IRISH SPORT MEETS WITH GOVERNMENT TO MAKE CASE FOR ROLE OF SPORT IN ECONOMIC RECOVERY
• Governing Bodies insist Sport must have more meaningful say in where sports budget invested.
• Call for creation of 5 year Masterplan to fully realize potential of Sport in rebuilding confidence and the Economy.
• Sport asks Ministers to consider new ways of funding.
• Recommendation to set up new body to bid for international events – Danish success highlighted
Irish Sport believes it can have a major role to play in the rebuilding both the nation’s confidence and also the economy. A delegation representing the governing bodies
of the 74 National Sports Governing Bodies (“NGBS”) in Ireland met with Mr Leo Varadkar TD , Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and Mr Michael Ring TD, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, this afternoon Thursday 24th November, to present the case for Sport as a catalyst in restoring the country’s good name and also its finances.
The delegation called on the government to work more closely with those involved in sport to examine the many different ways in which they believe sport can make a real difference. Earlier in the day a number of the country’s leading sports personalities launched a document which outlines the positive impact sport already makes on the country. This document can be downloaded at www.irishsport.ie
The 74 NGBs which include the FAI, GAA, IRFU, GUI, Olympic Council of Ireland and the Federation of Irish Sport (the “Federation”) were represented by a delegation consisting of Mr Paraic Duffy, GAA; Mr John Delaney, FAI; Mr Philip Browne, IRFU; Ms Sarah Keane, Swim Ireland; Mr Fergus Murphy, Chairman Federation of Irish Sport and Ms Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Federation which is the representative body for all of the NGB’s and also for the 30 Local Sports Partnerships.
The meeting with the Ministers comes against a background which has seen sport’s funding cut for the past two years and with further cuts already indicated for the next three years. Currently the total figure (2011) invested in Sport is €86.4 million which includes €46.7 million distributed to the various sports through the Irish Sports Council. The balance in the main consists of capital funding to meet grant commitments made in previous years. This figure contrasts with the 2008 high €141.83 million.
In making their case to the Ministers the sporting bodies fully acknowledged the scale of the economic crisis facing the country but make the case that the manner in which sport is viewed by government does not take into account the full impact sport has on Ireland in terms not alone of revenue but also health, tourism and our image abroad. The sports bodies also made the point that sport could do even more to help in Ireland’s recovery if only government were to engage with it more fully.
The sports delegation cited what they believed to be a missed opportunity with sport not being included in the recent Economic Network Forum in Dublin Castle. The delegation said that they believed that sport needed to be viewed in the same light as Irish Horseracing – as a major industry that makes a very positive impact for Ireland all over the World. They noted that over 38,000 people are employed in the sports industry in Ireland whilst Irish households consume some €1.9 BILLION in sports related products annually.
In 2009 and 2010 Irish Sport made representations to government pointing out the damaging impact that cutting funds has in the long term. As Sarah O’Connor CEO of the Federation has pointed out:
“The funding provided to Irish Sport through the Irish Sports Council is the seed capital for all else that follows. These funds allow for the creation of sports development programmes, the putting in place of coaching qualifications, child protection programmes as well as supporting our high performance programmes and athletes. Sport does not just happen and these funds cannot be switched off with a view to turning them back on when the economic situation improves without significantly impacting on the sporting opportunities available in our communities not to mention the development of our talented athletes.
“The impact of significant reductions in the Irish Sports Council’s grants to sport will not just be felt immediately but will have a significant impact on the medium and long term development of Irish Sport. It is fair to say that Irish Sport would not be enjoying the kind of successes we have enjoyed today both through our teams and individuals without the taxpayers investment. This year alone, one year out from London 2012, Irish sportsmen and women have won 56 medals at major championships all over the world. In 2007, the year before the Beijing Olympics, this figure was 19.”
In their presentation to government the delegation made the point that they all believed that sport if properly supported could do a great deal more for the country than it even does currently.
“Our vision is an Ireland where sport is allowed realise its full potential. We believe the government should support that view, embrace it and help us achieve it. Sport wants to be part of the re-building of Ireland and the Irish economy. As a priority we want the government to bring together all of the key players in Irish sport with a view to developing a Masterplan and a real Vision for Irish Sport for the next 5 years.”
“This masterplan would look at sport in the widest possible view and would analyse where money is currently being spent by the taxpayer on sport or sport related activities – and where it really needs to be spent. Sport knows best what its needs are if it is to deliver on its potential.”
“We would see that master plan encompassing sports tourism both at home and abroad, sport and its impact on health ( with real savings to be made in the health budget) and sport as an image builder to re-build our image worldwide. We fully acknowledge that good work is being done in these areas but our point is that it could be so much better if there was more joined up thinking and more inter-action with the sports community. The day should be long gone when people ‘think’ they know what’s good for sport. Sport knows best where the best long term return is to be had from any investment”
“In this latter context we are calling on the government to work with all of us involved in sport as to where the new – and much welcomed – Sports Capital Fund of €30 million should be spent. Money is too scarce to waste any of it. It must be spent where it will do the most good – for sport and ultimately for the country. Each NGB will have identified its strategic priorities in terms of sporting infrastructure. These priorities must be taken into account by the Department in allocating these funds”.
“In fact our research amongst all the sports indicates that sport would far prefer to see any funds available invested in people and programmes rather than facilities at this point in time. While we appreciate sports capital funding sport in Ireland would far prefer to see its current expenditure budget protected even if that has to be at the expense of the Sports Capital Budget.”
In their submission to government Irish sport stressed the importance of the funds administered through the Irish Sports Council which is vital if Irish sporting success is to be maintained.
“Maximising the potential sport offers Ireland does require funding. Sport does feel that it provides excellent value for the €46.87 invested through the Irish Sports Council. Above all it is these current monies that sport is united in wishing to see protected. Sport does recognise the pressure on monies coming from central exchequer at this time. It is for this reason that sport is also calling on the government to be open to new and innovative ways in which sport might be funded into the future. For instance we would immediately like them to see a review of the current situation whereby amateur sport is excluded from the definition of charitable purpose in the 2009 Charities Act. If this was changed we believe it would immediately make it more attractive for the private sector to invest in sport.”
“Equally we must look at the whole area of health and sport. At a time when our country is experiencing a real crisis in terms of obesity and its long term impact on the health budget and ultimately the economy, why are we not using sport/ physical activity to help solve the problem and make major savings some of which could be re-invested in sport? We would like to see public health goals being linked to sports participation ensuring that participation rates are monitored annually. This should be underpinned by the development of a Physical Activity Plan which again we would see being developed as part of the overall vision for sport”.
“It is however in terms of tourism where we believe sport can make a quick and significant impact. Sports Tourism is the fastest growing sector in the global travel industry and is estimated to be worth $600 BILLION annually. We have some fantastic natural sports assets here such as our links golf courses, lakes and rivers and of course two world class stadia. We would like the government to facilitate the setting up of a specific entity to focus on bidding for sports events, both large and small. There is already an excellent model in Denmark where Sport Denmark is now successful in two out of every three bids it makes.”
Concluding the presentation to the two Ministers Sarah O’Connor, said:
“Our vision is an Ireland in which sport is allowed to realise its full potential. We believe the government should support that view, embrace it and help us achieve it. “