Official Report (Hansard)
Date: 28 November 2007
28 November 2007
Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Barry McElduff (Chairperson)
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
The Lord Browne
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Ken Robinson
Ms Roisín McDonough ) Arts Council of Northern Ireland
Ms Nóirín McKinney )
Mr Nick Harkness ) Sport Northern Ireland
Professor Eamonn McCartan )
Mr Shaun Ogle )
Professor Eric Saunders )
The Chairperson (Mr McElduff):
I welcome Roisín McDonough, the chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and Nóirín McKinney, its director of arts development, to the meeting and invite them to make a presentation to the Committee. Ms McDonough and Ms McKinney will assist us in our deliberations on the draft Budget.
Ms Roisín McDonough (Arts Council of Northern Ireland):
We are pleased to be able to address the Committee. When we appeared before the Committee previously, we outlined the case for the arts and how they contribute to employment, the economy — particularly, the creative industries — health, education, regeneration, cultural tourism and improving the image of Northern Ireland on the world stage, as our success at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival earlier this year demonstrated. We also talked about the intrinsic value of the arts.
Minister Poots is on record as supporting our carefully argued and, I contend, evidence-based case for a modest, additional £26 million investment under the comprehensive spending review (CSR). Apart from outlining the impact that the arts have on the aforementioned areas, we also outlined what we would do with the additional resources. All that information was contained in our CSR bid, which was titled ‘The Time for the Arts’. We also outlined the problem of the chronic lack of funding for the arts, historically. The gap is growing between our region and other UK regions and countries. We have had flatline funding for the past three years. A general decline in people playing the National Lottery has resulted in a further decline in its income. Moreover, there are now dedicated lottery games for the Olympics, and money has been top-sliced from National Lottery funds in order to support the growing costs of the Olympic Games.
We have raised, and will continue to raise, the fundamental question of why the people of Northern Ireland have less cultural entitlement than their fellow citizens on these islands. Why has that situation gone on for so long, and why is it set to continue for the next three years? Since we outlined our case, a private Member’s motion has been debated in the Assembly. The motion, which was debated on 9 October 2007, proposed that arts funding be raised in the comprehensive spending review to at least the UK average. The motion enjoyed cross-party support, which we regarded, in many ways, as being a golden moment for the arts. We were heartened by the fact that the many arguments that we put forward were well understood and re-articulated by individual Members, who drew on examples from their constituencies. We wish to thank Committee members for their contribution in support of the motion.
However, what was the out-turn? How did that support translate into additional resources for the arts in the draft Budget? There is scant reference made to the arts in the draft Programme for Government. As for the draft Budget, our request for an extra £26 million over the three years was met with an increase of £500,000 in year 1, on a baseline figure of £10·5 million. That will rise in year 2 to £750,000 and in year 3 to £3 million.
I wish to make some points about that. First, the money has been backloaded, yet the need in the arts is immediate and pressing. By the time that we reach year 3, we will have been forced to make several serious decisions about how we allocate our funding resources. Secondly, as yet, we are unclear as to whether the additional money has been ring-fenced for particular projects and, therefore, does not represent unrestricted cash for the Arts Council to distribute to artists and arts organisations. Finally, as I have said, £26 million is a modest sum. It represents one third of 1% of the health budget, or two thirds of 1% of the education budget, and the arts contribute enormously in those areas, as our submission contends.
It is time to set out the consequences of our not receiving an increase that is over and above our current out-turn. We have carefully assessed those consequences. The Arts Council has already had to close its multi-annual programme (MAP), which has supported 56 arts organisations, employed up to 200 people and provided 3,200 arts events. The future of those organisations is, at best, uncertain. We have also informed local authorities that they have become a low funding priority so that the Arts Council can safeguard, as best it can, the future of the independent arts sector. We have already had to reduce our National Lottery Awards for All funding; we have had to close our public art programme; we have had to reduce the amount that we spend on musical instruments; and so on.
More than 25,000 participants from across Northern Ireland, including many young people, will be denied access to outreach activities and engagement in the arts. It is interesting to note that two targets have been set for the Arts Council in the draft Programme for Government. The first is that we are to increase attendance and participation in the arts by 2%. We contend that, in the light of the resources allocated to us, we will not be able to meet that target. The second target, which bears on what the Arts Council does, is to increase employment in the creative industries by 15%. We contend that the arts play a very important role in the creative industries and that the target is unlikely to be met unless there is a significant reversal of fortune.
We know that the Northern Ireland tourism product will be weakened, because there will be fewer events, productions and exhibitions, and that the international image of Northern Ireland, which we are all struggling hard to turn around, and which displays our pride in our country, will suffer.
We have also had to reduce our funding to Northern Ireland Screen, which we fund through our lottery resources. Northern Ireland Screen is a significant player in the creative industries’ arena. The very important interdepartmental, cross-cutting partnerships that involve the Arts Council and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), such as the creative youth partnerships programme with the Department of Education and the education and library boards, and our re-imaging communities programme, which involves the Department for Social Development (DSD), the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the Community Relations Council and the International Fund for Ireland, will suffer as a consequence.
Finally, to develop and grow the arts sector is a slow process. As with much in life, one must invest in order to see a return, and, ultimately, in attempts to improve the quality and range of the arts, and attendance and participation in the arts, one gets what one pays for. Short-term savings, which I believe, in this instance, are short-sighted, will lead to a long-term loss.
In the light of our carefully argued request for almost £9 million in year 1 in order to meet the demands and the needs of the arts sector, to have the disappointing year 1 out-turn of £500,000 to pass on leaves us with a fundamental problem to face.
To conclude, I also have a number of questions to which we do not have answers. First, what priority was accorded to the arts in the overall DCAL budget? Secondly, in the allocation of arts-line resources, what priority was accorded to the Arts Council? Those are areas in which we are keen to ascertain answers. That concludes our submission. We have brought an extended version of that oral evidence, which we will leave with the Committee.
We support the engagement of artists and arts organisations in the formal consultation process, which, as was recently announced, is due to conclude on 4 January 2008, and we are working hard with the arts sector in order to continue the advocacy campaign — part of which is our coming to speak to the Committee. We urge the Committee to continue to support the proposals that are contained in the key points that have been outlined and articulated today — the most fundamental of which are questions on why Northern Ireland’s citizens have a lesser cultural entitlement than other citizens of these islands, why that has gone on for so long, and why no serious attempt has been made in the CSR to alter that picture.
Thank you. Ms McDonough’s closing remarks are pertinent. The Committee’s function is to challenge; however, the Arts Council has several supporters on the Committee.
Mr P Ramsey:
I welcome Roisín and Nóirín. It is good to see them here again. They have raised several questions that Committee members have not yet got around to asking. However, now that we have received them, I hope that we can make progress.
You mentioned that your bid for this year was for around £9 million. What was the Arts Council’s original bid to DCAL, before the publication of the draft Budget, and how much of that bid was allocated in the draft Budget? I have taken note of the points that you made; however, your language leads me to believe that you are concerned that front-line services will be affected.
We have discussed the creative industries when considering the draft Programme for Government. DCAL obviously has a role to play. In percentage terms, compared with the rest of Britain, the creative industries in Northern Ireland benefit from some of the highest levels of funding. However, no one in DCAL is tasked to treat the creative industries as a priority. Given that, do you envisage that DCAL’s role in the creative industries will weaken?
One of the Government’s aims in the draft Programme for Government is to grow the creative industries sector, but you seem to suggest that, given the draft Budget, we will fail miserably.
As the Chairperson has said, you are among friends — the Committee wants to help the arts. In the new year, I hope that Committee will commence an inquiry into arts underfunding, and we will appreciate your help and guidance to steer us in the right direction and develop good-practice models.
Those are my questions. Bear in mind that we must hear evidence-based arguments if we are to persuade others in Government to change their attitudes to culture, arts and sport.
In response to Mr Ramsey’s question about the Arts Council’s budget, this year £10·5 million has been allocated, and that is considered to be our baseline budget. We had requested £18·7 million for next year. However, our budget will move from its current baseline of £10·5 million to £11 million next year, with modest increases that will be backloaded into year 3.
Problems will arise when we make funding decisions at the end of February 2008, and again at the end of February 2009. By the time that we receive any allocation for year 3, which, at this point, remains provisional, we will have been obliged to implement serious cuts in the arts sector, and its infrastructure will have been affected accordingly.
As the Committee may recall, the interdepartmental policy document ‘Unlocking Creativity’ was led in the first instance by DCAL, which used the creativity seed fund to test-bed and develop practice in the creative industries’ arena. That was deemed, after evaluation, to have been successful. The difficulty is that the creative industries fall among three Departments: DCAL; the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL); and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI). Consequently, a great deal of co-ordination is required among those Departments and their associated non-departmental public bodies. I urge that that issue be focused on and championed, because I fear that it has been disregarded.
The Arts Council believes that its artists, principally, have an important role to play, because of the skills and talents of creativity, generation of ideas and innovation that they bring to the creative industries. If, because of the proposed allocation, the Arts Council is unable to support those people to the necessary extent, the idea of growth will not be sustainable. Many of those artists may be employed as visual artists after they leave art college, but they often go on to do stage design or go into the graphics industry. However, in order to do that, they must be supported.
Mr P Ramsey:
In the draft Programme for Government, the Government say that one of their key goals in growing a dynamic and innovative economy is:
“Growing the creative industries sector by up to 15% by 2011.”
From what Roisín has said, it seems that it is more likely that there will be a 15% drop, given the proposed budget to be allocated to the Arts Council.
I cannot say that for definite. All that I am saying is that the target, which is based on the potential for growth in the light of what happens in the UK, is less likely to be met, because of the out-turn in funding for artists and arts organisations. I cannot give a precise indicator of how far behind target that will be, but the effect will be adverse.
Does the £10·5 million baseline for this year include lottery money?
How much lottery money did the Arts Council receive this year?
As I recall, it was about £6 million. However, that figure will decline over the period of the licence. At the end of the licence, it will be about £3 million.
How much lottery money will the Arts Council receive next year?
We are to receive £5·5 million. To put that figure in context, the Arts Council received requests worth more than £10 million this year through our lottery project funding. There are several different streams for lottery money — it is a complicated process. Of those requests, we were able to fund only under £3 million-worth. Therefore, the demand is intense, and that demand is compounded by the fact that the Government asked all the distributors to get rid of their cash balances, and set them targets for doing so. The Arts Council did that by using its lottery resources to help with programmes and project development for its arts organisations. Therefore, we have hit a brick wall with lottery funding, due to a decline in income and the fact that there are no cash reserves.
As I have said, we have had to cut a number of our lottery programmes. MAP provided a measure of stability for 56 arts organisations over three years. I quoted the figures earlier, so I will not repeat them. The Arts Council has already told the relevant organisations that no more multi-annual funding is available from the National Lottery and that they now must compete with all other arts organisations that receive Exchequer funding.
For 2007-08, the Arts Council is to receive £10·5 million of the £15·7 million allocated to the arts in the draft Budget. That £10·5 million represents about two thirds of total arts funding. Where does the other third go?
It goes to organisations such as Arts and Business Northern Ireland, to Northern Ireland Screen and to the creative learning centres that have been recently established, and it also goes towards funding the international strategy for the arts. Those are the other main organisations that draw on the arts-line budget.
For 2007-08, there is £10·6 million of available capital, which will rise to £15·1 million for 2008-09. An extra £5 million has been allocated, so the emphasis appears to be very much on capital.
We welcome the increase in capital. For a long time, the Lyric Theatre, the Old Museum Arts Centre (OMAC) and the Crescent Arts Centre, in particular, have needed new buildings, or else transformed buildings. As with all capital investment, it will not be resource-neutral. The new buildings will come on stream around 2009-10. Additional resources must be allocated to those buildings to ensure that they do not become white elephants and that they can offer the excellent programming that people would expect of spanking new arts centres.
My apologies. I realise that I have stolen another member’s question.
Will you refresh my memory and tell me what funding the Arts Council receives from public bodies, such as local government, compared with that which it receives from the private sector?
You said that the Arts Council requires an extra £26 million over the next three years. Are any contingency plans in place in case it does not receive that money? To put that another way: if the Arts Council receives that money, on what areas do you foresee it being spent?
The only additional money that the Arts Council receives is ring-fenced for particular projects. We have had a long-standing partnership with the Department of Education to support work on cultural traditions. That work often takes the form of traditional-music projects. The Department gives the Arts Council a budget, which, this year, was £225,000. That money is ring-fenced for a specified number of organisations with particular criteria.
On top of that, we have, as I mentioned earlier, put together an interdepartmental programme, the ‘Re-Imaging Communities Programme’, on which the Arts Council takes the lead. That programme is set to run for another two financial years, with resources diminishing, depending on which funding partner can commit.
We do not receive any money from the private sector as such. It has been evidenced by Arts and Business Northern Ireland that arts organisations here struggle to raise corporate sponsorship or private-sector money. Where they do, it is often given pro bono publico. In other words, it is given in kind. In fact, there was a decline in private sponsorship money for the arts last year. The figures are contained in our submission, which I will leave with the Committee.
The Arts Council has a long-established partnership with local authorities, and it collects information about local authorities’ relative spend over time. As with everything, there are periods of ebb and flow. For example, we have developed a common-chapter approach in Belfast that outlines what both Belfast City Council and the Arts Council will do for the arts in the city.
Is Belfast City Council the main local government contributor?
As Northern Ireland’s largest city, one would expect that it put in the largest gross amount. Belfast City Council funds independent arts organisations to the tune of roughly over £1 million. That funding takes the form of grant aid. However, Councillor McCausland, wearing his city council hat, will know precisely what that entails. Belfast City Council spends more money on arts infrastructure, but if we are talking about grants to independent arts organisations, the figure is approximately £1·1 million or £1·2 million.
Mr K Robinson:
There is too much drama going on in City Hall, and that explains why the arts are suffering in Belfast. I wish to show a bit of artistic licence, Chairperson.
Mr K Robinson:
We have facts and figures before us, the pros and cons of which we can argue, but there are a few fundamental questions that we must ask as a Committee. You may agree with me that there is a considerable distance between the arts fraternity’s view of what the arts should be and what they need, and that of the general public. What can you tell us that will allow us to persuade the general public that there has been underfunding of the arts in the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure’s proposed budget, without causing them to point to the health and education sectors, among others, that are also underfunded in the draft Budget? What is the vital point that you can tell us, over and above those figures, that will allow us to make a case for the arts, and to say that you are being poorly treated?
Roisín mentioned the Arts Council’s supporting 56 arts organisations, which seems like a considerable amount for a small place like Northern Ireland. Is there overlapping and duplication? Are egos being massaged? Belfast has the Crescent Arts Centre, the Lyric Theatre, the Grand Opera House and OMAC. How many arts centres can we sustain? I know that there are historical reasons for their evolution over the years, but can we afford that luxury, given that we have a very tight budget, which will probably not improve in the foreseeable future?
You talked about ‘Unlocking Creativity’. In a former life, as Noírín may remember, I was on a regional arts committee many years ago. You proved useful to us in Newtownabbey by providing a worker to work alongside our arts officers to help us to create the Ballyearl Arts and Leisure Centre and the Courtyard Theatre, which we have outgrown, and we are in the process of trying to develop a civic theatre in the area. We have grown the arts on the ground, and the public have responded, and the sector seems to be largely self-sustaining now. If a philistine local council can do that, why can you not do that at the level of the Arts Council, and why does the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure not recognise that, and fund you accordingly?
Concerning your first question about the gap between the public perception of the value of the arts and other spheres of public activity, when people are asked about the value that they attach to the arts, particularly the arts’ value to children and young people, more than 90% of people say that children and young people should have access to the arts, as it broadens their experience, gives them good skills and assists their personal development. Parents are concerned about funding levels for the arts, and they support us.
We undertook general population surveys in 2003 and 2006 of attendance and participation in the arts. The findings indicated that there is an increase in attendance levels, if not participation levels, which have remained constant. Attendance or participation rates in an arts event in any one year hovers around the 76% mark.
According to the evidence that we have, I suggest that people do support the arts. The Arts Council has never wanted to pitch the arts against any other area of public service. As we have outlined in our submission, art contributes to health, education, regeneration and, indeed, cultural tourism, which is a vital potential growth area for Northern Ireland’s economy. The submission refers to participation in the arts leading to a reduction in the length of time that patients stay in hospital, and so on.
Mr Robinson also asked whether there is duplication among the 56 arts organisations. The answer to that question is no. All our arts organisations are carefully assessed. It is important for there to be a regional spread of provision and access to the arts across Northern Ireland, not just in the Belfast City Council and the Derry City Council areas. Therefore, it is important that that regional spread be achieved. As Mr Robinson has implied — correctly — the Arts Council has had a long-standing relationship, of which it is proud, with local government. We currently support an arts officer post in the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), because that is how significant we consider arts to be at local level. We have already worked hard to restructure the Forum for Local Government and the Arts (FLGA), in order to give that body more focus and impetus.
There are wonderful examples of self-sustaining arts at local level, one of which Mr Robinson drew on from his own experience. However, it is not like that throughout the rest of Northern Ireland. A hugely variable pattern of investment in the arts exists across local authorities. The Arts Council is concerned about citizens’ right of access to the arts and to their cultural entitlement, irrespective of where they live. In conjunction with our local authority partners, we have supported arts centres within 20 miles of every individual in Northern Ireland. The Arts Council is proud of that track record, because we believe that people need and deserve the richness that all dimensions of the arts bring to their lives.
Of course, the arts also have intrinsic value. However, we will not discuss that today.
Mr K Robinson:
I am intrigued by a particular issue. Are we banging our heads against a wall? There is such a vibrant culture out there anyway, over and above that of the recognised culture and arts movement. Both communities in Northern Ireland have, over the years, developed their own, fairly vibrant cultures. Does the Arts Council compete with those cultures to some degree? Is that why the audience base has not expanded?
I ask the Arts Council to offer a composite response after Nelson asks his question.
I want to comment on a matter that Mr Robinson raised. There was an attempt to bring together the Crescent Arts Centre and OMAC in order to provide a single arts centre that would be situated in the Cathedral Quarter. Efforts to do that went on and on, but people would not work together, because they all wanted to retain their own domain. The outcome was that OMAC moved into the new centre in the Cathedral Quarter and the Crescent Arts Centre remained where it was. Northern Ireland is a small place, with a small population of just 1·5 million, and Belfast is a small city. Many people have concerns about duplication when budgets are so tight. That issue must be dealt with.
Work needs to be done, particularly when one bears in mind local government funding for the arts. Earlier this year, a report was produced that set out each local council’s arts budget and its funding per head of population. That report took into account, for example, that Belfast’s population is much bigger than that of other places. I noticed that, during one year, one local council spent only £42 on the arts. It was not Derry City Council, Pat, which was well up there.
That figure would not be typical.
No; it was exceptionally low. However, there were several others for which the figure also was amazingly low.
How do you convince local government, the business community and regional politicians that their support of the arts has value? I acknowledge that work has been done in that regard. However, a gap remains, and we have not succeeded in convincing people of the value of the arts.
Ms Noírín McKinney (Arts Council of Northern Ireland):
Obviously, the Arts Council recognises Northern Ireland’s distinct cultures as being an integral part of the overall arts and cultural offering. We do not consider ourselves to be in competition with them. We see them as being essential components of Northern Ireland’s distinct cultural offering, particularly for cultural tourism, to which Roisín has referred. Increasingly, people want to visit Northern Ireland to discover what is distinct about our culture and the way in which we express ourselves. Our indigenous arts are a hugely important part of that. We provide funding for arts projects and the various languages in Northern Ireland, of which Irish and Ulster Scots are integral parts. We have a proactive policy for developing what we broadly term “language arts”, as well as indigenous cultures. The Arts Council’s area of interest is through artistic expression, not purely through language. I hope that that answers Mr Robinson’s question.
Mr K Robinson:
It also highlights the lack of cross-cutting between different Departments. It always strikes me that Northern Ireland must have more musicians than any other country in the world. How does officialdom treat our prospective musicians? The answer is that it really does not deal with them at all. They are taught by some local worthy who has a bit of skill and can read a bit of music. He gets them started and encourages their interest in music, and those musicians struggle on, through raising funds. During the day, they go to a school that totally ignores that talent, because the school no longer has a music tutor — our education and library boards can no longer afford to employ music tutors.
Structures are being pulled down. That is why I mentioned the “non-official” arts sector. It, at least, provides someone to teach music students. Eventually, we will produce someone like the gentleman who now lives in Switzerland, whose name I will not mention. He almost stumbled into the arts mainstream. How many talented singers and musicians are out there whom we are not attracting to music? Somewhere along the line, one of the silos is not performing.
Issues around competition for resources and duplication of provision warrant a separate discussion. However, the fundamental task for the Committee, and for the Executive, is to show leadership. The good offices of the Committee, the Minister and the Executive must be used to assist the arts world to articulate and advocate the case for the arts, and the contribution that they make. The Minister is already on record as having said that he wants to try to secure additional resources through the private sector, sponsorship and philanthropic foundations.
Although we all recognise that that must occur, our fundamental point is about public-sector investment and the cultural entitlement of the citizens. Why should citizens in Northern Ireland be more disadvantaged? Other countries have accepted and understood the intrinsic and instrumental value of the arts to wider society. Those countries have had no difficulty in doing that. It is a sign of a growing, mature, outward-looking, confident region and economy if it recognises the value of the arts. We look to the Committee, and to the Executive, to help make that case, and to persuade the public, businesspeople and high-net-worth individuals of the arts’ value. It is a question of leadership and investment.
Mr P Ramsey:
It is important that Mr McCausland’s point about economics be addressed at some stage. People must be convinced that, if our Budget is to be all about the economy, the arts can be an economic driver. I hope that that point can be communicated.
We are very grateful to both Roisín and Noírín for appearing before the Committee.
I welcome the team from Sport Northern Ireland, which is led by Professor Eamonn McCartan, its chief executive, and also includes Professor Eric Saunders, its chairman, and directors Nick Harkness and Shaun Ogle.
Professor Eric Saunders (Sport Northern Ireland):
We really welcome this opportunity to meet the Committee to discuss the draft Budget and funding for sport, in the light of its importance to society, particularly its young people.
That importance is clearly evidenced in the strategy for sport and physical recreation, which is both issue-based and evidence based. As the Committee will know, the strategy resolutely underlines sport’s cross-cutting role in society for the individual, education, health, well-being and civic pride — not to forget the economy.
Before I call on my colleagues to highlight several issues and challenges, I wish to record my congratulations to the Minister for his vision for sport and the Government’s commitment to its value and place in society.
Professor Eamonn McCartan (Sport Northern Ireland):
From our two previous presentations, the Committee will know about the role of sport in society and the contribution that it can make to the social, economic and political well-being of our society. It is not our intention to repeat what we have said previously; rather, we wish to talk about the paper that we have submitted to the Committee. There are two parts to the paper — the highlights and the detail. I will begin by describing where we are now with sport in Northern Ireland and how the draft Budget will impact on its development — or, should I say, on its lack of development.
Levels of participation in sport, our international performance, and the state and range of our sports facilities are all declining when compared with the rest of the United Kingdom. We have an obesity epidemic, which is associated with ill health, cardiovascular disease, cardiorespiratory problems and diabetes.
Participation levels in sport are falling. Just over one in two people — 53% — participates in sport once a year, and only 40% of women do so — 13% less than the average. Moreover, only 32% of those who live in socially or economically deprived areas participate in sport. Northern Ireland had its worst performance in the history of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, in 2006.
Our sports facilities are in decline. Some 70% of the council-run facilities are more than 20 years old. In 2007, 10% of our pitches are still made of gravel, and 40% of pitches have no changing rooms for men or women. Furthermore, 60% of school sports facilities are not available for community use.
During the past 30 to 50 years, we have experienced chronic underinvestment in sport, and that is reflected in the state of our major sports grounds, which would be closed under health and safety legislation were they in England.
Against that background, we, the Minister and the Committee have the strategy for sport, which outlines the direction in which we want sport to go — not Sport NI but the people of Northern Ireland. The strategy reflects the views of the people of Northern Ireland, district councils, education and library boards, sports’ governing bodies, community groups and individuals. The strategy contains a vision, which we have presented to the Committee before, of a culture of lifelong enjoyment and success through sport.
There are three elements to that vision. The first is participation: to provide an opportunity for people to participate in a sport of their choice at a level of their choosing. The second is performance: to increase the performance and reputation of sport in Northern Ireland, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The third is places: to provide places for people to play sport. People and places are important to the draft strategy. In order to develop sport, the opportunity to play sport and the role that sport can play in our society, we must ensure that we meet those targets.
Costing that has been done, not by Sport NI, but by all the stakeholders. They have estimated their delivery costs. For 2008-11, we anticipate that £369 million will be required. That investment would take the form of a cross-cutting contribution from DCAL, the Department of Education, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), DSD, district councils, education and library boards et al. Why should we provide that investment? We should provide it because we want a better quality of life for the people of Northern Ireland.
The draft strategy proposes what success will look like. If it is implemented, we will have multi-skills clubs, employing an extra 400 qualified coaches to work with our children and young people. Those multi-skills coaches will be able to coach more than one sport and complement the work of our schoolteachers. We will have a strengthened sporting network and a world-class high-performance system in place that will produce athletes capable of representing Northern Ireland at the 2010, 2012 and 2014 events. Furthermore, Northern Ireland will have a range of facilities, capable of hosting major events. We want to be able to attract great sporting events to here.
Mr Nick Harkness (Sport Northern Ireland):
The draft Budget identifies a potential income or support for sport of £146 million over the three years from 2008 to 2011, against an identified cost in the draft strategy of £369 million. We accept that that £369 million should come from a range of sectors, and we aspire to get funding from a range of sectors, including the Department of Education, DHSSPS, district councils and others. However, the draft Budget allocations leave a revenue shortfall of £67 million and a capital shortfall of £156 million, and there will be serious, far-reaching consequences as a result.
The revenue shortfall will have implications. At present, pupils in one third of our schools receive only two hours physical education (PE) and sport a week. In England, a target has been set, whereby children in the east end of London will benefit from up to five hours PE and sport a week. In Northern Ireland, there is a guidance note for only two hours a week.
The consequences of capital shortfall will also be far-reaching. No capital funding will be available for community sports facilities over the next three years. The draft Budget identifies £112 million for capital projects across sports. However, when one takes into account that £70 million of that is to fund a national stadium, £15 million for a 50-metre swimming pool, and £20 million for other Olympic-grade facilities, it becomes clear that what looks like a very large budget is not capable of filtering down to community sports facilities.
Mr Shaun Ogle (Sport Northern Ireland):
The Northern Ireland public expect success. One need only look at the back pages of the newspapers to see that sport sells. The public demand success at every turnaround. The failure of the Northern Ireland football team to qualify for the 2008 European Championships has led to a significant groundswell of opinion. That is one indicator of what is expected.
Investment is needed urgently in Northern Ireland to close the gap between success and failure — no matter how narrow that gap is. The shortfall that we speak of is highlighted in our submission. With the Olympic Games coming to London in 2012, the gap between where Northern Ireland is at and where England and Scotland are at has widened.
We recently completed work, known as the Melbourne review, that showed evidence of a systemic failure across sport in Northern Ireland to narrow the gap between the level at which we want our athletes to be and the level at which they are now. The likelihood is that, if we do not fund systems here, that gap will continue to widen. Those systems should begin with fundamentals in schools, and run through local clubs and communities. We must employ coaches to work with kids in local areas, and that coaching must extend to the coaching of athletes who are capable and talented enough to receive specialised one-on-one support in order to help them achieve Olympic, Commonwealth, European and Worlds success. Northern Ireland has the ideas and some of the people whom it needs to develop the skills and the systems, but it now needs the financial input to back those up. Northern Ireland has the talent, but it is let down by its lack of a world-class system.
I shall now focus on some of our capital programmes, the first of which is the 2012 Olympic facilities programme. In March 2006, the then Minister with responsibility for sport, David Hanson, and Lord Coe announced that up to £53 million would be given to fund Olympic-related facilities in Northern Ireland. Since then, Sport Northern Ireland has been working with applicants to a series of programmes. The first programme specifically focused on Northern Ireland’s first 50-metre swimming pool, and we have been given an indicative award of £15 million, subject to a Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) full business-case review, to allow North Down Borough Council to build that facility.
Therefore, there was an expectation that the remaining £38 million allocation would be available. We invited applicants to apply to that programme, and those applicants have expended time and resources and time on doing so. As a result, £72 million of viable bids have been made for projects. However, in the draft Budget, that £38 million has shrunk to £20 million — a loss of £18 million. What projects will not now go ahead? Current viable projects include a velodrome, an indoor tennis centre, a track-and-field athletics venue, an indoor basketball arena and an Olympic rowing lake. Many of those projects cannot proceed now that the proposed Budget settlement stands at £20 million.
As well as the work that cannot go ahead, work that is already being done has been put at risk. There are three key risks to current work. First, there are implications for the stadia safety programme, and unsafe stadia may pose a risk to life. Secondly, there is a risk that developments in which there has already been investment will not be completed, resulting in nugatory expenditure. Thirdly, Northern Ireland’s inability to stage events, whether in connection with 2010, 2012 or 2014, puts the future growth of sport in Northern Ireland at risk.
Another area of capital investment in which Sport Northern Ireland has a history of involvement is community sports facilities. In the past 10 years, we have invested almost £7 million per annum in such facilities. That averages out at roughly 100 small community sports projects, each of which received £70,000 per annum.
As the Committee will have heard, we recently lost £4·2 million in funding, which has been reallocated to fund the 2012 Olympics. As Roisín McDonough of the Arts Council indicated earlier, there is already a decline in income from the National Lottery, and that is because some of that funding has been redirected to fund Olympic-specific lottery games. The draft Budget provides no opportunities for capital funding for community facilities, and the lottery income that we already have has been committed right up to 2011.
Moreover, Sport Northern Ireland has a national mountain training centre in Tollymore that trains leaders to secure the safety of young people who participate in adventure sports, but the building that it uses is not fit for purpose. The budget for its redevelopment programme falls £1 million short. Over the next three years, no new capital awards will be granted for community sports projects across Northern Ireland.
An important element in the history of sports funding for Northern Ireland has been ring-fencing. Traditionally, DCAL has received ring-fenced funding. For example, in the past, soccer was allocated £8 million, GAA was allocated £4·5 million, rugby was allocated £1·8 million and motorsport was allocated £600,000. However, in the draft Budget, ring-fencing has been removed, and capital for soccer has been limited to £2·7 million, against £3·6 million of outstanding commitments. There is a very simple consequence to that, which is that there will be an inability to fund the full implementation of the soccer strategy as outlined and agreed. Other sports’ expectations will also be significantly diminished.
Chairman, with your permission, I will conclude. Sport NI’s budget is divided into two — revenue and capital. The proposed settlement means that it will not be possible for us to deliver on the targets contained in the strategy for sport and in the draft Programme for Government. Sports’ needs will grow as a result of the events planned for 2010, 2012 and 2014, so we must ensure that there is sufficient funding growth.
For capital projects, the word that comes to mind is “disastrous”. The draft budget provides a disastrous settlement for sport. There is a failure to realise any meaningful opportunities from the forthcoming 2012 Olympics in London and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Existing commitments to our stakeholders will not be met, and Northern Ireland will be embarrassed through its having a Third World sporting infrastructure rather than a world-class one.
That paints a gloomy picture of prospects if the current situation pertains. I ask Committee members to keep their questions as brief as possible, owing to time constraints.
We all recognise the importance of sport to the community’s well-being. I fully appreciate the work that Sport Northern Ireland has done to promote its objectives. One worrying aspect is the diversion of lottery funding to the 2012 Olympic Games. Sport England has looked at ways in which to raise an additional £50 million through working with the private sector in order to increase investment in community sports facilities. Sport Northern Ireland’s submission on the draft Budget highlights that £12 million is required to upgrade our sports grounds. That demonstrates that the situation is serious. Does Sport Northern Ireland have any plans similar to those of Sport England to generate additional income?
Sport England is also working closely with the Football Association (FA) and the Football Foundation to create sporting hubs. Community and commercial activities are also involved. Does Sports Northern Ireland have any similar initiatives?
I am particularly worried about sporting safety. If Windsor Park is not upgraded, its capacity will be restricted to 7,000. Ravenhill’s capacity would also be restricted, so, as I have said, the situation is serious. Therefore, does Sport Northern Ireland have any ideas for raising money in the commercial and private sectors?
Mr P Ramsey:
From your presentation, I get the feeling that we are falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to elite facilities. The Committee is fortunate that Sport Northern Ireland and the Arts Council have given us an honest appraisal of how they view the future, and neither paints a very rosy picture. I thank Eamonn for his honesty in voicing his concerns.
The draft Budget proposes an £18 million reduction in funding for elite facilities. Can we proceed with the 10 suggested projects, which were either to build new facilities or to upgrade existing ones? Will those projects now end up being done on the cheap? Will they meet the standard required for them to be elite facilities?
I am also gravely concerned about a number of groups in my constituency, such as Foyle U3A and John Mitchel’s Gaelic Athletic Club (GAC) in Claudy, which both performed well on the recent competition for capital funding. I am sure that, for example, the Cookstown and Craigavon capital projects are also hugely important. I raised the issue of lottery funding with Lord Coe when he visited Stormont two weeks ago. It was never the case that good-cause money would be used to subvent London’s infrastructure. However, the 2012 Olympics project will not begin to claim lottery funding until 2009. Are groups being appraised for capital works because of the time it will take until 2009 for planning and construction to begin on the 2012 Olympics?
I am concerned that, as well as losing out on lottery funding, we are losing out on programmes and capital works that will enhance the provision of sport across the region. By that, I do not solely mean single-identity sport. The project proposed for John Mitchel’s GAC is holistic, involving all the schools in the area, as well as local rugby and cricket clubs. I have already raised with Eamonn the importance of such projects. The high return of investment that voluntary effort in sport makes is well known, but, as Nelson said, the value of sport as an economic driver must be reinforced. Our facilities could only be described as being second class, and local government has built few sports facilities of any description.
Many of the good Sport Northern Ireland programmes are community-based. They are driven by local councils and sports’ governing bodies. I include Gaelic games’ and rugby’s structural and modernisation programmes among those. Might those programmes be lost? Will there, for example, be redundancies as a result of a cut in funding for capital projects?
I specifically wish to mention the exceptionally good work that Derry City Council has done in the community to target social need, health and well-being. I am concerned that that council’s consistent approach and its capacity to encourage participation in sport may be lost.
Finally, on the subject of increased adult participation in sport, one of the draft Programme for Government’s PSA 8 targets is to halt the decline in adult participation in sport by 2011. Surely, therefore, it does not make sense to cut programmes, such as that being undertaken by Derry City Council, given that healthy living, obesity and heart problems are continually topics for discussion. What is Sport Northern Ireland’s response to those points?
I ask the witnesses to respond first to Wallace’s questions, then Pat’s.
We will try our best. However, if there are gaps in our answers, members should point them out, and if we do not have specific information to hand, we will respond in writing.
I thank Lord Browne for his questions, and I confirm that Sport England is leading the efforts to raise £50 million for community sport. However, it is not doing that alone but is assisted by UK Sport and the other home-country sports councils. The purpose of that campaign for funding for community sport is to persuade the private sector to contribute £50 million. We hope to have input into that community sport programme, and we hope to get a cut from it.
I also wish to put the London 2012 Olympics into context. London is the commercial centre and economic driving force of the United Kingdom. Therefore, its private-sector to public-sector ratio favours London much more than it does Northern Ireland, which is not only remote from the facilities and the focus of the Olympic Games but has a public-sector-driven economy. Nonetheless, Sport NI has managed to attract several private-sector investors such as Golden Cow Dairies Ltd, Coca Cola, the Belfast Telegraph and others. We encourage private-sector companies to fund promoters — whether that promoter be the GAA, the governing bodies of soccer, rugby and basketball, or a community group. Private-sector funding is therefore in addition to ours, and communities’ inputs come in kind. We are also trying hard to devise new and creative ways and means to maximise funding.
I wish to deal with sports’ governing bodies’ capacity to assist in developing sport. The FA is probably the wealthiest governing body in the United Kingdom, and it has a significant amount of money at its disposal to run its football in the community programmes and the Football Foundation. That is not the case with the Irish Football Association (IFA), and the FA’s ability to run out programmes in England does not extend to here.
Over the past three years, we have worked closely with the IFA in order to make it a fit-for-purpose organisation. Given its size, and taking account of its now sound business foundations, we have been impressed by the organisation’s ability to attract private investment — not least from Sky Television, McDonald’s and others. Eamonn was correct when he said that we encourage the private sector to work with promoters — in this case, the IFA.
I apologise to Wallace if we have missed out anything. We will now deal with the impact of the 2012 Olympic Games’ elite facilities programme, which was announced by then Minister Hanson and Lord Coe in 2006.
Mr Ramsey identified the aspiration in the draft Programme for Government’s PSA targets and the strategy for sport to initiate 10 projects. If our funding is reduced by £18 million, leaving us with £20 million, there will not be 10 projects. For example, we have received three bids to build a £20 million velodrome facility. Another viable project is for a multimillion-pound rowing lake. At present, only one major project and, possibly, several smaller projects could be funded.
Mr Ramsey also asked about the loss of £4∙2 million in lottery funding to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Parliament has passed legislation to that effect, and we now face the repercussions. You are correct to say that that money does not come out until 2009, but what you must realise is that we have been encouraged by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) to pre-commit money. Capital projects take a long time to get up and running. From the initial concept, a planning application must be submitted, and planning approval secured, before we even get to the design stage. Therefore, we have been pre-committing our moneys so that, when it comes into Sport Northern Ireland’s bank account, money does not lie dormant there for three or four years before being spent on a project. Rather, it goes straight out. We are in that pre-committing period.
Recently, we ran a competition, and funding of £3∙1 million for 13 exceptional capital projects was planned. Those projects are listed in our submission. We have now had to reject those bids. There is no prospect, in view of the draft Budget, of those projects being given the green light in the next three years.
Lord Browne rightly identified safety in sports grounds as an important issue. Members will be aware that, as far back as 1997, the Scott Report was written by one of our members of staff — when we were the Sports Council of Northern Ireland — apropos of the Hillsborough disaster. It was estimated then that £30 million would be required to upgrade major stadia to ensure their health and safety. It was not to provide increased capacity or better facilities for women or young people but to ensure that stadia were safe for people to enter and to exit.
In the past 10 years, £5∙9 million has been spent on upgrading our major stadia. That means a shortfall of around £24 million. We currently have diggers at the football grounds of Ballymena United, Cliftonville and Portadown, and at two GAA grounds — Healy Park in Omagh and Brewster Park in Enniskillen. However, we have no money at present to commit to future work on those grounds.
Mr P Ramsey:
I have a supplementary question, Chairman. I forgot to ask my original question.
He has great style, has he not?
Mr P Ramsey:
What was the original Sport NI bid to DCAL, and how much of it has been met under the draft Budget? As an MLA for Foyle, should I now throw strategy for sport in the bin? What should I tell those constituents in Derry who ask me where they can obtain money for capital and community works? Where do they go for that now?
I must bring in other members, because we are short of time. I ask witnesses to give composite responses.
I apologise for arriving late to the meeting. I was involved in a team wash-up meeting on the past two days’ plenary sittings.
I do not whether it is unparliamentary language to use the term “bullshit” in Committee, but I have just said it. We must get around the bullshit.
For two days, I stood in the Chamber for hours on end. We have spent 10 hours debating the draft Programme for Government and draft Budget over the past two days. In the Chamber, I did the batting on behalf of the arts and sport for my Committee colleagues. I must say that I batted for everything that the representatives from Sport Northern Ireland have raised this morning. I apologise to the Arts Council’s representatives for not being here for their presentation. However, I also represented their interests in the Chamber.
However, the Minister of Finance and Personnel was not listening. To be fair to him and to the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, both are willing to listen. However, we do not have the money. There is no point in — I use the term again — bullshitting anyone in Northern Ireland that we have money. We are high on aspirations, but we have no money. Committee members diligently and dutifully put the witnesses’ cases; however, their cases were knocked back, and knocked back pretty sensationally.
I will not play party politics, but despite the bullshit of all the promises out there, we do not have the money. Therefore, we get a smaller slice of the cake. With all due respect to you, we must deal with the small piece of the cake that we have. We need help.
You have told the Committee about what was not right 20 years ago. I was not involved in decision-making 20 years ago, so who made the mistakes then, and why were they not put right sooner? We are dealing with a legacy with which we cannot continue. The longer that we try to do so, the worse that he situation will get. That is the scenario that you have outlined.
You must get real as well. I do not want to start the blame game, but it is not satisfactory for you to tell me about things that you knew were wrong 20 years ago and that have not been sorted out. I find that intolerable, because the Committee wants to help. We want to help, not buy into a legacy.
I felt like Oliver Twist during the debates on Monday and Tuesday — you must feel like that today. Oliver Twist was all right in the end, so there is hope for us yet. However, with all due respect, and I say this to the Committee also, in the light of all the pleas, whingeing, pressures and influences that have been directed at the Minister of Finance and Personnel during the past two days, the draft Budget will not change much before it is finalised. I hope that it will, because we have made a good case for additional moneys. However, the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure does not have the money, and that is the reality.
The point was well made about the difference between the spread of money in London and Northern Ireland. There are no multimillionaires here to donate to political parties through third parties, let alone to give big donations to worthy causes.
I say respectfully that we need new ideas. We need to rewrite the script and need a new approach for dealing with such matters. I recognise that your approach is not simply to hold out a begging bowl, but we will not be able to deal with the problems unless we can make more persuasive arguments. My colleagues and I have made persuasive arguments, but those persuasive arguments have not achieved anything.
You are being heard, David.
Finally, it is important that Sport Northern Ireland take a firm line. You mentioned Windsor Park and declining numbers of spectators. I want to hear your views on a decision that FIFA is about to make. Will you, as representatives of a sports body, support the FIFA proposals if it carries out its threat? The Assembly is to debate the issue in two weeks’ time, so the Committee must hear your views.
Mr K Robinson:
David has cheered us up. He used some colourful, rather graphic language, and, as the Chairperson will recall from a Committee meeting with the previous Minister of Education, we now know what that word means and do not need it explained. David has made some relevant points.
One point that caused me concern was the reliance that Sport Northern Ireland seems to be placing on teachers and schools. That is ill-judged in the present circumstances. Given the demands on teachers’ time, and the curriculum demands that they will face shortly, you will not get the same level of input from schools that you might once have had. Schools also lack the facilities to allow teachers, even if they had the time to do so, to provide children with exercise and physical education.
Sportsmen now appear to lack affinity with the public. During my time at teacher-training college, international footballers and British Lions rugby players used to train there. Those players demonstrated a high level of commitment to their particular sport by going out to coach in schools. That no longer happens to the same degree, so perhaps we need to turn back the clock.
I wish to ask a question similar to the one that I posed to the Arts Council. How do you help us to persuade the public that it is worthwhile to invest in sport? Your submission has provided the Committee with a lot of details, and you have told us of all the reasons why we cannot deliver the strategy that Sport Northern Ireland wishes to deliver. My colleague Mr McNarry has told you that he was unable to persuade the Minister, but how do we, as a Committee, try to persuade our Assembly colleagues and the general public that it is worthwhile to invest in sport, just as it is worthwhile to invest in the arts?
I apologise, but I must now bring in Nelson to ask a question, and I expect the witnesses from Sport NI to be masterful in their response. I know that they can do that.
I intend to be non-political in the same way in which David McNarry was non-political a moment ago.
Go for it.
We heard how David —
Nelson, are you getting at me?
We heard how David was so affirmative and assertive when addressing the Minister of Finance and Personnel in the Chamber this week. I must point out, however, that the problem that existed 20 years ago also existed five years ago, under a previous devolved Administration, when certain other parties were in charge of finance and —
I thought that Nelson was not going to be political.
I am being non-political in the same way in which David was non-political. It is an issue —
Please come to the point, Nelson.
I am just making a point, and then I will finish. The point is that what was the case 20 years ago was also the case five years ago. That was all that I wanted to say.
That is your question. Thank you. That is great.
It was not a question but an observation.
We will do our best to answer everything. We ask that, if we miss a point, Committee members ask their question again. Several questions were raised, so we will answer them as a collective. I am putting Eric, Shaun and Nick on alert.
First, I will deal with the question about relying on teachers in schools. Some years ago, the Sports Council of Northern Ireland, as was, undertook an important initiative titled, ‘City Community Initiatives Through the Young’. Through that initiative, we sought to bring qualified coaches into the schools to train and develop children and teachers, the legacy of which would be that every school would have a qualified teacher in one, or more, sports. When it was assessed by Professor Fred Coulter, and reported on by 11 Downing Street, it was identified as one of the leading school community projects in the United Kingdom. That project was stopped in the end because of a lack of funding.
We fully recognise the pressure that teachers are under. A need exists to develop the skills and competencies of one of a school’s teachers, and there is a need to supplement and augment their work with people from outside. Sporting bodies such as the Irish Football Association, the GAA and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) are trying to develop capacity in schools.
A point was raised about the sporting estate. We fundamentally believe that the estate process is flawed in Northern Ireland. We argue against the two-estate model — an estate for the district councils and an estate for education. When we presented a view to the Bain Review, we argued that, in order to reduce capital expenditure — because capital is always scarce — a sporting estate or an arts estate should be a single entity that will be used by the community, the club and the school. Therefore, we contend that when we build an estate, whether that be through the Department of Education or a local council, it should satisfy the needs of, at least, those three agencies — community, club and school.
Mr K Robinson:
May I commend the Ballyclare project to you that Ballyclare High School, the council and the local community are delivering?
Yes, and we have a number of other successful examples throughout Northern Ireland, such as in Lisburn and Keady. There is a huge amount of capital expenditure to be distributed in the education budget. We contend that the estate be built to meet the needs of more than the school so that we do not end up with a soccer pitch that needs to be 100 yards long but is only 65 yards long and can only used by those of under six years of age. Sir George Bain agreed with that, because it was one of his report’s recommendations. We must build an estate that is capable of being used by the school and the community, and by sport itself
This problem has been with us for 40 years. We used to call it dual use/joint provision. Five years ago in Scotland, I asked advice of the Minister responsible for the matter. The problem was not addressed five years ago, and it is not being addressed today. It is an old concept that has been brought into modern use.
I think that we have persuaded the public, but we can return to the issue later.
I wish to thank the Deputy Chairperson, Mr McNarry, and all the Committee members. We listened attentively to yesterday’s debate in the Chamber, and we thank you for putting forward the arguments that you did.
It is true that there has been chronic underinvestment in sport and cultural activity, including the arts, in Northern Ireland. We contend that the need is not to play catch-up with England, Scotland and Wales but to invest in sport for sport’s sake. Sport can contribute to a better life for every individual in Northern Ireland. The strategy for sport deals with sport and physical recreation, and the evidence is empirical. Participation in physical activity benefits health — bringing, in particular, cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular benefits — and it also benefits one’s mental well-being.
Our Health Service fixes us when we are broken rather than prevents us from getting sick. Sport Northern Ireland contends that investment in sport and physical recreation, and that could include a health worker walking my 83-year-old mother around the ring at the bottom of the street to keep her active, will reduce the health bill.
How do we sell sport to the public? We sell it by telling the public that sport is good for them; that physical recreation is good for health; and that sport can promote and develop people’s education, skills and competencies, and self-esteem and self-worth. Sport is very good at promoting Northern Ireland.
Mr K Robinson:
Eamonn will correct me if I am wrong, but I remember our being told that every pound spent on sport saves about £800 in health.
Sport generates growth and wealth. Four measures stick out when considering sport: it has created 7,000 jobs in Northern Ireland, and that number is rising; consumers spend £1 million every day on it, and that figure is also going up; sport generates 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), which, as economists will know, is a significant percentage —
It is slightly smaller than the percentage that agriculture generates.
Sport makes a massive contribution to Northern Ireland’s economy. Ken mentioned the huge return on every pound spent on sport.
Mr K Robinson:
That figure that I mentioned was in the back of my mind; it was hidden, presumably, in a document that the Committee discussed. Surely you should be using such figures as persuaders for sport, just as our colleagues in the arts should be making persuasive arguments. That is a startling figure.
I will invite Eamonn and Eric to reply. Are members satisfied that their questions have been answered? If not, they should contact Sport NI, either directly or through the Clerk to the Committee.
On behalf of my colleagues, I thank the Committee for this exchange of views on these important issues and proposals. We are glad of the sympathetic hearing that the Committee has given us.
We were glad to be able to do so.
I, too, thank the Committee. I congratulate Committee members, because, just as you monitor us, we monitor you. We know that, individually, each of you has advocated the role of sport in society. We thank you for that.
I thank the officials for their briefing notes. Without them, I could not have represented the Committee properly.
I congratulate you, David, as Deputy Chairperson —
I am waiting on the brown envelope. [Laughter.]
I know. I found myself negotiating with Michael Mates and Shaun Woodward for the past three days. I will brief you privately on the outcome.
I thank the representatives of Sport NI for their attendance.