At the 2024 Irish Sport Industry Awards, Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath TD delivered the keynote address to the award nominees, invited guests, members of the Federation of Irish Sport and leaders from across the Irish sports sector.


During his speech, he spoke evocatively about sport. He reflected on the pride he experiences as a father of seven children, and how sport has positively shaped their lives. Notably his proudest sporting achievement on a personal level, was winning an U12 soccer championship in 1988, which he vividly remembers.


Speaking to the Federation of Irish Sport, Minister McGrath said, “Sport is how I switch off. It’s not so much through participating but its through watching my children on the field of play…. Life would be very dull in the McGrath household if it wasn’t for sport.”


The Irish Sport Industry Awards recognises and celebrates the business of sport across a broad range of diverse categories. What stood out about the awards was the sheer scope of talent and achievement across the sector.


“It’s great to be part of a celebration of excellence in sport, in many different respects. Whether it be successful businesses’ in sport, or recognising the progress made on female participation or the work being done to ensure inclusivity and bringing communities together. There is so much to acknowledge and celebrate.”


The inherent value of sport is embodied by the dedicated and hard working 64,000 strong workforce employed within the sports sector and the overall value of sport to the Irish economy is estimated to be €3.7 billion annually.


In so many respects, since the foundation of the state, Ireland has fought above its weight on the international stage. The Irish sports sector is no different. Over the last ten years, the Irish sports sector has grown faster than any other part of the Irish economy.


“We’ve seen studies which show the economic value of sport”, said Minister McGrath. “There are tens of thousands of jobs which are supported by sport and the €3 billion plus in terms of consumer spend. There are lots of metrics there which underline the economic contribution of sport. But I think the most important contribution of sport is to communities throughout the length and breadth of our country.”


In May, financial services firm Grant Thornton published an economic impact report, which stated that the value of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic to the Irish economy was €180 million and it attracted over 39,000 US visitors to Ireland. In the same month, Dublin hosted the 2024 UEFA Europa League Final for the first time in over a decade. The match is estimated to have generated €15 million for the Irish economy and attracted thousands of German and Italian tourists to Ireland.


Last month, the Government announced a record fund of €250 million for its sports capital and equipment programme, a 50% increase in comparison to the previous funding round announced in 2020. The government has also committed to spending at least €58 million to bring the 2027 Ryder Cup to Ireland. The competition was last hosted in Ireland at the K Club in 2006, and was worth €143 million to the Irish economy. There are hopes that the 2027 competition will vastly exceed that.


Minister McGrath stated “Government is investing in sport at record levels, but we have more work to do because I think there is a lot of untapped potential. We are committed to working with the Federation of Irish Sport, Sport Ireland and all of the different National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships to see what more we can do to help.”


“Yes through direct exchequer support, but also examining what we can do through our tax system for example to try and channel more funding to sport and encourage more partnerships between the sports sector and business community.”