SPORTS Minister Michael Ring has advised sports clubs and organisations in Mayo not to set their expectations too high in the first round of sports capital grants since 2008.
The Westport-based TD said while he was delighted to secure funding of €30 million under the scheme, the level of demand for grants will far outstrip supply.
He stated: “While I don’t know exactly how much funding is being sought at this stage, I can confidently predict that we will have requests for funding totalling hundreds of millions of euro.
“This shows great enthusiasm for the sports capital programme, but it also means we will only be able to allocate a fraction of the funding sought.
“It is beyond doubt that when my officials begin assessing all of the valid applications, they will face a very difficult task. That has always been the case, but this year it will be more difficult than ever.
“This is the first round of the sports capital programme since 2008, and clubs and community groups have been waiting for this moment with much anticipation. In every parish in every county, there are people giving their time and energy to sports activities and many of these people are working very hard to provide or improve facilities that are fit for purpose and accessible.
“We would love to support every deserving project, but the harsh reality of life is that there are limits to what we can do. That is why expectations ought to be realistic.
“The outcome of this is that there is a huge demand for funding. When the funding is spread out across all 26 counties, there will be a large number of disappointed applicants.”
Deputy Ring made the point the 2012 programme was open to far more clubs and groups than ever before because the strict requirement on land ownership was relaxed.
“These clubs can now be allocated grants of up to €25,000 to upgrade facilities. I hope that the effect of this change in policy will be most beneficial to clubs in poorer areas. “These clubs typically do not own their own land, nor do they have long leases or any real prospect of buying land in the future.”
This year’s sports capital programme also has a stronger focus on projects which increase active participation in sport, particularly in disadvantaged areas.
As many of the grants will be awarded to clubs in rural areas, this boost to the local economy will be very welcome and will have a knock-on effect throughout.
In assessing applications, Deputy Ring’s department must consider whether the projects are realistic in terms of scale, costs and grant assistance sought. This year, the maximum grant available for local club or organisation projects will be €300,000.
“The rationale for this limit is to try to focus applicants on being more realistic in their projects.”
Deputy Ring has also stated priority will be given in this round to people who are sharing facilities ‘because we do not have the resources’.
“What happens is that when a GAA club gets an AstroTurf pitch then the soccer club wants one also. There should be one pitch in a town. There is no need for more than that. “We must examine the issue. We will take such matters into consideration. It will be part of the sports strategy.
“The number one priority will be shared facilities and carrying out an audit to see what is available in every town. We will see what is in Roscommon, Cork and Kerry. If facilities exist and another club is looking for the same facility, we will say ‘No’. We will have to be strong. We must make decisions based on what is good for sport.”