Sports Northern Ireland Home Page >> Elite Facilities Programme >> Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: Friday, 04 May 2020  



Frequently asked questions

Question: 1. Why is the timescale limited to complete the application form, bearing in mind the delay since the announcement of the funding in June 2006.


The second competition of the Elite Facilities Programme was launched on 18th January 2007, with a deadline for receipt of completed applications no later than 4pm on the 30th March 2007. This provides a ten-week period for completion of the stage one application form. 


This stage one application did not require extensive design work or any form of business case to be completed.  It does however require information about the applicant organisation, the project site, information on how the proposed project will meet the eligible and assessment criteria.  The applicant organisations needed to consider their technical and operational proposals (including sports development programme and initiatives) and Sport NI has worked with the governing bodies of sport to provide applicant organisations with:

  • Essential and desirable technical requirements;
  • Essential and desirable operational requirements;
  • High performance strategies and Key Performance Indicator contributions.

A certain amount of financial information is also requested.

It is important to note that, whilst the application form is 46 pages, a large extent of this is narrative, designed to assist applicant organisations when completing this form.


It is also important to note that deliverability and operational call of funded projects by March 2010 is a significant driver and a prolonged application time would create time pressures later in the process for selected applicant organisations.


The delay for launch of this programme is noted, though applicant organisations should be made aware that while negotiations were underway regarding the launch of this programme, Sport NI were working to prepare the various stages of programme material, to address and resolve issues and incorporate best practice initiatives into the programme design, before applicant organisations encountered these issues.


Question 2. In relation to the costs associated with preparing Outline Business Case and in particular abortive costs spent by unsuccessful applicants, will there be any grant support for applicant’s costs at stage two and/or stage three, even retrospectively if the grant is eventually awarded?


Sport NI was mindful from the outset of the development costs to be borne by applicant organisations, some of which may be abortive, in relation to the preparation of Business Cases.  In particular, the costs of stage two Outline Business Cases were a concern, as a preferred bidder would not be identified until these documents were received and assessed at the end of stage two.  Therefore there was a potential for those unsuccessful applicants at stage two to incur abortive costs.  It was therefore agreed that a stage one assessment mechanism would be utilised to restrict approval to those applicants that realistically could compete with other applicants against the criteria.  In order to minimise abortive costs, a maximum of three applications can proceed per sports project and a maximum 20% variance between the top and next applicants was agreed to be applied.  Applicant organisations will also receive their scores and I understand that CLOA has requested that leading scores for each sports facility are identified to ascertain the differential for lower scoring projects.  This seems to be both a reasonable and meaningful request and in light of this information applicant organisations will be free to decide if they wish to proceed to stage two of the competition or not.


It should also be noted that Sport NI restricted the terms of reference for the Outline Business Case to provide only an abridged schedule of design services, through the appointed business case consultants, to reduce the risk and scale of abortive costs at this stage.


It should be noted that these procedures follow normal capital expenditure procedures from central government and must be followed to ensure approval of ISNI budget expenditure on successful projects.  It is also recognised that this situation is fairly unique as a competition framework is layered onto this normal business case process.


Question: 3. Would applicants have to bear the costs of overspends, that is would a monetary award value be set or a percentage award value be set?  What would happen if tendered costs exceeded project estimates?


Sport NI has designed this programme to adhere to the principles of Office of Government Commerce, Achieving Excellence in Construction and Gateway Review, and NI Preface to the Green Book, in line with Investment Strategy Northern Ireland, Department of Finance and Personnel and Department of Culture Arts and Leisure requirements.  These best practice initiatives are explained below:

Achieving Excellence in Construction


This initiative commits government clients to maximise, by continuous improvement, the efficiency, effectiveness and value for money in procurement of new works, maintenance and refurbishment.


As construction is central to the delivery of government policy objectives, failures cannot be afforded, In 1998, Bath’ University Study showed that 73% of contracts exceeded tender price and 70% exceeded time estimates.  Achieving Excellence is designed to bring about significant improvements and delivery within budget and on time with quality design are central objectives to this initiative.  The key thrust is delivering value for money.

The Achieving Excellence in Construction initiative was introduced in March 1999 by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Right Honourable Andrew Smith MP, to improve the performance of Government as a client of the construction industry. It was launched as a three-year initiative (now extended to 2008) and its key aspects include:

  • partnering;
  • the development of long-term relationships;
  • reduction of financial and decision-making approval chains;
  • improved skills development and empowerment;
  • the adoption of performance measurement indicators; and
  • the use of tools for value and risk management and whole life costing.

Applicant organistions will therefore be required to adhere to the Achieving Excellence principles to enable them to deliver on budget and on time to a high quality of design. 

In relation to the query about overspends, the procurement  and contract strategies are likely to follow integrated procurement routes, such as ‘develop and construct’, which will work around an agreed contract price.

Sport NI will endeavour to guide and advise applicants through the best procurement strategy to reduce the risk of overspends, and will calculate offers of award at the last possible stage to assist, but it muts be stated that Sport NI will not be responsible for overspends by the applicant organisation.

For further information, Achieving Excellence in Construction procurement guidance is contained within a set of 11 guides and two high-level guides, available at  It builds on the departments’ recent experience, supports future strategy and aligns with the OGC Gateway process.

Gateway Process


The OGC Gateway Process meets the requirements of the Gershon Report on government procurement and the Cabinet Office report Successful IT: Modernising Government in Action.  It is also consistent with Achieving Excellence In Construction.  Furthermore compliance is stipulated in Dear Accounting Officer (DAO) letters 33/03 and 17/04.


The OGC Gateway Process examines a programme or project at critical stages in its lifecycle to provide assurance that it can progress successfully to the next stage.  The process is based on well-proven techniques that add to more effective delivery of benefits, together with more predictable costs and outcomes. 


In simple terms, it is the review of a delivery programme or procurement project, carried out at a key decision point by a team of experienced people, independent of the project team.  There are five OGC Gateway Reviews during the lifecycle of the project, three before contract award and two looking at service implementation and confirmation of operational benefits.


The Gateway process makes recommendations to the project management board on the basis on the RAG status (red, amber, or green, relating to the immediacy for action). The recommendations are not mandatory, however they represent best practice recommendations to be observed for the project sponsor and provide a transparent and effective method of ensuring that project decisions are defendable and accountable.

NI Preface to the Green Book


Business case appraisal is a requirement in both central and local government, with recent recommendations from DOE aligning demininis levels to central government best practice.  The NI Preface requires the adjustiment of costs for optimism bias to redress the tendency for project appraisers to be overly optimistic.  These adjustments will have the effect of increasing the cost estimates, decreasing the project benefits and extending the timescales over which the costs and benefits are assumed to accrue, compared to the initial adjusted estimates for each option.


Sport NI will seek to secure funding for the proposed projects at the end of stage one and will provide letters of approval and provisional award letters as appropriate.  Furthermore, in line with the OGC Achieving Excellence Construction, project procurement lifecycle, Sport NI award decision, in terms of specified amount, will be made as late as possible at Gate 3 Investment Decision, at which stage the risk of any deviations to contract price should have been addressed.


Question:  4. If no viable applications were received for a facility for a given sport, would ‘funding’ be reallocated to other sports or be lost? In this instance would Sport NI intervene to ensure that all sports would receive grant awards by looking at ‘creating’ partnerships/bids, perhaps in the form of shared facilities?



The Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland (ISNI)

The ISNI is a government strategy to be delivered by departments, with guidance from the Strategic Investment Board (SIB).  It sets out, for the first time, a sustained capital investment programme for ten years, that is 2005 to 2015. 


The total fifteen-year investment budget for the ISNI is £14,418 million.  Within the ISNI, DCAL has £72 million allocated in years one to three and £285 million allocated in years four to ten.


The draft ISNI was launched for consultation in December 2004 and in the summer of 2005, the Sports Council for Northern Ireland (now Sport NI) were requested by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) to draft: ‘London 2012: A Catalyst To Meet Northern Ireland’s Sporting Needs’ (June 2005) to inform DCAL’s decision making for the delivery of necessary sporting infrastructure on the ground.


‘London 2012: A Catalyst To Meet Northern Ireland’s Sporting Needs’


This paper examines the following:

  • The funding and facilities gap;
  • Capital infrastructure requirements for Olympic sports;
  • Human infrastructure requirements;
  • Programming and marketing.


As a result of this submission, approximately £53 million was provisionally allocated, within the ISNI, to provide world class sporting facilities in the context of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the run up to London 2012.


However, within this document or the provisional £53million in the ISNI, ring-fenced amounts have not been specified for each of the eligible elite sports projects.  In line with normal capital expenditure decisions, budget allocation will be approved through the submission of a Strategic Outline Business Case following stage one submissions, then through project specific Outline Business Cases, and eventually Full Business Cases (with procurement strategy). Key areas for consideration by the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure will be demonstrable need for the project, strategic impact and value for money of the preferred option. 


Programme budgets will not be allocated as simplistically as £ per sport project and under spend will not be directed or competed for by another specified sport in this way, as this would not address true value for money with expenditure decisions by Sport NI or ISNI. 


Sport  NI will assess applications against the eligibility requirements and assessment criteria, which will among other things, facilitate a value for money assessment of all applications in a consistent and fair method. 


The stage two Outline Business Case will also require applicant organisations to weigh non-monetary benefits against each option, some of which relate to Sport NI Key Performance Indicators to demonstrate value for money.


Mindful of the question, if no viable applications were received, the allocation to other proposed projects of the available budget would rely on the value for money and need demonstrated within the other business cases evaluated by DFP.  Therefore the business case process is the tool for allocation of budget.


It is envisaged that the Strategic Outline Business Case, which would be prepared by Sport NI would examine this issue among other things.


Question: 5. If a proposed project can accommodate two or more sports would separate outline/full business cases be required for each sport and the combination at stage two.  How will you assess a combination of options, for example a velodrome with basketball and table tennis against stand alone bids dealing with table tennis separately it may significantly affect the ‘velodome’ bid?


As a business case should look at the whole life costs and the viability and sustainability of full expenditure decisions by the project owner, they should not be seperated.  However as the stage two Outline Business Cases, in particular, also facilitates an assessment function, Sport NI terms of reference provided at stage two is drafted to separate the technical options for each sport and to further express the options in accordance with the governing bodies essential, highly desirable and desirable technical and operational options and added value elements (non-eligible expenditure).  Non-monetary options must then be qualified in relation to each option to facilite assessment against the criteria. Thus the impact of one sports proposal can truly be measured against another through the application of the assessment criteria. Furthermore Sport NI can be satisfied with the sustainability of the total option, with or without some other separate application elements.

The Strategic Outline Business Case, prepare by Sport NI, on the basis of the stage one applications would examine the need and strategic impact of all approved projects.


Question: 6 Comments were made about the timing of setting rate levels, that is rate levels would be set without the district council knowing if they would be successful and having to provide partnership funding.

Sport NI has consulted with DOE regarding the issues expressed with the timing of setting rate levels, that is the rate level would be set by the district council not knowing if they would be successful or if they would have to provide partnership funding.

We understand that the district rates were set on the 14th February 2007 for 2007/08 and will be set around the same time next year for 2008/09.  Whilst there is no flexibility from this perspective the timescale for programme decisions in 2007/08 is outlined below.  It should be noted that this is a guide only as it relies on DFP approval and Sport NI reserves the right to make changes as necessary.



Critical stage timeline 2007/08

50m swimming pool competition

Second competition


Outline Business Case submission for 50m pool by North Down BC and Castlereagh BC on 13th April 2007.

Assessment of applications for second competition, previously submitted on 30 March 2020.


Assessment led by Sport NI with specialist input from CPD and other identified expertise.


Peer review and moderation.


Facilities Committee 19 July 2020: recommendation.

Facilities Committee 19 July 2020: recommendation.


Sport NI 7 August 2020: recommendation.

Sport NI 7 August 2020: recommendation.


Submission of Outline Business Case from preferred bidder to DCAL and DFP budget approval.

Strategic Outline Business Case submission to DCAL and DFP for budget approval by Sport NI.


Stage two-approval letter to preferred bidder and stage three requirements, that is Full Business Case and procurement strategy.

Briefing meetings.

Gateway Review One.

Procurement strategy workshops.


Legal agreements development.



Stage one approval letters and stage two requirements to approved applicants (subject to DCAL and DFP approval) for Outline Business Case requirements.

Briefing Workshops







Submission of Outline Business Cases.


Submission of full business case and procurement strategy.

Gateway 2

Assessment of above.


Question: 7. Comments were made about district councils providing partnership funding for a non-council facility in the area, as only revenue awards could be made. In particular, with RPA, this could be difficult, given the timescales.

Again Sport NI sought advice from DOE and simply obtained a direction that district councils could not borrow to fund third parties.


Question: 8. Could ancillary facilities be shared if two or more projects were located in close proximity that is applicant organisations would not be aware of the other proposed project or their likelihood of success and specification could change depending on other success or lack of it?  Strategic thinking is needed, and savings from shared resources but apparently there is no scope for this.

A  request has been made for scores and headline details of other projects approved to progress to stage two, so that Outline Business Cases could take into consideration need and value for money of ancillary facilities or indeed Performer Development Centres in close proximity.  This would appear to be a valuable request and resonable under the Freedom of Information requirements and Sport NI will incorporate this request into programme design. Indeed it should be noted that Sport NI will be preparing a Strategic Business Case at the end of stage one assessments, which will take this into consideration.  Applicant organisations will have the opportunity to build relationships and synergies into the stage two Outline Business Case and stage three Full Business Case.


22 February 2020


Question: 9. The financial commitments from partner organisations for both capital and revenue are unlikely to be available from public sector partners within the timescale available, mainly because of the internal control processes involved. 

That is as expected and is quite normal for applications for capital expenditure.  I draw your attention to:

  • Applicants must also provide evidence that they can:
  • identify realistic sources of partnership funding for the capital project'

(extract from guidance and application form, page 3

Therefore applicants are not required to confirm partnership funding in place but provide evidence of funding sources via, for instance, a letter from a funding body to state that they are considering an application and the timescale for decision etc.  It is also stated that we will assess applicants against how they can secure the necessary capital partnership funding, so for instance if fundraising is planned then the capacity, experience and likelihood of this will be assessed.  It is also requested to confirm funds in place and anticipated funding for this purpose and timescale for securing these funds is imperative for assessment.


Question: 10.  Some of the information required could not be produced in any meaningful way without some consultancy input e.g. outline design of the involved building(s) and (in the case of sailing) launching facilities in order to obtain estimates of content and costs. 

Please make use of benchmarking costs and specifications of other facilities and their costs through your National Governing Body's technical expertise. The decision for applicant organisations to incur some initial cost estimates is up to them but it will be a requirement at stage two through design team services input to the Outline Business Case.


Question: 11. Will there be any indication of the likely outcome of Stage 1 within the 6 months (approx) period up to the start of Stage 2? Early notice of a successful outcome of Stage 1 would encourage the continuation of the planning process and reduce this built in delay. 

It is apparent that the quicker the stage one decision is communicated to applicants, the less pressure there is on the project procurement lifecycle.   However, as part of normal Investment Strategy Northern Ireland investment decisions, a Strategic Business Case must be submitted to the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure and the Department of Finance and Personnel for approval and budget allocation.  This will look at need and strategic fit and impact and so must follow the stage one assessment process.  Sport NI will therefore lead the assessment of all applications and make decisions through the Committee and Sports Council structure, prepare the Strategic Business Case and seek approval from DCAL and DFP as expediently as possible.  The risk of communicating stage one approvals to applicants without confirming budget approval is that they would incur development costs at risk and potentially abortive costs if a budget was not approved.


Question: 12. Will there be financial assistance in Stage 2 to cover, or contribute to the cost of, specialist consultants? 

Stage two requires the appointment of business case consultants, in line with Sport NI terms of reference and public procurement policy.  The design services should be provided through the business case team and not separately as they are only required for an abridged schedule of services, to keep abortive costs to a minimum.  An application has indeed been made by Sport NI to DCAL for Development Costs for applicant organisations, where financial need is evidenced, we have submitted a business case to DCAL for approval and look forward to updating you. 


Question: 13. I have been advised that the construction and commissioning stage appears to be quite tight (and I am not clear at present where the application for Planning consent and tendering process(es) fit in to the programme. Is there any way in which that stage could be extended without putting any additional pressure on timescales for preparation of the various stages of the bid? 

There are a number of solutions and procurement pathways that can be considered to deliver best value and deliver on cost and on time to design quality standards, for instance 'develop and construct' is promoted by Office for Government Commerce and indeed our advisers in Central Procurement Division of DFP have framework agreements that may be utilised that prevent the need for OJEU tendering. Sport NI’s concern is that best value is evidenced and delivery on cost, on time and to design quality are achieved.   If you want further information on this please speak to me or look at and in particular Achieving Excellence in Construction and Gateway Review, which have been embedded in the programme design.

Please bear in mind that stage two involves the production of an Outline Business Case to identify the preferred bidders, stage three involves the production of a Full Business Case and procurement strategy for final award/budget decision and stage four relates to the procurement route approved to deliver best value, stage five related to the construction and readiness for service and stage six relates to capital completion and stage seven relates to monitoring and evaluation.  Applicant organisations are asked to submit their Outline Master Programme in the Outline Business Case to establish their timescale for deliverability by 2010.


1 March 2020




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Last modified: Friday March 02, 2020.