The administrators of various local sports associations have complained about the lack of transparency and accountability on how Sportmalta is dishing out millions in public funds, with a group of well-connected organisations getting the bulk of the allocation while others are left high and dry.
As a government agency, Sportmalta’s stated mission is “to transform the nation through sport”. Yet medium and small sports associations are saying the lack of transparency is allowing well-connected organisations to benefit and no accountability on expenditure.
“Like most other things, when it comes to the administration of public funds, we don’t know what criteria are being used by Sportmalta on the allocation of some €5 million every year,” a senior sports administrator with decades of experience told The Shift.
“It seems that funds are being allocated to associations according to how ‘friendly’ they are with certain leaders at Sportmalta or how well connected they are with government ministers,” he said.
Another president of a small sports association said that, except for the Malta Football Association, which he said is not well regarded by Sportmalta officials due to rivalry, most of the funds are being given to associations that represent a good number of participants or organisations where the same officials have a personal interest, mainly through their children, like water polo.
“All the rest will have to make do with a few crumbs,” he said.
The latest statistics presented in response to a parliamentary question show a mixed picture.
While football, by far the most practised and popular sport on the island, got only 2% of Sportmalta’s budget last year – some €100,000 – the Malta Tennis Federation topped the list, receiving over a million, or 20% of the 2022 allocation.
Sources pointed out that the President of this Federation is David Farrugia Sacco, a former Labour candidate with close connections to the governing administration.
Waterpolo, where the national coach is Karl Izzo – co-owner of DIZZ Group and disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s buddy – also ranks highly in the allocation of government funds, receiving €326,000 in 2022, on top of a massive €435,000 in 2021.
The Malta Olympic Committee is by far the most consistent recipient of budget allocations, cashing in almost €4 million in the last five years, the latest for 2022 being €847,000.
While MOC President Julian Pace Bonello is a member of the Board of Sportsmalta, the government’s agency’s own CEO, Mark Cutajar, was a MOC director until he was handpicked to take the government agency’s top job.
Meanwhile, other organisations applying for funds remain empty-handed. These include sports such as hockey, badminton, weightlifting, snooker, boxing and others.
Several sports administrators insist that more transparency and accountability should be introduced in the allocations of public funds and that the available budget should be distributed more evenly among different sports disciplines.
“We cannot continue to run Sportmalta as a village band club if we want to progress. This is only leading to mediocrity and possible abuse.”