Is Dublin punching above its weight in sports grants?
Statistics suggest rural clubs not reaping the same rewards as their urban counterparts
Shane Ross: The Minister and Minister of State Brendan Griffin took over their current portfolios before the 2017 round of allocations were announced. Photograph: Alan Betson
There was an expected response greeting the latest round round of allocations attained through the Sports Capital Programme (SCP) – a mixture of politicians’ “delight” at seeing clubs and organisations in their constituency benefit and relief from those very same clubs.
For many of the applicants the funds were much-needed and thus go a long way to safeguarding the future of their respective set-ups. But further scrutiny reveals some clubs may not be benefitting from the programme to the degree that they should be.
In fact, the current method of allocation seems to be falling short of being a fair system, despite the fact that the Department and Government representatives alike are at pains to maintain it is.
For an initiative that claims to “prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas”, emerging trends appear to contradict these very words stated on www.gov.ie, the official Government website where the processes in which grants are allocated are mapped out.
RTÉ Drivetime recently examined whether the fund did indeed prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas, in terms of the socio-economic status of sports receiving most and least funds within the programme, and revealed the current system failed to favour clubs it claims to give precedence to.
For example, there were only 13 boxing clubs awarded funds across the country in the latest round of allocations, averaging €25,000 per project, while 50 golf clubs nationwide were awarded funds, averaging €48,000 per project.
However, from a geographical perspective there are further damning statistics with rural clubs in particular failing to reap the rewards of their urban counterparts, especially those from Dublin.
While Dublin received approximately 20 per cent of the total €37,084,304 that was made available – arguably a fair dividend given its population – another trend suggests a degree of evident inequality in the way funds are awarded.
Of the 29 local projects receiving €100,00 or more per the latest round of allocations, 28 projects were located in the capital. When regional projects are included, Dublin still received 32 of the 41 grants within the same bracket.
The maximum grant available for local projects currently stands at €150,000, whereas the maximum grant available for regional projects is €300,000, and though all clubs and organisations must contribute a minimum of five per cent to the total cost of the project they’re hoping to fund, “higher marks” are awarded to those that can fundraise a higher percentage of the total costs.
This opens the door to a number of questions:
Are clubs and organisations from rural Ireland, and indeed anywhere outside Dublin, asking for enough?
Can an area be categorised as disadvantaged based on its geographical location?
Are Dublin projects being favoured over projects from other counties?
And, more pertinently, are projects outside Dublin struggling to come up with the funds necessary to ask for large funds? If that is the case, does it leave rural areas at a disadvantage against densely-populated areas such as Dublin?
Given there has been a pendulum effect that has only began to favour the capital city and its surrounding areas since Minister Shane Ross and Minister of State Brendan Griffin took over their current portfolios before the 2017 round of allocations were announced, the assumption that Dublin is now given more precedence is certainly valid.
While there were 109 six-figure grants awarded during the 2017 round, Dublin projects were still awarded the vast majority – 74. In 2015 however, Dublin projects were only awarded 31 of the 119 grants within the same bracket. In 2014, the figure was relatively similar – 41 out of 122
Prior to that, the first round of of the decade saw only 74 projects receiving €100,000 or more, with Dublin projects receiving only 30 of those grants.
Interestingly, Michael Ring, the current Minister for Rural and Community Development, was Minister of State for Tourism and Sport from 2011 until 2016, working with senior ministers Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donoghue before moving on from his post.
Once he moved on, the majority of substantial grants suddenly began to be awarded to Dublin-based clubs and organisations, though it would be hasty to assert correlation is causation – it is simply yet another observation.
Meanwhile, Ross has taken a lot of heat in recent times, particularly when accused of favouring projects in his own constituency after the 2017 round of allocations.
For now though, Dublin seems to be cultivating the ideal conditions in which to turn the sod on an expensive sports project.