Memoranda submitted by the Sports Council
for Northern Ireland
BRIEFING NOTE: NORTHERN IRELAND SPORTS STADIUM
Northern Ireland, unlike the other Home Countries
and our European neighbours, has no outdoor stadium capable of
hosting a multi-sports event at UK, European or World level.
It has less than adequate facilities capable
of hosting a single sport fixture as part of a major European
or World tournament, e.g., Association Football, European Cup,
Rugby European Championship or World Cup.
Northern Ireland sport and its sportsmen and
women lose the opportunity to compete against the best on home
ground, and in front of a home audience. The aspiring young performer
misses the opportunity to be inspired by the best.
There is a major growth in UK and Europe in
the development of multi-sport outdoor stadia to meet the needs
of the growing European and Home Country leagues, Championships
and Grand Prix events in Association Football, Athletics and Rugby.
Northern Ireland, due to its population base,
its national competition needs and due to the costs involved in
providing and managing major spectator venues, cannot justify
the provision of quality state-of-the-art stadia for each of its
major team and spectator events.
There is therefore a strong argument for the
provision of a multi-event venue, capable of meeting the annual
high level competition programme needs and providing the facility
base to support major event bids. Such a provision might host
a Belfast United Football Club and/or a Rugby Team Ulster. We
need our "Wembley".
Association Football, Rugby Football and Athletics
have expressed a willingness to be involved and have identified
the potential of such a provision.
Ninety-four per cent of people believe Northern
Ireland should have a National Stadium, (Belfast Telegraph surveyJanuary
In addition, a range of opportunities currently
denied sport and the community in Northern Ireland would be opened
up. These could include:
bidding to host major single sport
events or rounds/sections of major sports events, e.g., World
Cup or European Cup Rugby, European Cup Soccer, Athletics Grand
able-bodied and disability multi-sports
games at National or International level;
Belfast City sports festivals;
a tenancy arrangement for a soccer
or rugby (or both) club playing in a super league (local, all
Ireland, UK or European);
an events facility for sports festivals
rallies, etc., to put Belfast on the events circuit;
a neutral venue/home for NI sport;
regeneration and positive "Sports
Tourism" economic benefits.
There are no firm bids on the table
and no finance identified from any source.
A tentative offer of land on the
Belfast Lough foreshore has been made via Lord Dubs on behalf
of the Department of the Environment.
A tentative relocation plan for the
Royal Ulster Agricultural Society from the Kings Hall site, Belfast,
to Tillisburn currently proposes a stadium.
Sport at Irish, UK and European level is on
the move. New competitions and new activities along with a new
approach to traditional events is beginning to reshape the international
sports calendar. Cheap, frequent and quick transportation is opening
up the island of Ireland, the UK and Europe for both performers
and spectators and already the two hour catchment can include
parts of England and Scotland and most of the population of Ireland.
The style and quality of the events offered will be the determining
factor for spectators and the quality and capacity of the venue
will decide the location of events for the promoters of European
stadium sports and events.
Northern Ireland must become part of the scene
or lose its place in World Sport.
A stadium is key to future international participation
and significant government funding is key to its provision.
2 February 1999
BRIEFING NOTE: SPORT IS GOOD NEWS AND VALUE
1.1 In a general sense, sport is great news
for Northern Ireland:
(i) 80 per cent of people in Northern Ireland
believe sport can build positive links between people of different
(ii) 80 per cent of people believe sport
to be a positive social force.
(iii) Sport provides jobs for 12,500 peoplemore
than either banking or finance.
(iv) People involved in sport are fitter
and make fewer costly demands on the Health Service.
(v) Sport projects in Northern Ireland have
helped to enhance our social cohesion, economy, international
reputation, and health.
(vi) Northern Ireland's Strategy for the
Development of Sport places volunteers at the centre of our rationale
for investment and was Europe's first strategy developed and owned
by all sectors involved in sporting provision. Sport based on
volunteerism admirably meets the objectives of Government's "Giving
To make its impact and to achieve its vision,
Sport in Northern Ireland requires funding on an equitable basis
with the rest of the UK. The present funding framework, which
generates 2.8 per cent of UK resources for Northern Irelanda
population-related figurecompletely fails to recognise
that the fixed costs of providing sport in Northern Ireland are
not comparable with those in England, Scotland and Wales.
The funding formulae does not provide an adequate
funding threshold for sport. It makes no allowance for need and
fails to recognise the absence of any economy of scale.
The sports funding issue is further compounded
by the absence of any capital budget to adequately address the
major facility needs of the Province.
Unlike charities, Heritage, New Opportunities
and Millennium, which have needs-based formulae, the Lottery Sports
Fund is based on the inadequate 2.8 per cent formula and provides
Northern Ireland with £6 million per annum, a significant
element of which is predetermined to meet government commitments.
3 February 1999
BRIEFING NOTE: CAPITAL FUNDING
1. Sport, in the main, requires the provision
of facilities, some dedicated, others generic: provision depends
on initial capital funding.
2. Capital funding was until recently the responsibility
of DENI. In the period 1974-97, this funding amounted to £51,661,000.
The peak annual budget was £8,008,000 in 1982-83. This funding
in the main supported the provision of District Council Community
3. No capital funding was identified to support
the provision of Regional or "National" Sports Centres,
and no national training or major competition facilities were
4. The Lottery is now available providing £4
million per annum on a non solicited/challenge basis. However,
Lottery funds are required to address needs across all sports
and across all areas of the Province. It currently holds applications
for in excess of £20 million. It is further required to fund
the United Kingdom Sports Institute (UKSI) (NI) capital development
at £6 million and to assist the funding of the UKSI UK capital
5. On 1 April 1994, DENI's remit towards capital
sports funding was passed to the Sports Council for Northern Ireland:
a meagre £100,000 budget passed with it.
6. Problems can be identified as follows:
(i) No seed funding available to encourage
(ii) "National" provision is not
a district function: a central resource is required to maximise
opportunity, for example, a district requires a 25m pool: "national"
need is for a 50m poolhowever no resource exists to provide
additional funding to enhance the district facility and the opportunity
(iii) No budget, hence, no planning is possible.
This effects control to the detriment of the efficiency, effectiveness
and economy of provision.
(iv) The advent of the UKSI has highlighted
the dearth of quality national training facilities in Northern
Ireland. These are already abundant in Great Britain.
(v) Safety in Sports Groundscompliance
costs to meet proposed minimum standards is estimated (based on
the Government's own figures) to be in excess of £20 million.
WHERE WILL THIS COME FROM?
(vi) The stock of District Council facilities
created in the late 1970's/early 1980's is ageing and already
requires upgrading. The absence of support funding removes the
opportunity to enhance facilities which meet the long-term aspirations
contained within the Strategy for the Development of Sport in
7. Former capital funding and current Lottery
funding have established a strong community sport and recreation
8. The talent identified by, and groomed through,
this provision deserves an equal opportunity with their counterparts
in Great Britain to be developed to their full potential. Capital
facilities are required to meet this need.
9. The UKSI (NI) and facilities identified in
the Northern Ireland Sports Facilities shopping list can provide
such opportunities, the impediment is not talent or commitmentit
10. A capital budget needs to be reinstated
if Northern Ireland sport is to prosper, and if Northern Ireland
is to avoid becoming a sporting backwater.
3 February 1999