The Sports Forum’s AGM on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at the Belfast Activity Centre turned out to be quite a lively affair.
There was naturally some disappointment that the promised attendance by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure Minister, Edwin Poots, did not materialise due to another engagement. However his place was ably filled by the Department’s Permanent Secretary, Paul Sweeney.
Paul paid tribute to the work of the Forum and to all volunteers in sport, without whom participation in sports would not happen. He referred to the Strategy for Sport document that is now out for public consultation and stressed the importance of responses being sent to the Department by 8th January 2008.
To view the Strategy consultation document please go to http://www.dcalni.gov.uk/final_consultation_draft_october_2007_-_the_northern_ireland_strategy_for_sport_and_physical_recreation_2007_-_2017.pdf
When questioned about the concept of ‘joined up Government’ he admitted that at draft stage there had been a very poor response from other Departments who were consulted before the draft Strategy document was issued.
During the lively question and answer session the absence of demonstrable Government Department collaboration, especially between DCAL and Health and Education was raised as well as the intolerable rates burden on sports clubs that is forcing some of them out of existence.
Other issues raised included the National Stadium, the Olympics and the need to steer funding to sport and physical recreation to prevent many of the health problems that are so costly for the health service to treat.
Mr Sweeney reminded members that there is only a finite amount of money to go round and that the NI Executive would have difficult decisions to make as to where its priorities lay when the budget is finalised in the New Year.
He acknowledged the valuable contribution of the NI Sports Forum as the independent voice representing the Governing Bodies of Sport in NI and exhorted the Forum to continue lobbying on their behalf.