Federation makes submission on Department of Justice’s Charities Act Consultation

The Federation of Irish Sport used the opportunity of the Department of Justice & Equality’s recent consultation on the Charities Act, 2009 (the “Act”) to request that the status of sport in the context of the legislation be re-examined.

Sport is excluded from the remit of the Act, by the cross reference in the definition of “excluded body” at section 2 of the Act to s.235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 which defines an approved body for the purposes of that legislation as “any body of persons established for the sole purpose of promoting athletic or amateur games or sports.”

The Act sets out at Section 3(11) a number of specific purposes included in the definition of “purpose of the benefit to the community”. These include a number of purposes in which, sport has a significant role to play namely;

  • The advancement of community welfare
  • The promotion of civic responsibility or voluntary work
  • The promotion of health, including the prevention or relief of sickness, disease or human suffering
  • The promotion of religious or racial harmony and harmonious community relations
  • The advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or sciences; and
  • The integration of those who are disadvantaged, and the promotion of their full participation, in society

The Federation set out its belief that recognition of sport as a charitable purpose would be due recognition of its contribution to the creation of a better Ireland. A number of other countries that share Ireland’s common law background and where sport was traditionally not recognised as a charitable purpose have in recent years passed legislation regarding charities with all introducing charitable status for sport in some shape or form. These include:

  • England and Wales – “advancement of amateur sport” – sport meaning sports or games which promote health by physical or mental skill or exertion – Charities Act (England and Wales), 2006
  • Northern Ireland – “advancement of amateur sport” – sport meaning sports or games which promote health by physical or mental skill or exertion – Charities Act (Northern Ireland), 2008
  • Scotland – “the advancement of public participation in sport” – sport meaning sport which involves physical skill and exertion – Charities and Trustee Investment, (Scotland) Act, 2005
  • New Zealand – “the promotion of athletic sports” – Charities Act, 2005
  • Singapore –  “the advancement of sport, where sport promotes health through physical skill and exertion”
  • USA – “fostering national or international amateur sports competition” – s501 Internal Revenue Code

The Federation’s position in relation to the need for the exclusion of sport from being recognised as a charitable purpose  can be summarised as follows:

  1. The granting of charitable status to amateur sport would reflect the significant public benefits sport delivers to Irish Society meeting as it does many of the purposed specifically designated as charitable by the Act.
  2. The consequences for fundraising for sport once the Charities Registration Authority (the CRA”) to be established under the Act and its Register of Charities is in place. The vast majority of sporting activity operates on a not-for-profit basis with many organisations particularly, clubs relying on fundraising income to support their activities. However, given that sport does not have charitable status and therefore does not come within the remit of the Act information that will be available publicly on virtually all other areas of the not for profit sector through the CRA will not be available on sporting bodies. For example, a person being asked to support an arts organisation in any given community will be able to access the Register and see the information on that organisation. However, that information will not be available on sports organisations. As the regime established by the CRA becomes more embedded in Irish Society there is a real risk that this will negatively impact on confidence in sports organisations and as a result their ability to fundraise.
  3. Sport given the wider impact on Irish society should not be placed at a significant disadvantage compared to the rest of the not for profit sector.


Funding, Evidence & Education the key issues at Committee Appearance on alcohol sponsorship

The CEOs of the FAI, GAA & IRFU outlined their opposition to a ban on the sponsorship of sport by alcohol companies at an appearance before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications on March 27th 2013.

The three organisations emphasised the harm that would be done to sport by the withdrawal of such funding where no replacement funding was available. The IRFU stated that alcohol sponsorship generates €9 million for them whilst the FAI stated that a substantial portion of their €6 million in commercial revenue came from alcohol companies. The Director General of the GAA, Páraic Duffy, outlined that whilst the GAA centrally were not overly dependent on  such sponsorship a ban on alcohol sponsorship would have negative implications for the many clubs around the country that receive support from local bars and hotels.

All three sports said they acknowledge the challenging issues posed by alcohol for Irish Society but emphasised that in the absence of any empirical evidence establishing a link between sport sponsorship and the increased likelihood of underage drinking, that a ban at this stage would do more harm than good. Philip Browne also pointed out that there was no evidence internationally that a ban, if introduced would reduce alcohol consumption rate. He stated that the opposite was occurring in France with drinking rates rising amongst young people despite the putting in place of the “Loi Evin” there in 1991 as a measure to protect their wine industry.

The three sports organisations were at pains to emphasise the good work being done nationwide by all sporting organisations particularly, in combating the increasing obesity epidemic, promoting healthy lifestyles and the social outlet afforded by sport to communities. John Delaney of the FAI pointed out that the introduction of such a ban would do more harm than good to society with the reduction in available funding to sport would negatively impact on their ability to bring sport to new and disadvantaged communities.

Reference to the challenging sponsorship market that exists at present was also relevant according to each of the three speakers. Páraic Duffy stated that he had never seen such tough conditions in which to secure sponsorship. Philip Browne of the IRFU said that this emphasised the reality that there will be no replacement sponsors if the alcohol companies were to be prohibited from sponsoring sport.

The potential impact on Ireland hosting major sporting events was also referenced with both Philip Browne and John Delaney saying that the challenge of brining the Rugby World Cup or Euro2020 matches to Ireland would be greatly increased if the “beverage partner” category were not available to the event organisers as sponsors.

Offering an alternative approach to the underlying issues around alcohol, all three organisations stated the importance of education in changing behaviour and attitudes towards drinking. They outlined that all three organisations were willing to use their network which stretches into every community in the country to facilitate such education. The GAA pointed in particular to the education and intervention  “Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programme” they have been running for the last three years in this area and to the changes in behaviour they had already begun to see as a result. He also mentioned their “Healthy Club” initiative recently launched by the GAA in conjunction with the HSE. Philip Browne said that he felt the IRFU and other sporting bodies were in an ideal place to assist Government in launching educational initiatives for young people around the issues of alcohol.

The debate follows on from the publication over a year ago of the Report of the National Taskforce on Substance Abuse on the issue of the misuse of alcohol and other drugs. The prohibition of alcohol sponsorship was amongst the recommendations made in the Report. However the primary focus of the report is on other issues including in particular, the availability and pricing of alcohol.

It is estimated that alcohol sponsorship may generate as much as €30 million in income for sport which, represents approximately 70% of the Irish Sports Council’s 2013 budget of €43.21 million.

The Federation have previously made a submission to Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport on the issue. A copy of our submission can be viewed here.


Ring uses Dáil Questions to outline views on alcohol sponsorship

The Minister for Tourism & Sport, in response to a parliamentary question, on alcohol sponsorship and sport stated that placing constraints on sporting organisations by eliminating such sponsorship will have negative impacts on the development and availability of sport. Thereby having a negative knock on effect on the Government’s efforts to maintain and increase sporting participation.

He emphasised the level of income generated by such sponsorship at approximately €30 million when compared to the Irish Sport Council’s total budget of just over €40 million. Minister Ring also highlighted that difficulties currently being experienced by a number of high profile events and teams would indicate that such sponsorship if prohibited would not be easily replaced.

Minister Ring said he did not want to see sports organisations put in a position where their development programmes would have to be curtailed given, the important role they play in promoting participation at all levels.

He set out his belief that any measures introduced should be evidence based, effective and reasonable. Whilst he acknowledged that various reports point to an increasing number of young people who commence drinking before reaching 18, Minister Ring pointed out that the UK had taken into account the failure of such a ban to curb drinking levels in young people in France, when rejecting a similar prohibition there.

In response to queries on the €40 million of state investment in sport vis-à-vis the estimated €5.5 billion spent by the State combatting alcohol and obesity issues, Minister Ring state that he agreed wholeheartedly but that Government thinks in terms of one to five years rather than one to fifteen years. He stated that the more money invested in sport the healthier society will be noting in particular, the lower incidence of diabetes and obesity for example.

The transcript of the Dáil questions and the Minister’s response can be viewed here