Limerick sports clubs brand programme a “joke”

LIMERICK clubs have received one of the lowest levels of sports funding in the country this year.

LIMERICK clubs have received one of the lowest levels of sports funding in the country this year.

With an allocation of less than €1m for just 22 clubs across the city and county, it is also the lowest allocation Limerick has received in the history of the 10-year programme.

The announcement by the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring provoked the ire of a number of sports clubs in Limerick this week, who pointed out that a number of golf clubs have received funding, even though the sports programme is meant to benefit disadvantaged groups.

The Old Christians GAA club, which based in Rathbane in the city and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, branded the sports capital programme an “absolute joke” on the social networking site Twitter after they received nothing from the department.

Many clubs had been anxiously waiting since June, following the closing date of the application, to learn if they’d been successful for the programme, which has become available again after four years. A detailed 15-page application had to be filled out comprehensively to avail of the funding.

In terms of funding per capita, Limerick received the second lowest level of funding in the country, at €5.21 per head, with only county Kerry receiving less, at €5.10. Four other counties received the same level of funding per capita as Limerick - Dublin, Donegal, Sligo and Waterford.

However, in the period 1998-2008, Limerick received nearly €35m, one the largest cumulative allocations in the country, bettered only in Dublin and Cork.

Fianna Fail deputy Niall Collins said he was contacted by numerous sports clubs in Limerick following the announcement, querying why they didn’t meet the requirements, including Patrickswell GAA club, Bruree GAA, Hospital handball club, amongst others.

Overall Minister Ring announced almost €26m in funding for local sports projects across the country, the first round of sports capital funding in four years.

However, it was emphasised by the department that demand has never been as great as it was this year. A total of 2,170 applications were received, the highest number of applications ever received under the programme.

These applications sought a total of €229 million in funding - nearly nine times the figure that was available to the entire country. The department said further allocations of €4m will be made to national and regional projects in the coming weeks.

The 2012 round of the Sports Capital Programme is the first round of the programme since 2008. New criteria were introduced for this year’s programme with a particular emphasis on clubs in disadvantaged areas, the department highlighted in their statement.

However, the Old Christians club pointed out that they are in the RAPID area, which is highlighted by the State as an area of need of investment.

By contrast, Fine Gael TD for Limerick, Kieran O’Donnell, said he was “delighted” with the announcement that €999,961 will become available for 22 sports projects in Limerick. Fine Gael Limerick city councillor Michael Hourigan also welcomed the allocation of grants to a number of clubs and sporting organisations in Limerick city.

Minister Ring said “these allocations will benefit people in every county by giving them more opportunities to get involved in sport, whatever their ability. This funding will allow a diverse array of sports clubs and groups to build and improve much-needed facilities, or to purchase sports equipment”.

The department outlined that since 1998, €140 per person was provided in sports capital funding across the country. However, the allocations to individual counties varied significantly. While the best performing county got €196 of sports funding on a per capita basis, other counties got only a little over half of that. Therefore on this occasion funding has been allocated on a per-capita basis to each county with a weighting for past performance.

Minister Ring claimed the new criteria for this year’s programme will make it more accessible to sports organisations, and in particular to clubs in disadvantaged areas.

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