Disparities in sports grants allocated to clubs in middle-class and working-class areas

Disparities in sports grants allocated to clubs in middle-class and working-class areas

This year's Sports Capital Programmes shows wide disparities in grants allocated to traditionally middle-class clubs and those in more popular working-class areas.

The Sports Capital Programmes, operated by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, provides grants to assist in the development or refurbishment of sports facilities and the provision of sports equipment.

Reporter Philip Boucher-Hayes analysed how this year's grants were allocated on Drivetime today.

On the programme, he told Mary Wilson:

"The analysis that I've engaged in shows that the entire system leans towards favouring richer communities and sports, handing out smaller grants in working-class communities, and of course, as we know, the wealthier the community, the more likely the constituent in that area is to vote.

"There were almost 1,000 grants handed out this year adding up to €37 million. My crunching of where that money went shows that boxing and soccer are at the very bottom of the table and golf and tennis are right up at the top."

Taking six sports, Mr Boucher-Hayes got an average figure for the grants that went to each club.

His analysis showed that there was a lot of €150,000 grants and a lot of €4,000 grants.

Boxing clubs made the bottom of the list with €25,000 on average per successful club that applied for a grant.

Soccer came in at an average of €32,000 per club, while GAA clubs received an average of €37,000 each.

42 tennis clubs around the country got an average of €43,000 each and golf clubs topped the list with those successful in their applications receiving an average of €48,000.

Mr Boucher-Hayes said that the allocation process is "something of a mystery".

Some in government would say that it's done on the basis of population, that you give the money that the greatest concentration or numbers of people live. Others would say that it is done on the basis of need, that you send it to areas of greatest social deprivation, which makes the inclusion of golf clubs in this list a bit of a mystery.

"And then there are others in government that would say all taxpayers are entitled to see their sport, their recreational activity supported in some way or some measure by the State," he said.

This year's allocation of grants shows a clear weighting against more deprived communities.

The GAA received almost half of the money that was going, €16.32 million, split between 444 clubs with each club getting an average of €37,000,

This shows "what a social come-all-ye GAA is in comparison to some of the other sports", Boucher-Hayes said.

"A relatively small number of golf clubs, 50 in total, divvied out €2.5 million between them and there was undoubtedly the greatest concentration of large awards in golf. There were lots of clubs that applied only for small grants but a very very significant number of them received awards of €80,000 or €90,000 or awards north of that.

"Soccer only got €4 million split between 129 clubs and boxing only got €323,000 in total."

Government officials have previously defended themselves against accusations and have previously told clubs that if you're not in then you cannot win, but Boucher-Hayes has said that there are built-in obstacles for more deprived areas.

"There are built-in obstacles to poorer clubs in either a - applying and b - being successful when they do.

"The system seems to actively award those clubs that are able to rely on the expertise of accountants and lawyers among their numbers.

There is a checklist here as well which many people those clubs, talking to people in boxing and soccer today, feel is unnecessarily bureaucratic, they have to come up with proof of insurance and proof of Garda vetting.

"All of which are checked elsewhere, they say this cross-compliance isn't actually needed at this point in time because this is not a reliable way of finding out of we have our garda vetting in place or not because if we didn't all we need to do is not apply for a grant, the department wouldn't be able to check up on us in this way.

"So the department, they say, and successive ministers know what kind of clubs the system favours and they haven't done anything to change that to make sure that there is a more even playing pitch."

The findings of Philip Boucher-Hayes' analysis of this year's Sports Capital Programmes are as below:

  • 13 boxing clubs received €323,000 in total - an average of €25,00 to each of the clubs.
  • 129 soccer clubs getting €4.1million between them - an average of €32,000 per club.
  • 444 GAA clubs received an average of €25,000 per club.
  • 35 rugby clubs received an average of €42,000 per club.
  • 42 tennis clubs received an average of €43,000 per club.
  • 50 golf clubs were allocated a total of €2.5million - €48,000 per club.

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