Budget 2017 confirmed that Sport Ireland funding, which supports the participation and high performance programmes of 74 National Sports Organisations and 26 Local Sports Partnerships as well as Coaching Ireland, the Institute of Sport, the National Sports Campus and Sport Ireland’s own research, anti-doping, and trails programme, is to remain static at the 2016 level of €47.266 million.
This contrasts with the €6 million increase in funding awarded to the Horse & Greyhound Fund next year, the third consecutive increase awarded to horse and greyhound racing by Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan. Government funding for horse and greyhound racing at €64 million for 2017 now exceeds the pre-recession peak of €62.6 million reached in 2008.
Current funding for sport remains someway off its 2008 peak of €57 million. This is despite the reality that sport and physical activity have a key role to play in public health with physical inactivity estimated to contribute up to 11% of the overall health spend, to the economy in supporting an estimated 40,000 jobs in Ireland, to tourism in generating up to €1 billion in revenue for Ireland each year, to active citizenship with more than 500,000 Irish adults volunteering in sport each year and to Ireland’s reputation with 89% of people believing sport has a positive effect on Ireland’s reputation.
Indeed, the stagnant funding levels is in reality a reduction when the impact of the two new programmes to which Sport Ireland is already committed are taken into account namely, the financial support for the Women’s Gaelic Players Association and the operating subsidy for the National Sports Campus.
Speaking of the decision not to increase funding, Chief Executive of the Federation of Irish Sport James Galvin said:
“There is a strong feeling amongst our members that it is time that the Government took sport seriously. In recent years, there has been acknowledgement of the role sport and physical activity plays in public health as evidenced through the publication of the National Physical Activity Plan, talk of the importance of participation, commendation of the role of volunteers in delivering grassroots sport and no shortage of congratulations when Irish athletes perform on the world stage.
“Yet when it comes to securing current funding for sport either through the direct allocation of funds or the introduction of initiatives to incentivise private sector investment in sport there has been little change. This is a source of great disappointment to our members who are working hard to achieve their dual mandate of increasing participation and allowing Irish athletes with talent to achieve on the world stage.”
Irish Sport bodies do welcome the confirmation that there will be another Sports Capital Programme next year to assist with the development, maintenance and upkeep of sports facilities and equipment right around the country. The continued development of the National Sports Campus is also welcome although there are concerns as to whether the second phase of the National Indoor Arena will proceed given the overall reduction in capital funding, as well as questions being raised about the future funding of operations at the Campus.
Chief Executive James Galvin stating:
“Whilst it is always welcome to see funding for sport be it capital or current to Irish Sport Organisations, we believe that it is current funding over capital investment that has the real potential to be transformative to Irish Sport. This is supported by international research which has found that people and programmes are more important to participation than facilities. Our members are also concerned that the National Sports Campus, a very welcome addition to the national infrastructure, will not be completed given the pressures likely to come on capital spending centrally and indeed, that the facilities already constructed will be sufficiently well funded to operate.”