The last twelve months have seen Irish sportsmen and sportswomen compete at the highest level all over the world and in doing so have raised all our spirits in these depressing times.
Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom is quite clear on how his sport became the talk of not just cricketing circles, but the entire world, after the Irish men’s team’s historic win over England at the Cricket World Cup – and the lift it gave to the nation of Ireland.
Ireland’s heroic victory over one of the world’s best teams captured the attention of Ireland, raising spirits in depressing times and created a buzz around Irish sport. “It was extraordinary the lift it gave to the nation,” said Mr Deutrom.
“We had Enda Kenny, we had Mary McAleese, we had Peter Robinson in the north; everybody was saying how important it was to give the nation a lift. You can’t put any money on top of that, it was absolutely hugely important.”
Next year it’s football’s turn in the spotlight as they head into Euro12, their first major international tournament in ten years. Those who remember Stuttgart in ’88 and Italia ’90 will never forget the sense of pride that overcame the nation.
In a recent article, leading economist Jim Power mirrored Mr Deutrom’s sentiments on how sport can lift the nation: “We can now look forward to the tournament in Poland and the Ukraine next June and it can only give a lift to the nation for two or three weeks that we will be involved. The Irish as a race are very interested in sport and will lend our support to all sporting creeds.”
But Mr Power believes the advantages of appearing at a major event don’t stop there. He maintains that performance at the highest level can also have economic benefits to the country; he believes that Ireland’s appearance in next year’s Euro12 could instigate €100million worth of extra spending over the course of the tournament. Meanwhile a bounce in consumer sentiment in October has been attributed Ireland’s success at the Rugby World Cup, adding to the overall economic impact of sport – which already contributes 1.8billion to Ireland’s GDP.
But Irish sport getting to this stage does not happen by accident, it is the product of investment. As Mr Deutrom highlights, it was down to the investment in Irish cricket, which brought it from international minnows to world beaters.
“How did we achieve all that? We achieved it through the funding that we received through the government in Sport Northern Ireland, through the government in the Irish Sports Council, investing in participation, investing in players, investing in our contracts programme.
“To try and undermine that would seriously undermine our ability to achieve those things on the world stage.”
Irish sport can have a major role to play in restoring Irish confidence and the Irish economy.