Federation of Irish Sport (FIS) were once again delighted to hots the Annual Leaders Forum on “Future-proofing Irish Sport through Policy, Partnership and Collaboration”

  • Launch of new FIS Strategic Plan (2024-2029)
  • Government update on National Sports Policy (2018-2027)
  • Government update on Auto-enrolment Retirement Savings System
  • CEO insights on Philanthropy and Sport

Dublin, February 2nd, 2024: The Federation of Irish Sport (FIS) hosted its Annual Leaders Forum on Wednesday, January 31st, 2024, at the Campus Conference Centre, National Sports Campus. Under the theme of “Future-proofing Irish Sport through Policy, Partnership and Collaboration,” the forum brought together senior management from member National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships alongside valued commercial partners of the Federation to discuss relevant topics shaping the future of Irish sport.

Mary O’Connor, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport opened proceedings by welcoming attendees and launching the new FIS Strategic Plan 2024-2029. The new strategic roadmap sets the course for the Federation’s activities and initiatives over the next five years, reflecting its commitment to advancing the Irish sports sector. The plan is built upon three strategic pillars aimed at driving effective member support, fostering resilience and sustainability within the Federation, and advocating purposefully for the sports sector. Full details of the plan can be found on www.irishsport.ie/policies

A key highlight of the forum were the insightful updates from both the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and the Department of Social Protection. James Lavelle of the Sports Policy Division of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media provided an overview of the current status on the implementation of the National Sports Policy Plan (NSP) 2018-2027. He indicated while high performance strategies and funding are on track, participation and capacity within the sector remain a top priority. Supporting the development of a sports sector workforce strategy under Action 33 of the NSP will be key to addressing the ongoing workforce challenges within the sector. It was noted that there are 1.75 million people participating in sport and physical activity regularly and recognition of the importance that #SportMatters.

Tim Duggan, Assistant Secretary General at Department for Social Protection, 

James Lavelle, Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media

Mary O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer at Federation of Irish Sport

Tim Duggan, Assistant Secretary General at the Department of Social Protection, shed light on the implications of Pension Auto-enrolment for sports sector employers and employees, emphasising the importance of financial planning and security within the industry. He outlined how the auto-enrolment process with work with up to 800,000 workers who will be automatically included in the pension scheme through existing pay roll systems. The criteria for those eligible are related to age (23-60), earnings threshold (over 20k pa) and those not already in a pension scheme. Employees meeting these criteria will be automatically enrolled and a voluntary opt-in for those outside age and income thresholds. Employers will match the employee’s contribution and there will be a State top-up. Full details of the retirement savings system coming into effect later this year can be found at www.gov.ie/autoenrolment

The forum also addressed the crucial role of philanthropy in supporting sports initiatives, with Éilis Murray, CEO of Philanthropy Ireland, provided an overview of the National Philanthropy Policy 2024-2028. She outlined how this new policy is a ‘blueprint’ for collaboration to create an enabling environment, to accelerate engagement with Philanthropy in Ireland for social good and the role the sports sector can play in this.

Dennis O’Connor, CEO of 2into3, explored the intersection of philanthropy and sport, highlighting opportunities for enhanced participation, performance, and potential within the sector. He outlined how Irish sporting organisations already actively engage in philanthropy through volunteering, sponsorship, and fundraising. He noted that at least half of Ireland’s 1m+ volunteers give their time to sporting activities. In 2021 alone, an estimated 37.3 million hours were volunteered in local sports organisations, a reflection of Irish dedication to their sporting organisations. He commented how looking ahead, the Philanthropic Pie for Sports in Ireland has the potential to be significantly larger, if given the support it requires. Ireland’s Philanthropic Pie is predicted to potentially increase to €3b within 5 Years, from €1.63bn.


Éilis Murray, Chief Executive Officer at Philanthropy Ireland

Dennis O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer at 2into3

Roundtable conversation and Q&A

The Annual Leaders Forum concluded with a roundtable conversation and Q&A on the topic of Fundraising and Philanthropy and the importance of sporting organisations being ‘donor ready’. This was moderated by Matt McKerrow Associate Consultant 2into3 and guest speakers James O’Callaghan, Performance Director Irish Sailing Association, John Feehan, CEO Basketball Ireland with expert insights from 2into3’s Director of Fundraising Rob Foley and Patricia Keenan, Director of Grant Services. Post-event the conversation continued in-depth amongst attendees over lunch.