Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media | Assisting the sporting sector
To ask the Minister for Tourism; Culture; Arts; Gaeltacht; Sport and Media the degree to which she expects to be in a position to continue to assist the sporting sector given the increased importance of sporting activity in terms of health and well-being; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
I recognise the importance of sport and physical activity for the health and well-being of our society and the need to ensure that opportunities are in place to allow all members of society to participate in sport. Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, including the promotion of sports participation.
A current funding allocation of €89.7 million was announced for Sport Ireland in Budget 2023. This allocation will enable Sport Ireland to continue to support the sport sector this year. Details of funding allocations to individual National Governing Bodies of Sport for 2023 will be announced in the coming weeks.
Sport Ireland engages with sporting organisations on an ongoing basis and is continuing to support the sector in its recovery and development post-pandemic. Significant Government funding of over €162 million has been provided since 2020 to help sports organisations to recover and grow post-pandemic, support our grassroots networks of clubs and local sports partnerships, and ensure that people of all ages and abilities return to sport and physical activity.
The levels of active and social participation in sport have not yet returned to pre-Covid levels. In recognition of the ongoing challenges, funding of €15 million was again made available in December 2022 to support the sector.
As part of Budget 2023, €35 million was made available to help alleviate the impact of increased energy costs for sports clubs and organisations with a view to ensuring that everyone can continue to enjoy the benefits of sport and physical activity over the winter months. The Sports Energy Support Scheme (SESS) is being run by Sport Ireland and the funding is being distributed in the main through the National Governing Bodies of Sport in like manner to the suite of Covid supports provided to the sports sector throughout the past 2 years. The Scheme will support sporting organisations with the rising energy costs associated with the provision of sport, for example around increased indoor activity and the provision of outdoor floodlighting, with a particular emphasis on sports clubs with dedicated facilities.
With regard to capital support, the Sports Capital and Equipment Programme (SCEP) is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. Over 13,000 projects have now benefited from sports capital funding since 1998, bringing the total allocations in that time to over €1.15 billion. The Programme for Government commits to continuing the SCEP and to prioritising the investment in disadvantaged areas. The 2020 round of the SCEP closed for applications on Monday 1 March 2021 and by the deadline a record 3,106 applications were submitted. Following the conclusion of the appeals process, the final set of allocations were announced at the end of May last year. The total allocation of €166.6 million for the 2020 round represented the highest level of allocation ever made under the SCEP. Details of all allocations can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/471ed5-sports-capital-allocations/ .
Following completion of the appeal process, my Department commenced a full review of all aspects of the 2020 round of the SCEP. A draft of the Review has now been complete and I expect to be in a position to publish it shortly. Any recommendations arising from the Review will be reflected in the next round. Furthermore, my officials are engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the next round of the SCEP. Once this process is concluded, I will announce the exact dates from which new applications will be accepted.
In addition to the SCEP, the National Sports Policy was published on 25 July 2018 and provided for a new Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF). The aim of the fund is to provide Exchequer support for larger sports projects where the required Exchequer investment is greater than the maximum amount available under the SCEP. To date an amount of approximately €86.4 million has been awarded to 33 different proposals. While the priority remains to advance all of the successful projects, in view of the issues faced by grantees as a result of Covid and construction inflation, it was considered timely to review progress on all projects allocated grants. My Department has met with all successful grantees and work is at an advanced stage in terms of completing the Review which is considering, inter alia, a possible new call for proposals. In this regard, I will continue to make the case for further funding for the LSSIF which will allow the consideration of a new call as well as advancing the current design projects to construction stage.
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