Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Ceisteanna (52)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

52. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will reopen with additional funding the large-scale sports infrastructure fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39906/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Ceist ar Transport)

The large-scale sports infrastructure fund has been very much in demand but it is unclear how much is budgeted for this in 2020. A figure of €100 million was mentioned so when will it be rolled out? There is a large demand for this type of fund so will the Minister look at reopening it?

I thank the Deputy for the question, the subject of which is prompting much interest from all Deputies. It is a very important fund. The national sports policy published last year provided for the establishment of a new large-scale sport infrastructure fund. The aim of the fund is to provide support for larger sports facilities where the Exchequer investment is greater than the maximum amount available under the sports capital programme. These may be projects where the primary objective would be to increase active participation in sport or large-scale venues or stadia where the focus is more related to social participation and high-performance sport. The new fund is designed to provide a transparent and robust system for funding such projects.

The Government has provided a capital allocation of at least €100 million for the period to 2027 for the large-scale sport infrastructure fund. The new scheme closed for applications on 17 April, with applications initially confined to local authorities and national governing bodies of sport. By the closing date, 72 applications were received. Details of all applications received have been published on the Department's website, along with the evaluation procedures and guidelines. Assessment is continuing in the Department but in view of the detailed information contained in each application, it will take a number of months to complete all this work. Accordingly, I expect that it will be towards the end of this year before any allocations are announced.

There are no plans to reopen the scheme. After allocations are made under the current round, a decision will be taken on the timing of the next call for applications. A key consideration in this regard will be the number of valid applications received that are considered worthy of a grant on this occasion. Furthermore, the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, and I will continue to make the case for enhanced investment in sport infrastructure, including greater funding for sports capital projects in the years ahead to ensure all of the objectives set out in the national sports policy are met.

The Deputy has referred to the "reopening" of the scheme but I am not quite sure if is talking about reopening what has been closed or reopening for new applications further down the line.

Perhaps a better way of putting it would have been to ask when another call for applications would be made with an additional budget. The applications already received come to €170 million, which is 170% of the budget. There will either be many very disappointed people and organisations or the Minister will have to consider extra funding over the next couple of years. There is also an issue with the spread of the applications, which are concentrated in particular areas. Some counties, such as Carlow, for example, have made no applications. The Minister cannot control that or direct people to apply to the scheme but an additional call would give some of those counties or areas that are under-represented an additional opportunity to put in an application.

Will the Minister indicate the budget that will be granted for 2019 and 2020? Will there be a set amount for the next five or ten years, or will the process be kept open?

The Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, and I will always push for additional funding for sports capital projects of this sort and we cannot rule out anything. We are certainly not ruling out anything in this way. There is clearly no intention to reopen the closed application process and I am glad the Deputy clarified that. We will certainly not rule out receiving more new applications for the large-scale capital fund process as it has attracted a great deal of public interest and a large number of applications. Some bodies were not ready to make an application and they may be ready to do it in the next two or three years.

If the Deputy is interested, I can describe the types of projects seeking funding. There were 23 applications for a multi-hall sport campus; 14 applications for swimming pools and leisure centres; 11 applications for stadium improvement and development, including in the Gaelic Athletics Association, Football Association of Ireland and Irish Rugby Football Union, etc.; six applications for sailing, rowing, kayaking and water sports; six applications for local club-based facilities; five applications for athletics facilities; four applications for centres of excellence; and three applications for boxing, squash and motorcycling facilities. The applications are being assessed and we hope to have a result towards the end of this year.

This is a good initiative and perhaps it is a victim of its own success. As it stands, many worthwhile projects will lose out. The Minister itemised the kinds of projects being considered.

I am especially interested in the Cork Institute of Technology community sports project, the University College Cork sports park and the Munster Rugby school of excellence. I hope the Minister will consider those. In any event, the major issue with the budget is that projects will be disappointed. It is a good initiative and there is scope to look at a subsequent call and additional budgetary allocation. As a side note, the Minister identified that some of the applications are for swimming pools, among other projects. I asked for this information per head of population in a parliamentary question and it was not possible to give that, but we lag behind some countries in that area.