Treacy or Mary O'Connor to address this or can the witnesses see a means by which these problems might be resolved? Issues such as governance and vetting are even having an effect on some of the big clubs and organisations because of the volunteers. How much difficulty is this causing?

Mr. Seán Fleming

I mentioned this in my submission. The difficulties we have do not relate to compliance, with which we totally agree. The problem involves getting the time to do it. We have just changed our constitution and that took nearly a year and a half. I can only speak for ourselves, but I presume most organisations are the same. The executives of the various sports cannot just do it themselves, the matter has to go back to the members and everything needs to be done properly. In order to comply with the different regulations coming in, it almost means rewriting all our policies. One wants to do things right. We are on the road towards compliance and I believe we have until 1 January 2020 in that regard. We will meet that deadline but it will mean going back to school and staying up all night doing homework and things like that because most of us are volunteers. We have 1.5 members of staff. Their work load is saturated currently, so we have to take it on. The problem is time.

Mr. Ronan Rooney

I think John Treacy alluded to it earlier, as did David McGill. We must have full-time employees as national children's officers whereas previously that was a volunteer post so one must hire someone for that role. Just as the Chairman has to read his privilege notice at the beginning of the meeting, there is much more bureaucracy associated with governance, including GDPR, data protection and child protection. Soon there will also be vulnerable adult protection. There is much more work with no more funding. The money has to come out of something so the big challenge is redoing the policies, which is relatively straightforward - John Delaney and Sport Ireland have given us a lot of support on that - but hen we must implement them. Doing the policies and changing mindsets is one thing; the hard part is to get all the organisations and their members to understand that it is a culture change, that it is not purely about bureaucracy and that it is about people thinking the right way in terms of social justice and inclusion - and also in terms of compliance - so that there is no need to hit people over the head in order to do what they are supposed to but that they will do it because they know it is the right thing to do. There are a lot of costs and work involved. There are also personnel costs.

Mr. Jim Leacy

On compliance with Children First, I work for the HSE, all of the employees of which obliged to do online training. I wonder if, rather than going to the local sports partnerships to do the training, there might be a facility whereby people could do online training for Children First?

It is an issue for all codes, and even for new teachers every time they change school. It is a big issue.

Mr. David Barber

From the tennis perspective, in order for our performance players to make progress on the world scene, they must travel outside of Ireland regularly to play in tournaments in Europe and further afield. For safeguarding, we now send two adults with players. The additional adult is there to comply with the safeguarding aspect, with which we completely agree. However, in flight and accommodation terms alone, this has added €40,000 to our annual costs. That is just by way of putting a number on it. That does not include the people who we would have managing it at the centre and managing our clubs in order to ensure they are compliant. That is the additional cost that it puts on us.

Ms Mary O'Connor

From the perspective of the Federation of Irish Sport, part of our service to members is the opportunity to process their vetting forms through the federation. We have seen an expediential growth in the number of forms we process for our organisations. That is important to note. GDPR is coming down the line and will be here on 25 May. We have been fielding many queries from concerned individuals who want to do the right thing regarding the 12 steps of compliance for GDPR. That is in addition to the other regulatory requirements that they are trying to comply with already. They are trying to absorb those costs. As I noted in my opening submission, up to 15% of our members' funding from Sport Ireland is being spent on that type of administration when it could be spent on people and programmes but unfortunately it is being tied up in order to be compliant. That is another challenge they face.

Is there any way there can be shared resources from the various national Government bodies. All the organisations must meet certain criteria, is there any shared backroom resources that could be used to generate greater efficiencies that would reduce that need to use 15% of resources.

Mr. Hamish Adams

We have looked at it. Sport Ireland and the federation are both very good at trying to collaborate on those types of things. A specific example that arose at the federation board meeting was around GDPR whereby it was a question of whether we could employ consultant who could put some generic GDPR policy and structures in place that we could then distribute out to the 100 local sports partnerships and national governing bodies of sport. Ms O'Connor can probably tell the members more because she spoke to the solicitors on this, but they flatly said "No, it must be done individually". In theory, there are 100 national governing bodies of sport and local sports partnerships which should all be buying in a consultant for between €3,000 to €5,000 or more, depending on the size, to be fully compliant because we are not experts in the area. Up to €500,000 is now gone from a limited budget in any event, across all sports, so that is a major challenge.

Mr. Paul McDermott

Sport has always been very good. We have always had complete support on, for example, anti-doping programmes and child protection. The governing bodies want to work with us and we have tried to ensure that we work with all the sports. Some years ago, there was a requirement to put in disciplinary procedures within the constitutions. We worked so that could be done across the governing bodies at a minimum cost. Where it is possible we do it, but it may not always be possible. We try to do shared services and do things with the federation and governing bodies where we can but it is not always possible. We try to address it as best we can.

Participation depends on recruiting pupils from schools and colleges. If the different bodies are all competing at the same school gate, how does one draw the line? I am not a parent. However, I see parents and they are doing three or four runs every Saturday. They are burning out their children because that is what the children want to do.

Mr. Richard Fahey

It is a challenge for all of us. We are all trying to compete to get into the schools. When I worked for the FAI, I visited a number of primary schools where we were chased off the premises and told that only the national games were being promoted there.

Thankfully, that seems to be dissipating a little. We all try to get into the schools and we all do a lot of work in them. We could all do a lot more in schools, but we do not have the resources. If we had the resources, we absolutely could do it. Mr. Adams has a great programme about which he can speak.

Mr. Hamish Adams

We have had massive success with our participation programme in schools. My background is in rugby and I moved into rowing. Schools have always been very welcoming because they are so underresourced. The schools want sports. The problem we have is that we do not have the people on the ground to get in there and deliver. If we had those people and they had investment, we could make this nation a lot healthier. I have no doubt about this, but we need investment and people. This is the key to it.

Mr. Roddy Guiney

Will Mr. Adams discuss Get Going Get Rowing, because it is very interesting?

Mr. Hamish Adams

By way of background, in 2014 we were fortunate to secure a grant of €20,000 from Sport Ireland under the woman in sport programme. The target for that year was to encourage the participation of 2,500 teenage girls. By the end of the year, we had delivered it to 5,000 girls, so we doubled our expectation and the children in the schools love the programme. We take rowing machines into schools and the children compete against each other, and against other schools as it is interactive on the Internet. We could be in here rowing on machines competing against someone in Cork. It is very interactive and fun. In 2017, we delivered the programme to 25,000 children. That is how much it has grown in the space of three years. It has been fantastic for our sport. It is fantastic for the health of the nation and the health of those schoolgirls. It is a non-traditional sport and they have welcomed it. It is something different. All of the sports represented here have something different to offer, and schools would embrace them if we had people on the ground to deliver. That is the key.

Mr. Roddy Guiney

Something that struck me about that particular programme is the actual cost per person on the programme.

Mr. Hamish Adams

It costs €1.80, from the State to Sport Ireland to us, for each of those 25,000 participants.

Must people give full commitment to the sport?

Mr. Hamish Adams

No, not at all. It is a fun programme designed for participation in school.

Mr. Seán Fleming

I am the person in my school to whom all the governing bodies probably come because I am the head of the PE department. That is my job. There is nothing better than a governing body coming in and giving something different from the major field sports. I may well have been in one of those schools that chased out Mr. Fahey because we were a Christian Brothers school and there was none of that ground control football in our school for a long time.

There are programmes out there that could get more participation. Under women in sport, we have run a programme since October, and 800 more girls are doing judo. Our aim is to keep one third of them and we are confident we will do so. We do not expect that the only thing they will do for the rest of their lives is judo. I am speaking about judo, Mr. Adams is speaking about rowing and other witnesses are speaking about different sports. We introduce people to sport. Some of our judo players might go to rugby, rowing or tennis, and that is what we are about also. If we can get some for our own sport, that is brilliant, but the problem comes down to finances. It is also getting the right people into schools. Then we come to vetting and other issues. We do not have any judo development officers in the Thirty-two Counties. The only people who get into schools are those who are self-employed and earning a living. Fair play to them because they are doing a service for us. They are doing what we would love to be able to do, which is put people into schools, but we do not have the finances to do so. This is not a criticism, rather it is just that there is not the money to do it.

I have a question for Mr. Leacy. Why does his organisation have a problem with volunteers? Is it because of a cultural change?

Mr. Jim Leacy

People find going on committees is very time consuming. Everyone seems to be working now and has very little time to contribute to committees. It is not unique to us. Everyone is struggling to retain volunteers. More people are working and more are working later at night. Sometimes parents bring children to events and they want us to be minders for the children for the day. They do not seem to stay and watch the children, and this is a problem. We have volunteers who run tournaments and parents who bring a group of children go off shopping or working.

The professional association in England ran a programme of putting fold-up snooker tables into schools and it worked very well. It helped the children with mathematics because they had to be able to add up the scores when they potted the red and black balls. They had to do this in their heads and they did not do it on their phones or a calculator. We have one person who puts four fold-up tables into a van and runs it around to schools. We could never cover the entire country. We have tried to get a school to go to a snooker club in a town, but we had to fund a bus from the school to the snooker club so the children could play and see the sport. I hope we will get increased participation from this but it is a lot of work. As we have stated, a small increase in funding would help many of the organisations tremendously.

Some of the organisations cover the Thirty-two Counties. The athletes in the Six Counties seem to get better treatment than athletes down here. Does this cause problems?

Mr. Richard Fahey

I would disagree. Last year, our Ulster branch received £80,000 from Sports Northern Ireland and this year it received £40,000. The funding has been cut because there are different priorities. The UK's focus is very much on performance in a smaller number of sports, and we have been left behind in this.

Mr. Seán Fleming

Ours is a 32-county organisation. I live in Belfast. We have a very good relationship with the Northern Ireland Judo Federation, NIJF. As I mentioned in my submission, the NIJF received money from Sport Northern Ireland, but because it is government money, it must be given to people resident in the North. Many of our Irish Judo Association players are resident in the North and they are quite entitled to that funding. We cannot match what the players in the North get in the Twenty-six Counties. It is totally impossible.

Mr. Hamish Adams

I have a quick comment on being 32-county organisation. It does create additional compliance issues because we operate across two jurisdictions and they are different in terms of the regulation and compliance requirements. This creates additional pressure on the volunteers and professional staff in each of the respective national governing bodies. I will be honest - it is challenging at times and I will not say more than that.

At Christmas I met a colleague of Mr. Fleming. Does his organisation have a proper base at the national sports campus yet?

Mr. Seán Fleming

We have three high-performance players and they visited the campus on Friday. They have been invited to avail of all of the facilities, as have several of our development players. The third level of the national arena has not yet been developed. There is a lovely big area that could be matted not just for judo, but for tae kwon do, jujitsu and all of the martial arts. If we bring anyone from abroad, we have to go to local club.

Whenever we bring teams away or when our teams travel abroad, however, they go to national centres of excellence. That would be great.

My final comment is for Mr. Treacy and Ms O'Connor. It relates to the value of sport to the country for our well-being, prestige, the economy and so on. They have compared us to New Zealand with regard to population and level of activity, but we only get 10% of the budget given in New Zealand. Is that what Mr. Treacy said?

Mr. John Treacy

The figure is approximately 25% for high-performance expenditure. In real terms, we deliver in high performance right across the spectrum of sports. For the size of the population, we really excel on the world stage in several sports. That needs to be said. We are doing this against the background of Gaelic games, football and rugby, all of which are so strong in the country, but we do it with the other sports as well and that needs to be said.

There are critical aspects to this, such as that we need investment in high-performance training and in some capital programmes. We need capital for high performance for the governing bodies also. We need to kick sport on. We need real investment in terms of the co-funding of the national governing bodies of sport.

Ms Mary O'Connor

I concur with what Mr Treacy has said. By nature, sports people are resilient and driven. However, if we got additional funding and investment for individuals and governing bodies, we would excel further on the international stage.

I thank the witnesses for appearing before the committee today. I apologise for the timing of their appearance but what they have given to us is invaluable and we can make use of it.

The joint committee adjourned at 5.40 p.m. until 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 April 2018.