• 86% of NGBs describe the economic impact of COVID-19 as ‘Negative’ or worse.
  • 74% of NGBs have availed of at least one government financial support.
  • 53% of LSPs will require ongoing financial support to return to full capacity.
  • 57% believe COVID-19 will result in a permanent loss of sports volunteers.
  • Report focuses on Economic and Social impact as well as impact on progress made and the future outlook of those within sector.

Today, 27th of May 2021, The Federation of Irish Sport are pleased to release an important report on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Sport and Physical Activity sector in Ireland. The report illustrates findings of a survey conducted with Federation of Irish Sport member National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships and highlights the significantly challenging circumstances of many Irish sporting bodies as a result of the pandemic. The Federation is hopeful that the insight provided in the report will assist in shaping further economic and social supports for the sector.

Speaking about the report, Federation of Irish Sport Chairperson Clare McGrath said, ‘This report was a significant and important piece of work for the Federation and our members. It demonstrates the immense challenges being faced by our sporting bodies and just how damaging the pandemic has been economically and socially. However, it also highlights the resilience and positivity of those working in the sector and their views on what is needed to emerge from the pandemic stronger.’

Federation CEO Mary O’Connor added, ‘In 2020 the government provided much needed financial support to the sector in the form of a €70m resilience package. This report showcases just how many bodies relied on such supports for survival and demonstrates that with continued support, the sector can recover and return to its pre-pandemic strengths. We have shared the findings of this work with Minister Jack Chambers and his department and look forward to working with the Minister to address some of the key aspects highlighted by the report’.

National Sports Policy Progress & Minority Groups

While the impact of COVID-19 on the sector has been widely spoken about in recent months, the Federation’s report provides a more detailed understanding of the social impact on the various groups accessing sport and physical activity. Despite previously published insights stating a rise in adults being physically active in Ireland and 65% of NGBs offering activities that target minority groups, 69% of NGB respondents believe that such groups, as outlined in the National Sports Policy, have been disproportionately affected by the restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19.

Furthermore, 36% of NGBs have seen a drop of 50% or more in their membership numbers with both adults and underage members being impacted in largely equal measure. These insights are concerning both now and for the long term progress of the sector as a whole. Such developments stand to potentially impact on the progress of the National Sports Policy objectives unless supported appropriately.


The Federation has long championed the importance of sports volunteers and noted throughout 2020 just how resourceful many volunteers had been in supporting their communities when sport ceased. Thus, it is particularly concerning to see that 57% of NGBs believe that the pandemic will result in a permanent loss of volunteers from sport. Without such diligent and hardworking volunteers, many sporting organisations would not exist. While the financial impact has been grave for many, recovery efforts would be further hampered by the loss of invaluable volunteers.

More positive aspects of the report include that 67% of Local Sports Partnerships believe their organisation possesses the reliance and governance structures to survive the effects of COVID-19. Furthermore, the Federation is encouraged by the innovation and adaptation shown by sporting organisations, 91% of whom have adapted activities to some form of digital delivery. While it is positive to see 43% of people ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that they will rebound to pre-pandemic strength, it is noteworthy that 79% believe this is rebound needs to be financially supported.


The Federation of Irish Sport would like to thank the University of Limerick and in particular, Helen Purtill for her support in collating and analysing the findings of the survey.

The Federation would also like to thank the 50 members (35 NGBs and 15 LSPs) who contributed to the findings.

The survey of members was conducted in May 2021.

Full report can be found at: https://www.irishsport.ie/covid-19-impact-report/





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