“We need more people active in sport, and in particular young people. The investment in sports is made up for by the savings in treating health issues later on.”
Sports capital grants have just been announced and social media is filling up with congratulatory updates from candidates, councillors and TDs of all parties and none. As clubs get their slice of €40 million of funding, perhaps it is time to rethink the whole scheme.
Last year there was controversy over Shane Ross, the Minister for Sport, welcoming grants of more than €150,000 to private schools and other recipients including a private golf club with membership fees of €8,000. On the other hand, in Dublin a gymnastics programme in Fatima Mansions received a paltry €489 and Drimnagh GAA club was awarded €624.
The scheme is not serving the needs of the wider community. One of the key criteria is the level of funding the applicant has available for a project. This favours well-heeled, larger clubs that already have significant resources. It is time for a change in direction. While the money for sport is welcome, it must give good value to the community.
There are sports such as athletics, basketball, table tennis, swimming and others that are underserved by the current programme. A better funding model would be centred on directing funds to where they are needed and on a multi-sport basis. Rather than funding a given club, the fund would be project-based and fund for ground-sharing and multiple uses of facilities.
This money would be well spent. We need more people active in sport, and in particular young people. The investment in sports is made up for by the savings in treating health issues later on.
We should replace the current scheme with a municipal sports policy, in line with European best practice. This would channel funding through local authorities and local sports partnerships to areas, rather than clubs. The investment would have a bigger impact. The scheme could also help sports that are popular, such as table tennis, basketball and athletics, but do not command big resources.
The policy would align with council parks strategy and look beyond the often narrow interests of clubs and to the broader interests of the community. In doing this, I believe it would also benefit the clubs. It is needed to get the outcome we all want to see, which is more people physically active.
23rd January 2019