Budget cuts to sports funding criticised

Federation of Irish Sport disappointed at ‘grim’ 7% reduction in funding

The Government has allocated ‘several million’ to complete the National Indoor Arena at the Sports Campus at Abbotstown. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Government has allocated ‘several million’ to complete the National Indoor Arena at the Sports Campus at Abbotstown. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Federation of Irish Sport (FIS) has described as “grim” a reduction of some €3.1 million in core sports funding for 2014 - amounting to over seven per cent of the current figure.

It is now expected the Irish Sports Council have an annual budget of just €40 million, down from the peak funding of €57.3 million in 2008.

The council provides core funding to the 70 national governing bodies of sports and 30 local sports partnerships, all of which are represented by the FIS.

“It’s certainly even worse than we’d feared,” said Sarah O’Connor, chief executive of the FIS. “And I don’t think ‘grim’ is too strong a word. What you have to consider as well is that this is coming on the back of a 25 per cent decrease over the last five years.

“So coming off a difficult situation like that, this will stop many sporting programmes in its tracks,” said Ms O’Connor. “Sport is still seen a very sound investment in most other countries, and what it makes it all so frustrating is that Irish sport has worked very, very hard to get up to the level of other countries in recent years, only to have that cut back.”

Ms O’Connor highlighted the fact the core investment in sport of €40 million for 2014 represents just 0.003 per cent of the €13.3 billion projected health spend.

Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar has announced a new round of Sports Capital Funding for 2014, which invites sporting clubs and associations to apply for new infrastructure projects. There is also an undisclosed sum, described by a department official as “several million”, to complete the National Indoor Arena at the Sports Campus at Abbotstown.

According to the FIS, funding for sport through the Irish Sports Council now amounts to just €8.73 per citizen. “This latest reduction is particularly disappointing given the fact that investment in sport today is likely to have a significant impact in reducing the health spend in future years,” said Ms O’Connor.

“Obviously we welcome any investment in sporting facilities,” she added. “But that’s no good if you don’t have the programmes to help deliver on them, especially to maximise the return on that investment.

“Some might argue that a €3 million cut is not a huge amount, and it might not be compared to what is spent on say roads, which is what we’ll be urgently request a meeting with the Minister and his officials to address our concerns, and propose alternative innovative ways forward, and see can they still shave a few million back from other areas, and divert that into sport.”