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Over a £1m spent on Sports domestically - 70% going to four fringe sports

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Gibraltar has over 4,000 people participating in sport, according to some experts. It should therefore come as little surprise to know that over a £1 million has been spent on funding domestic sports this season. This all exclusively taxpayer’s money and does not include the monies invested by football and rugby, corporate funding and sponsorships or the Island Games.
It has, however, come as a surprise to many in sport that 70% of the share of the cake has been taken by four fringe sports. The four of whose numbers participating in the sports are among the lowest in number. Far from the number of participants in sports such as football, netball, rugby, athletics and rugby.
Official figures published online by the Ministry of Culture and Sport shows that over £720,000 has been spent in the 2018/19 season in relation to events held by Backgammon, Chess, Darts and Pool/Snooker.
The figures, which are available for public viewing, show that the Backgammon association received £100,000 under the “Special sport and leisure events” funding. An increase of some £63,000 in comparison to the previous season in which they received £37,500 under the same funding programme.
Similarly, chess received a staggering £252,648 grant dwarfed by Dart’s £298,589 grant. Pool and Snooker, whose main tournaments are played in the same month of March receive a combined total of £89,355.
All four sports have one thing in common, the fact that Gibraltar hosts annual international tournaments locally which bring professional players to the Rock. In all four, players are attracted not just by the event, but also by the prize-money.
The tournaments themselves provide ample international media interest within the sport with darts, pool and snooker providing live television coverage of events across popular sports channels such as Sky Sport and Eurosport. The events give Gibraltar an increased exposure at an international level.
The figures have nevertheless been met with much criticism among many in the sports fraternity as they question the policies behind funding such events against others proposed by larger and more influential sports in Gibraltar. None will, however, come forward and publicly comment officially.
The criticisms come as observers point to the fact that in all the four sports the numbers participating locally in the sport is low in comparison to other core sports. The fact that local participation in the events are also limited means that the events mainly cater for international players, many of whom are professionals bidding to take the lucrative prize-money on offer. In the case of pool, a £25,000 winners booty was present for the winner.
The figures spent on these four sports are in deep contrast to the amounts paid out to other sports who have hosted major events, and which attract a considerable higher interest locally. It also contrasts with the £176 funding given to the Gibraltar Table Soccer Association for the hosting of the Table Soccer World Cup which was hailed as one of the best hosted events in recent times by the International organisation.
Even Netball, which hosted a very successful, live streamed Under 17 Challenge Cup tournament just a few months ago received just £10,850.40 in funding. This in itself just a third of the funds given to the International Women’s football tournament hosted last summer which saw organisers received £31,193. The tournament itself was a joint Gibraltar Government/La Linea Ayuntamiento initiative which eventually led to much criticism of the Gibraltar Football Association who merely assisted in the hosting and the facilities having agreed to take over the running of the Victoria Stadium by that time and agreeing to honour the scheduled event and assist in its running.
The figures also contrast with the £1,599 awarded as a grant to Ju-Jitsu which during this time hosted the United Nations Ju-Jitsu Congress at the Tercentenary Sports Hall attracting several hundred participants from across the globe.
The biggest surprise, however, comes when one looks at the sports grants awarded to sports societies for 2018/19 for their domestic leagues and events.
Notably it’s the absence of rugby and football from this list which would raise the most eyebrows. However, with football now funded mainly through UEFA and FIFA funds, and rugby known to have a large corporate sponsorship/partnership base neither sport has been viewed as requiring further funds for their activities on the Rock.
Topping the list in grants awards is basketball which receives £34,670.55, over £12,000 more than netball whose membership numbers are far larger across all categories. Significantly also, netball produces the most local female’ sportswomen, with few non-Gibraltarian, non-residents involved in the sport when compared to other similar sports. Similarly, athletics, which has continued to grow its junior and youth base and has seen a significant rise in the number of participants in local races, attracting many athletes from across the region continues to receive just £9,807.66 in funding. Notably also athletics did not receive any funding for “special sports and leisure events” during 2018/19 and does not receive any sports development project funds according to the latest official figures.
Whilst darts receives the biggest grant for special events the society also receives £16,126.44 for its domestic league, with an additional £294 for development projects.
At the lower end of the scale some of Gibraltar’s more popular and influential sports, who have brought recognition to the Rock when travelling abroad receive far lesser funds.
Swimming, who this year saw one of their athletes receive the GBC Sports Award and Joe Santos receive the lifetime achievement award received only £3,036 for 2018/19. Rowing also, who have returned with gold from the British Championships and their participation in Ghent Regatta hare also among the lower figures with £5,186.20 in funding. Another surprise is the £1,834.20 in funding given to Triathlon who have during the season participated extensively across regional events putting Gibraltar’s name on the map, including Kelvin Gomez’s success in the World Championships last year.
Only fourteen sports societies have received grants during 2018/19 from over 42 sports officially practised across Gibraltar. The total grants awarded, which totals £145.206.80, is dwarfed by the £861,875.72 awarded as grants for hosting “Special sports and leisure events during 2018/19.” Which in itself was an increase of close to £300,000 for figures published for September 2017. This excluding the additional £10.661 paid out for international competitions such as the Strait Games, Island Games Triathlon and Special Olympics combined.
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