Sports Capital Programme should target and serve the wider sporting public

Deadline is fast approaching for those looking to apply for a share of €40m sporting sum

The Sports Capital Programme has been suspected of gentle bias, or at least allegedly so, which is partly why Oscar is designed to make sure every last cent of this €40 million is properly and legitimately well spent.

The Sports Capital Programme has been suspected of gentle bias, or at least allegedly so, which is partly why Oscar is designed to make sure every last cent of this €40 million is properly and legitimately well spent.

Sat, Jan 25, 2014, 06:00

Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality. Oscar Wilde said that, although there must be something scandalous happening when even Vanity Fair magazine is writing about gossip and morality in the same article.

It’s not the cover story of this month’s issue (“Nigella – Inside the Divorce of the Century” claims that fame), but “The Dark Underbelly of Putin’s Olympics” – written by their veteran Russian hand Brett Forrest – is almost worth the cover price alone.

Exactly why Vladimir Putin approved an estimated €37 billion investment to stage these Winter Olympics in Sochi – about 700 per cent more than it cost Vancouver to host the last Winter Olympics – may never be known, but it’s fair to assume not all of that has been spent on trucking in the snow machines.

What is certain is that Sochi, about as far south as one can get in Russia, is no stranger to organised crime, or indeed terrorist threats, and it will be fascinating to watch how these Olympics unfold “the Russian way”, as Putin likes to say.

“I have never seen a budget in Sochi,” one senior organiser is quoted as saying, hinting at how all those kickbacks and shake-downs will never exactly add up.

Oscar
What is also certain is that none of this magnificent largesse will be tolerated by another Oscar – as in our new Online Sports Capital Register. I was informed of this in a kind email this week, with a reminder that the deadline is fast approaching for those looking to apply for a share of the far more modest sporting sum of €40 million – just over .1 per cent of Sochi’s Olympic budget.

Putin might sneer at it, but this €40 million – the total amount of the 2014 Sports Capital Programme – is all we get to provide essential if not crucial grant assistance for the development of sporting club facilities and the provision of sports equipment throughout the entire country.

In the past, the Sports Capital Programme has been suspected of gentle bias, or at least allegedly so, which is partly why Oscar is designed to make sure every last cent of this €40 million is properly and legitimately well spent. Easier said than done, however, so it comes with a 23-page guide, and that’s just to explain the application process. Registration is also now open, but closes on Friday week, February 7th, and after that if you’re not in you’ve no chance of winning anything.

Done online
Perhaps more importantly the entire application process, including all supporting documentation, must be done online – which as we all know tends to complicate things even further. According to the guide, if you have not clicked the “save and submit” button on the final page of the application form by the deadline, your application will not be considered. So now is the time to get busy saving and submitting.

At least the ground rules are basic: grants (ranging from €800 to €200,000, or up to €500,000 for national/regional projects) are available for any projects that are clearly sporting in nature, either to increase participation or improve performance, everything from pitches and dressing rooms to goal posts and surf boards, but not, unfortunately, for bars, car parks and kitchens, even though that’s where most of the sporting banter goes on.

That’s not saying these basic rules aren’t still easily broken, as demonstrated in the last round of the Sports Capital Programme, announced in December 2012. Then, when €30 million in funding was made available, there were 2,170 applications for local projects, amounting to €229 million in total, yet only half satisfied the required criteria, the other half simply deemed “invalid”. In the end, only 615 projects received assistance for their various sporting needs.

At the time
It made for quite an embarrassing admission at the time, although one not entirely dodged by our Minister of State for Sport, Michael Ring. “There were three or four issues, mainly around legalities of ownership,” Ring explained.

“Applicants also needed to have planning permission, or be in that process. Others simply missed deadlines, or were unable to provide some of their own funding.”

Therein lies the role of Oscar – and why at least this time the Government can’t be accused of not outlining the various pitfalls in the application process. And yet the Sports Capital Programme still has its flaws, as also outlined to me in several emails following the 2012 allocations.

One popular Dublin athletics club, for example, who reckoned they put six weeks of work into their application for minor grant assistance to purchase some sporting equipment, and amended it six different times, was still rejected on a “technicality”, apparently because while all the documentation was provided, it didn’t appear online.

Another sporting body, again preferring anonymity, argued the point that if all the grant aid was added up by sport, rather than county, it would present a different picture. GAA clubs have certainly been served very well by the Sports Capital Programme over the years, the only problem there being they still very rarely share these club grounds with any other sport.

Slice of the pie
The point there is, with so many sports looking for a slice of the pie, the Sports Capital Programme might be better off targeting multi-sport facilities – such as community or town sports centres – and in that way truly serve the wider sporting public.

Either way, that shouldn’t put any club or sport off getting to know Oscar. Some sporting bodies, such as Triathlon Ireland, are in fact encouraging clubs to do exactly that, especially given the fact only one triathlon club got around to applying for grant aid in 2012. It’s no secret that triathlon has been one of the fastest growing and now most popular sports in the country, and yet that one club still found its application “invalid”. Who knows if the Sports Capital Programme will be ever closed off to gossip or even scandal, but it would be immoral to not at least apply.

For full details of Oscar and the 2014 Sports Capital Programme see www.sportscapitalprogramme.ie

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