from Federation of Irish Sports The upward trend in funding for sport was dramatically reversed in Tuesday’s 2009 Budget with the 2008 funding of €311 million being slashed by 34% to drop to €204 million. Further details of whom and what has been affected are set out below. The most dramatic cuts in the funding of sport since the inception of direct government investment in sport in 1997 saw €107 million wiped from the 2008 spend to provide an estimated 2009 spend of €204 million. The breakdown of the 2009 allocation is as follows:-
1. Sports Capital Programme: – €56 million which remains unchanged from the 2008 edition of the Programme;
2. Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme: -€18 million down €2million (10%) on 2008;
3. Irish Sports Council: – €53.026 million down €4.605 (8%) from 2008;
4. National Sports Campus: – €4.403 million down €2.307 million (34%) from 2008;
5. Lansdowne Road: – €1.5 million down €93 million (98%) from 2008;
6. Horse & Grey Hound Racing Fund: – €69.719 million down €6.567 (9%) million from 2008; and
7. Grants to support sport in disadvantaged areas (dormant accounts funding): – €1.350 down €150,000 (10%) from 2008.

Initial reaction to the reduction of Irish Sports Council funding has been one of disappointment particularly in light of the fact that funding levels to the Sports Capital Programme have been maintained. This is especially so in light of multiple pieces of research from the ESRI which, indicates that a reverse of the trend seen over the last 10 years where emphasis has been placed on capital funding is required.

Commenting on the funding awarded to the SCP the Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism stated that these sums would “continue to transform the Irish sporting landscape with improved facilities in virtually every city, town, village and community.” Whilst the addition of sporting facilities is always welcome it is perhaps questionable whether the continued spend in this area represents the best value for money in these more challenging economic times given the results of the ESRI research together with the reality that the publication of the National Sports Facilities Strategy and Facilities Audit Results are still awaited.

There are 20 pools awaiting completion under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme. Of these 8 are currently under construction with a further 12 in various stages of development. Each of these projects was awarded grant aid under the “First” Round of the Programme. The Minister has confirmed that due to the current budgetary announcement no new round of the Programme is to be announced at this time.
The budget does severely call into question the development of the National Sports Campus at Abbotstown which received a total allocation of €4.4 million with just €2million of a capital spend. The National Sports Campus Development Authority (“NSCDA”) is due to make an application for planning for Phase 1 of the proposed Campus in December. However the future viability of the scheme must now be questionable.
Phase 1 of the Sports Campus was to include:

• A National Field Sports Training Centre catering for rugby, soccer, Gaelic games and hockey;
• A National Indoor Training Centre which will provide world class training facilities for over 20 National Governing Bodies of Sport;
• Accommodation for sports men and women; sports science and medical facilities, and
• All-weather synthetic pitches for community use.

The possibility of including an indoor athletics track within Phase 1 of the project was also being considered.
Speaking on the issue, Minister Cullen stated: “The provision of a Campusof Sporting Excellence is a critical piece of sporting infrastructure toenable athletes from all sports to compete and win at national andinternational level. In light of the current difficult budgetary situation, I willbe reviewing the project in consultation with the National Sports CampusDevelopment Authority to see how best to take it forward.”
In relation Landsdowne Road the Minister confirmed that the government would have delivered on its commitment to contribute €191 million to the redevelopment project by the end of 2009. The project is currently on line to meet its targeted completion date in 2010.

The Horse & Grey Hound Industry Fund (the “Fund”) continues to take up a sizeable amount of the overall spend on sport receiving just over €16 million more than the total allocation to the Irish Sports Council which is responsible for sustaining the operation of some 63 different sporting bodies in addition to 33 Local Sports Partnerships.

The Fund received a 25% share of the overall spend in 2008 and this has risen 34% in 2009. It has been stated that the Fund could and indeed should be fully financed from betting duty and perhaps, it is now time for the government to examine this proposal as a real possibility freeing up additional sums to increase participation in sport which is the overriding objective of government policy on sport as set out in the Department of Arts Sport & Tourism’s Statement of Strategy 2008 -2010. According to the Minister a review of the Fund is underway.