October was a busy month with sport represented at the Global Economic Forum for the first time and Budget 2014 not to mention developments regarding alcohol sponsorship & sport. The Federation are also contributing to a working group headed up by the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport and the Department of Health on the development of a National Physical Activity Plan. Further details are set out below:

1. Global Irish Economic Forum 

Forum Reception

Sport was included for the first time at the Global Irish Economic Forum held in Dublin Castle on the 4th – 5th October.  A reception held by the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport on the Thursday evening provided an opportunity for representatives from Irish Sport to meet with some of the Forum attendees.

Speaking at the reception, Minister Varadkar highlighted that Irish Sport is worth €2.4 billion to the economy and supports more than 40,000 jobs. He also outlined that more than 2% of Ireland’s total workforce work in a sport-related area, and that €818 million is spent annually by Ireland’s 12,000 voluntary sport clubs.

Minster Varadkar highlighted role of sport not just in terms of lifting morale but also its overall contribution to the economy saying, “Sport lifts the spirit in a way that no other sector can. It also makes a significant contribution to the economy, as shown by a recent EU study on the contribution of sport to economic growth. The report highlighted sport’s ability to develop other sectors of the economy including, tourism, fitness, the media, and education.”

The Minister went onto highlight that some 8,826 people are employed directly in the voluntary sport sector, which creates around one job for every €25,000 invested. He also noted that employment in sport is also growing – and cited an example from the GAA who now have 313 people are now employed in Games Development compared to 20 in 1991.

Minister Ring added: “Grants for sports capital projects play a very important role in supporting employment. For example, my officials have calculated that the €13.5 million allocated to sports capital subhead in 2013 will support almost 600 jobs in the construction and related sectors in 2013.  Much of this will benefit job creation in rural areas.”

Minister Varadkar also said: “I set out four priorities for sport when I was appointed Minister. These were to re-start development of the National Sports Campus on a realistic level, re-launch the Sports Capital Programme, protect funding for sport through the Sports Council, and promote sport as an exam subject in schools. Work is progressing well in all these areas.”

“Furthermore, sports-based tourism is prioritized in the Programme for Government because it brings high-yield, high-value international visitors to the country. Sports tourists spend on average twice as much as general tourists, whether attending sporting events or taking part in sport. We have also focused on major events that attract large spectator numbers and overseas media coverage, like the Navy versus Notre Dame American football game, or the annual Irish Open golf event. Almost a fifth of all Gathering events this year were sports-related, while 254,000 Irish residents traveled domestically to sports events last year with an average overnight stay of two nights.”

Panel Discussion

On the Saturday morning a panel comprised of Minister Michael Ring T.D., Martin Naughton (President, Glen Dimplex Group), Eugenie Buckley (Suiko Consulting), Paraic Duffy (Director General, GAA), Hugo Mac Neill (Managing Director, Goldman Sachs Ireland) and Kevin O’Brien (Cricket Ireland) lead a discussion moderated by Newstalk’s Ger Gilroy  on “Promoting the interest of Ireland and its people abroad through Sport”.

 A significant number of Forum attendees sat in on the panel discussion and there was some good interaction with the floor. Recognition that sport had the potential to contribute to Ireland beyond the confines of the sporting activity itself was highlighted with tourism, health and Ireland’s reputation abroad the main focus.

The following initiatives the group felt would be worth examining in more detail:

a) The establishment of a sport specific agency or bidding entity to develop sports tourism in Ireland. The entity would be charged with bringing specified targeted sports events to host in Ireland in accordance with a sports tourism strategy. The success of the Army V Navy American Football match was cited as a very well executed example of the potential of sports events to make a much wider contribution to tourism and the economy.

b)Trade missions could accompany suitable Irish Sporting Tours or Events Abroad. The power of sport in building relationships as well as its association with business life was mentioned. It was felt that the participation of Irish teams or athletes in international events or tours may provide a suitable platform on which to build trade missions. Kevin O’Brien cited the example of where he accompanied Enterprise Ireland on two separate trips to India to highlight Ireland’s education system with a view to attracting Indians to our third level universities and institutions.

2. Budget 2014

The Federation has been liaising with the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport in the aftermath of Budget 2014. The Department have stated that they are working to minimize the reduction in the current funding to sport announced in the recent budget. It is hoped that the final figure for 2014 will be confirmed in December.

Details around the level of funding to be made available to the National Sports Campus Development Authority are also yet to be confirmed although in what is good news for Irish Sport, it is hoped the available monies will be such to allow for the commencement of the development of the National Indoor Training Arena.

The Budget announcement also contained confirmation that there will be a new round of the Sports Capital Programme in 2014. This was the subject of a number of priority questions in the Oireachtas on November 7th. In responding to questions Minister Ring confirmed that details of the new programme were currently being developed and that he hoped to be able to make an announcement before the end of the year. He confirmed that his Department had developed a new portal www.sportscapitalprogramme.ie which will provide information on the new programme and through which applications will be managed. Organisation interested in applying for capital grants should register on the portal. A full transcript of the parliamentary questions can be downloaded at http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/debateswebpack.nsf/takes/dail2013110700010?opendocument#H00450

3. Sponsorship of Sport by Alcoholic Drinks Companies

 The Government confirmed, as part of the 24th October announcement on the new alcohol policy, that the issue of alcohol sponsorship and sport was to be examined by a working group comprised of representatives from key government departments. The working group is due to report back within a year.

4. National Physical Activity Plan

As party of the Government’s “Healthy Ireland” Policy, the Department of Health and the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport are leading a working group to examine the development of a National Physical Activity Plan. The Federation of Irish Sport has been included in the working group along with the Irish Sports Council and representatives from the HSE, Department of Children & Youth Affairs, the City and County Managers Association as well as DCU’s Dr. Catherine Woods.