It has been quite the summer of sport for our near neighbours in Britain finally, breaking the Wimbledon hoodoo, another victory in Le Tour not to mention a 2-0 lead in the Ashes over the once invincible Aussies.
Not a bad summer of sport for our athletes either, Graeme McDowell & Michael Hoey winning tournaments, Dan Martin in the Tour, Irish representatives in the Lions, the cricketers securing World Cup qualification, 4 swimmers ranked in the top 20 in the World for the first time, 5 world Paralympic athletic medals and that is before the great performances to date in the football and hurling Championships are digested.
Interesting so that this week Sir Chris Hoy, when launching the ticketing programme for next year’s Commonwealth Games, felt it was important to highlight the need for investment in sport to continue. Emphasising the need to support future athletes, Hoy said that whilst money does not buy medals it does provide a platform for them.
Hoy warns against the complacency that success can bring stating that it is often the tournaments or events where things go badly that traditionally have provoked change or increased investment in sporting structures. The Irish Government too could do well to take note of Hoy’s thoughts particularly, as they look to make decisions in the next few weeks as part of the budgetary process on the level of investment in Irish Sport for 2014.
On one hand, Irish Sport has never had it so good. Increased consistency in performance on the international stage across a number of different sports coupled with improved numbers in those participating in sport. The Irish Sports Council’s 2011 monitor found that rates of participation amongst the Irish population had increased from 34% to 46%.
On the other hand there is much yet to be done, with EU research finding recently that Irish primary schools rank as the worst in Europe when it comes to the provision of PE. Irish secondary schools were only slightly better in fourth from bottom. Obesity too represents a growing challenge with 61% of Irish adults and over 300,000 children being either overweight or obese. Not to mention the on-going issue of getting the 13% of the population that are sedentary active.
Neither participation nor performance should be taken for granted. We are surrounded by sport. It would be easy to assume that it will always be there. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that almost all of Irish Sport is delivered by a volunteer workforce which is operating in an increasingly regulated environment. Standards have been raised and whilst, this is a positive development, it also highlights the reality that sport needs to be developed, managed, delivered and above all financed. Those working at grassroots need to be supported.
This year’s budget is crucial. The available government funding for sports bodies is already down 25% since 2008. Commercial revenue and in particular, sponsorship is difficult to obtain. Clubs and participants in sport are under financial pressure. Despite all of this sport has been one of the few things to sustain us over the last few years.
As well as contributing to improved public health, sustaining our communities or enhancing our reputation abroad, sport has that intangible ability to give us a bit of a lift. Sport has provided a different focus in the midst of our economic woes….….a forum in which just sometimes the impossible becomes possible. When it happens it is always worth the wait, just ask the Monaghan Gaelic football supporters!
€43.2 million was the amount made available to assist in the on-going development of Irish Sport in 2013 – that figure represents 0.0032% of the €13.6 billion spent on health, 0.0021% of the €20.246 billion spent on Social Protection and 0.0050% of the €8.5 billion spent on education, all Departments on which sport has a significant impact and in many cases has the potential to do even more.
There are many deserving causes in Ireland in 2013 but is €43 million really too difficult to find to assist in the safeguarding of sport? In addition to the reality that sport generates a return of €149 for every €100 invested, sport remains a force for good in our society which reaches into virtually every community in Ireland through its network of 12,000 clubs across 70 plus sports. There are few activities that reach such a significant proportion of Ireland’s population.
2.1 million Irish people actively participate in sport, enabled by a volunteer workforce of over 500,000 and supported and enjoyed by many more both home and abroad. Protecting this funding is not simply an investment in the present but also a foundation stone for the creation of a better Ireland in the future.
For those who would like to know more about just what sport delivers to Ireland, please click on the ‘Why Irish Sport Matters’ infographic