Largest sports capital grant in history of State to be announced today

Package worth €150 million will benefit 1,900 clubs and schools

The largest sports capital grant in the history of the State, worth €150 million, will be announced today.

More than 1,900 clubs and schools will benefit from capital grants to build new sporting facilities or upgrade existing ones. Every county will see projects being funded.

Thirty-five sports will benefit. GAA, rugby and soccer will be major recipients as will minority sports including tennis, kayaking, boxing, cricket and wheelchair activities.

The priority will be given to sporting bodies that encourage female participation and also those that operate in disadvantaged areas.

The announcement will be made by Minister for Sport Catherine Martin and Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers.

The payments will be made through the sports capital and equipment programme operated by the Department of Sport.

In excess of 3,000 sporting bodies and schools applied for funding. Applications began in 2020 and closed in March last year.

The projects being funded include upgraded GAA facilities, pitch draining, club-house refurbishment, new walkways, floodlights, indoor domes and gym facilities.

The details for each successful applicant will be revealed on Friday.

Scoring system

Applicants were decided on a scoring system and there will be an appeals process.

In August, €16.6 million was announced separately in grants for sports equipment only.

A source said Ms Martin had secured extra funding for sporting activities as a result of the pandemic, which illustrated the importance of healthy living and the mental health benefits of sporting facilities.

There were 3,106 applicants for grants, the largest number ever and 60 different sports applied.

Among those who applied for grants were the FAI, Swim Ireland, the Volleyball Association of Ireland, Connacht Rugby, Blackrock College RFC and various county councils.

Controversy

In a previous round the then minister for sport Shane Ross attracted controversy in 2018 when he congratulated Wesley College, a fee-paying school in his constituency, for receiving a grant of €150,000 for a new hockey pitch.

He was accused of facilitating elitism though the minister said he did not adjudicate on the grant application.

Since then the rules have been changed to ensure that fee-paying schools or clubs that charge more than €1,500 a year will not receive grants through the sports capital programme.

The previous round in 2018 led to 1,648 projects receiving €56 million in funding.

Sporting organisations in Gaeltacht areas will benefit through the department’s community and language supports programme.

The National Development Plan envisaged a substantial increase in sports funding between now and 2028.

The capital grants will underpin the Government’s national sports policy. It is estimated that inactivity costs €1.5 billion of the annual health budget and leads to almost 15 per cent of deaths.

The sports grants are separate to the cost-of-living announcement made by the Government on Thursday night.