Sport Ireland at the Public Accounts Committee

Sport Ireland at the Public Accounts Committee

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: I thank Dr. May for her presentation this morning. A lot of
discussion has centred around governance, and Dr. May has outlined that there is tension between that development role and the governance role. I think it only makes sense for the person
who is paying over the money to have a responsibility in terms of oversight on how that money
is spent.
I will return, maybe, to some of those governance questions, but first I wanted to ask about
Sport Ireland’s own costs incurred on consultancy. We have a graph here before us, and there is
a baseline expenditure of just under €1 million for a number of years, and then through 2020 it
doubles to €2 million. In 2021, it is €4.4 million. I wanted to ask where that graph is ending up
in 2022 and 2023, and for some insight as to why we needed to quadruple that expenditure. It
might be small beans in the context of the overall budget, but it seems like a significant increase.

Dr. Una May: I am happy to share with the Deputy a little bit of an insight into the costs
that were incurred, and I will refer to my colleague, Mr. Jason McLoughlin, around the future
trajectory of that pathway, and where we are going. At the time of our financial statements
in 2021, we were coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic. We had invested significantly in a
number of campaigns that would have cost us quite a bit of money around encouraging and
supporting people and giving them the confidence to return to sport. We were also part of the
Government’s Keep Well initiative during the pandemic, where we developed resources for
people to exercise at home. We provided all kinds of resources, and invested in programmes
for a phone helpline to enable older people to call for support and advice around taking part in
physical activity.
In addition to all the campaign work we did around encouraging people to return to sport,
which was a very important part of our role at that time, we were also at that stage building the
development of the campus master plan and we would have incurred significant costs around
the early stages of the design and development of the work that went behind the development
of the master plan.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: To clarify, it is broken into different categories: technical
advice, other expenditure, and financial and actuarial advice. Would this be falling into the
technical advice category? That is where we saw the greatest expansion in expenditure.

Dr. Una May: It would, and if the Deputy would like more detail, I am very happy, and I am
sure Mr. McLoughlin would be happy, to share with him some of the detail around it.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: Please.

Mr. Jason McLoughlin: I thank the Deputy. The technical advice is directly linked to the
capital activity on the campus. The capital activity went from about €2.2 million in 2020 up to
about €8 million in 2021. That is for consultancy costs, and for pushing business plans, planning and design. The other big one there was other expenditure, and that was for the campaigns
we ran, including the Let’s Get Back campaign, which cost €723,000 in 2021. We also had the
community sports hubs campaign for €300,000.
Regarding trajectory and moving forward, the technical advice area would increase as the
capital activity is increasing on the campus. On the other expenditure lying under the consultancy heading, we would expect this to come back in line, because even in 2020 we had the
Keep Well campaign, all directly linked to Covid-19. We would expect the expenditure under
the other headings to come back down, but under the technical advice heading, we expect it to
increase based on the increased capital activity on the campus.
This is relatively straightforward question in relation to the Covid-19 resilience scheme,
which was a significant component of Sport Ireland’s budget in 2020 and 2021. It was €89
million in 2020 and €65 million in 2021. We all understand the reasons it was put in place.
I understand the reasoning behind the three main governing bodies receiving the bulk of the
money. Are we going to see that taper off completely and will the organisations be in a position
to survive without the additional funding as we come out of the Covid period?

Dr. Una May: Again, I will invite Mr. McLoughlin to add to this but primarily, the most
important part of the Covid funding was about addressing losses made by the governing bodies
in lost memberships and lost event income. There were a number of categories of the Covid
funding and helping with losses was a very important part of that. We also provided them with
additional support to develop initiatives that would encourage people to return to sport. Many
of those initiatives continue to be funded through other sources of funding, be it our core funding, dormant account funding or a number of other areas of support. At the time, we were very
clear to the governing bodies that these were not going to be long-standing funds. They were
not to recruit people and there were not to be long-standing commitments to people’s jobs or
anything like that involved in the funds we were providing. The primary use of the funding was
about making up for loss. Mr. McLoughlin might like to add to that.

Mr. Jason McLoughlin: It was €88.5 million in 2020. We increased the €65 million given
to us by the Department in 2021 by €8 million because we had a contingency based on the fact
that we did not know the funding we were going to get for Covid going into 2021. It has tapered down to €15 million in 2022. We have not provided anything in 2023, so it is effectively

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: They are back on their feet?

Mr. Jason McLoughlin: Yes.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: That is good news. I wanted to return to Cycling Ireland
which I know was briefly dealt with. An internal audit was commissioned by Sport Ireland
around some of the issues of the false comparative quotations. Did the audit produce recommendations? If it did, where do we stand in relation to those recommendations?

Dr. Una May: Yes, the report did produce recommendations. They were all addressed and
have all been fully complied with. A lot of change has happened within Cycling Ireland. A new
CEO started this week and a new chair has been appointed. We have supported it in putting
independent members on its board and it implemented all the recommendations. Regarding the
implementation of the governance code, it awaited a full adoption of all the recommendations
before it committed itself to being fully compliant with the governance code. It is now deemed
to be fully compliant. We are quite comfortable with the direction of travel there.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: This may be slightly tangential. Women in sport is a large part of Dr. May’s role as well. Did any of those recommendations deal with the women in
sport aspect as it relates to Cycling Ireland? I know for example, that there is quite a disparity
in funding between the men’s race and Rás na mBan. Did any of the recommendations in the
report address that disparity?

Dr. Una May: I will probably have to ask Mr. McGinty for the details but my recollection
is that it did not make reference to that. However, we have provided it with additional funding
for Rás na mBan. It has been very important for us to ensure that if it did ask for funding for
the Rás Tailteann, we also ensured it received funding for Rás na mBan. We emphasised the
importance of supporting Rás na mBan.

Mr. Colm McGinty: This is from recollection but we can find out and get a note on th
detail for the Deputy. They related to governance and financial control issues around the effectiveness of the board, about its executive relations and the general financial control environment. There were some issues regarding the processes for grant applications etc. I do not recall
anything specifically on the issue of women in sport.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: This question is for Mr. Ó Lionáin. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked about capital funding to Cycling Ireland. Mr. Ó Lionáin said that he thinks the organisation is back in good standing. I think we would prefer a more detailed response, particularly
given the investment in the national velodrome.

Mr. Cian Ó Lionáin: I am happy to confirm that Cycling Ireland is back in full eligibility
for capital grants, when the next round of sports capital funding is opened. The organisation is
back in good stead.

Dr. Una May: We are aware that they have also introduced another control mechanism
around the grant application process. All their grant applications, before they are sent to the recipient of the application, be that the Department or ourselves, are now reviewed by an external
professional entity. This is a measure that they have introduced themselves.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: I want to turn briefly to Horse Sport Ireland. Again, we are
into governance and funding issues here. I do not want to say the picture is murkier because of
the connotations but it is more difficult, in that Sport Ireland is not the sole provider of funds to
Horse Sport Ireland. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is involved as well.
Has Dr. May seen the report by Indecon International that was commissioned by the Department Agriculture, Food and the Marine?

Dr. Una May: Our high performance unit is the main area that we provide funding in and it
is one of the reasons Horse Sport Ireland is very important to us. They would have had sight of
that and we have been very closely monitoring the situation. As the Deputy mentioned, Horse
Sport Ireland is a unique entity, in that it is really an entity of the Department of Agriculture but
we have a significant interest in the sport element of it.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: How would Dr. May characterise it, because the arrangement is unique? Has Dr. May had adequate access to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine? Has she had the opportunity to sit down with them and discuss the findings of the report by Indecon International and the other governance issues that apply to Horse Sport Ireland? Does Dr. May have adequate access in that regard?

Dr. Una May: Yes, Deputy. I am very happy that we have adequate access. We have been
involved in various working groups and oversight groups. We are involved at all stages of the
process. This is a very high performing sport in the high performance arena, so it is a very important sport for us. We monitor closely the work that is happening. The issues that arose were
almost all outside of our remit. There were issues around the stud books, for example. This is
really not a matter for Sport Ireland.