2012 was a great year for Irish Sport. The Federation’s Annual Review published at the end of November was testament to this. The achievements of our international athletes across a multitude of sports are well documented. Once again however the success of Irish Sport in 2012 was about much more than just sport.

The continued increase in sports participation achieved through the work of the national sports organisations and local sports partnerships can only have a positive impact at public health at a time when the health budget, more than any area of government expenditure is under extreme strain.

The tourism revenues generated by sport for Ireland as evidenced not just by the American Football match which, brought 37,000 Americans to Ireland for a week but also the multitude of cycles, runs, triathlons and matches that bring money into local economies around the country week in week out. Sport continues to support in excess of 38,000 jobs and contributes €1.4 billion to GDP.

But more than that, sport was a beacon of light and of hope amongst the endless commentary of doom and gloom. We all know where we were when Katie won gold and how good that made us as a country and as a people feel. The impossible became possible. Talent, hard work and belief overcame the challenges and for a few moments, our flag flew higher than all others. Sport taught us that day that we should have faith in ourselves and with the right support, diligence and effort anything is possible.

This is the message that the Federation has been consistently making to government over the last four years and in many ways significant progress was made during 2012. Some of the achievements include:

  • A 2.9% reduction in Irish Sports Council funding in place of the anticipated 5% cut
  • A commitment that sport will form part of the 2013 Global Economic Forum
  • Sport being encouraged to play its part in the Gathering in recognition of sport’s ability to draw people to Ireland
  • 52% of the National Sports Organisations funded by the Irish Sports Council have now made provision for JSI within their rules up from 32% at the start of the year
  • The undertaking of a review of the services provided by JSI as well as a simplification and streamlining of the process through the updating of the JSI Rulebook
  • Launching a group insurance scheme after undergoing an intensive tender process designed to deliver reduced premia and consistency of pricing to all of Irish Sport. 7 organisations have signed up to date achieving a saving of between 11% & 37% on their insurance costs
  • Securing private sector funding to conduct a strategic review with the final report due to be put before the Federation Executive Committee in February
  • Hosting the National Awards to Volunteers in Sport which recognised 11 exceptional individuals whose long commitment to sport is an example of how sport brings out the best in us
  • Making of submissions to the Department of Agriculture in relation to betting tax
  • Submissions made to the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport in relation to alcohol sponsorship of sport and the extension of the existing tax relief programme in relation to donations to sporting bodies as well as on-going consultation on the formation of Sport Ireland
  • Representing Ireland on the European Union’s Expert Group on Good Governance in Sport

2013 economically at least looks like it will be another difficult year for Ireland Inc. The challenge for all of us involved in Irish Sport will be in trying to retain the spirit of the memories created by 2012 to ensure that the potential for sport as a cornerstone on which a better Ireland can be built is not forgotten. There will be better times ahead. Sport cannot only help us get there but will sustain us along the way.

The Federation will be spreading this message in 2013. Not only will we be arguing that no further reductions in funding particularly, to the Irish Sports Council should be made but also that government need to look beyond funding to other policy measures that can be made to facilitate the continued development of sport in Ireland.

We intend to establish a Friends of Sport Group within the Oireachtas and will publish four policy papers over the course of 2013 in addition, to our Annual Review. We will also publish our 5 year Strategic Plan and host our first Annual Conference in May.

We are grateful to our members and to all those with an interest in and passion for Irish Sport for their continued support and assistance to the Federation during 2012. We look forward to working with you for a better sporting future for Ireland and all of her people next year. In the meantime on behalf of the team in the office and the Executive Committee, we would like to wish you and yours a very Happy Christmas and nothing but the best for 2013.  Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi shonas duit