I propose to Questions Nos. 7, 18, 22 and 83 together.
I commend Deputies Deering, Neville, and Heydon for their interest in the sports capital programme, SPC, not only regarding the appeals process but throughout the process. I have had constant engagement with them. They are clearly very interested in the programme. I am glad to say we have an appeals process for the first time. The Minister, Deputy Ross, and I want it to be as flexible and accommodating as possible for those whose applications were found to be invalid following the allocation of the programme's funding.
In November and December last, we were very glad to be able to announce €60 million in funding to a record 1,800 clubs and organisations nationwide. A record number of applications was also received at 2,320. Unfortunately, around 20% of applications were invalid in 2017. However, that was substantially less than the rate of invalid applications in 2014 and 2015, which was around one third, and in 2012 when it was 48%. This was achieved following various attempts to reduce the rate of invalidation, including a streamlining of the online application process to make it simpler for applicants, and several workshops were held throughout the country prior to the scheme opening to advise applicants on the process and give them the optimum opportunity to make a valid application. We also tried to improve the validation process and the confirmation process for recipients.
Unfortunately, 20% of applications were still invalid. For the first time, we have opened an appeals process, notwithstanding there being the lowest rate of invalidation since the sports capital programme began in 1998. We have opened an appeals process to applicants who feel they were wrongly invalidated by the Department. By the closing date, 20 December 2017, we had received 148 appeals from the local programme. The deadline for the regional programme was 19 January 2018 and we are currently assessing those appeals. We hope we can announce the outcomes of those appeals in the next couple of weeks. The officials in the Department in Killarney and those here in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport have been working hard on this and are doing their best to bring the results as quickly as possible to those who have made appeals.
The Minister and I wish to be as flexible and accommodating as possible to applicants to the sports capital programme whose applications have been found to be invalid. We know that the vast majority of applicants are volunteers in their local communities who are trying to do the best they can for them in providing vital facilities for participation in sport by people of all ages, backgrounds, genders and ability levels. We very much value their work and are trying to assist them and serve them as much as we can, which is why we have introduced this appeals system. The reality is that it is unlikely that we can give everyone a successful outcome, but we are continually monitoring the situation to see how we can best address the issue.
We are also looking to the future. We hope to open up a new scheme in the not-too-distant future too in order to assist those who were unsuccessful here.
To clarify, in the regional application process, the top two thirds of all valid applicants received funding but for the local scheme, every valid applicant received funding, which was also a first. It is something the Minister, Deputy Ross, and myself were very keen to achieve. It was a very positive outcome. We had €26 million for the local scheme.
We were able to increase that to €60 million in the budget and that enabled to us to fund every valid application. That was a good day's work. The impact of the sports capital programme is felt in every community. Since 1998, €967 million has been allocated under the programme along with €4 million under the regional programme, giving a total of €971 million for clubs and organisations. That has had a profound impact on the State's sporting infrastructure and the footprint is there for all to see. When I visit small rural communities, disadvantaged urban communities or large and small towns, I see that the sporting infrastructure has improved no end over the past 20 years and we want to build on that into the future because, apart from the immediate, direct impact this infrastructure has on the provision of sports in communities, it also has a huge role to play in the long-term health of the nation. We want to build on and advance that.