December 7th 2012 | Other


Irish Sports Continue to Shine Brightly – but Strikes Cautious Note for the Future

Irish sport continues to be one of the few bright spots for Ireland in these difficult economic
times. In a year that has seen Irish soccer feature once again at a major championship,
Katie Taylor win Olympic Gold, our Paralympians take 16 medals at the London Games,
Kilkenny continue their remarkable feats, Rory McIlroy win all around him and Irish rugby
unveil a new and exciting generation of players, Irish sport has provided one of the few
beacons of hope for the country.

At the same time sport cannot be taken for granted and decisions taken now could have a
major negative impact in the future that could set Irish sport back decades. These are just
a number of the key messages in this year’s annual Review of Irish Sport which has been
published by the Federation of Irish Sport. The Review was launched earlier today, Friday,
30 November, 2012.

The Federation, which represents Ireland’s national sporting organisations, has been
publishing an annual review since 2009. The main purpose of the Review is to remind key
influencers of the positive power of sport in Ireland and also to ensure that the development
and funding of sport remains a Government priority. As in previous years the Federation
has used its Review not alone to warn against funding cuts but to also suggest ways in
which changes in Government policy could be beneficial to the development of Irish sport
and its funding.

In her review of the year Federation CEO, Sarah O’Connor, said that she was delighted to
note that the Government had given a commitment to involve sport in next year’s Global
Economic Forum. She said it was recognition of the very real contribution sport is today
making to the Irish economy and to our reputation both at home and abroad.

She went on to say that the Federation and its members fully recognise the difficulties for
Government funding for sport today and that she was felt it was even more essential that
the Government be open to explore other ways of securing investment in sport. She said
that now was not the time to make decisions on areas such as sports sponsorship by alcohol
companies. She said that all the research that the Federation had undertaken pointed to the
fact that there are little or no new sponsorship monies available in the marketplace. She
said that whatever is done in the long-term nothing should be done in the short-term.

She also noted that sport had made a submission to the Government in relation to funding
of amateur sport. “Amateur sport is at a distinct disadvantage to other areas of community
and voluntary sector given that unlike them it doesn’t qualify for charitable status. There is
therefore no incentive to give to sport in the same way that there are for other causes that
are of public benefit.” She said that a change in the status of amateur sport could make a
huge difference to sport in the short term.

She again noted the importance of volunteerism in Irish sports. She said that without the
500,000 plus volunteers that are involved in Irish sport every year that it would simply cease
to function. She said it was all too easy to forget that there is a real economic value on such
volunteering and the value to sport is of the order of €350 million a year.

In conclusion she also noted the fact that sport was committed to being part of The
Gathering in 2013. She believed that sports tourism, as evidenced by such events as the
US Football match in Dublin and the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway could be of huge benefit
in the re-building of the country. She appealed to the Government to set up a specialist
agency, along similar lines to that in Denmark, to bid for sports events. She noted that Sport
Event Denmark was now successful in two out of every three bids it made.

The Future of Irish Sport

As part of this year’s Review the Federation asked a number of experts in the sporting area
to look ahead to the year 2020 with a view to seeing what sport could be like for the country
if it were given the right support. There was remarkable consistency among many of those
asked and the key findings as to what they would like to see sport looking like in 2020 were
as follows:

• One single State entity to deal with all sport, bringing together the old Irish Sports
Council, the National Sports Campus Development Authority, Coaching Ireland and
the Irish Institute of Sport. The new entity to have control over all elements of sport
including high performance NGB grants, the sports capital budget and also to be
involved in all decisions relating to sport and health and sports tourism.

• Recognition of sport as a cornerstone for the improvement of Irish Society and
increased co-operation between all Government Departments having an impact on

• Charitable status for amateur sport to help free up new streams of revenue.

• Monies from taxes raised from the betting industry to be shared across all sports.

• The setting up of a single agency to bid for international sports events.

• Sport to be used as a vehicle to improve the health of the nation. Only this week
a new study showed that obesity/overweight is costing the island of Ireland €1.65
billion a year.

• The completion of the National Sports Campus.

• Ireland having a high performance system that matches the very best in the world

• All schools having physical education as part of their curriculum.

• Greater involvement of women in sport throughout all of their lives

• Ireland hosting the Rugby World Cup 2023.

The Full Report can be read here

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