The role of sport in promoting business opportunities was one of the topics for conversation at the recent inaugral British Irish Chamber of Commerce Conference held at the Aviva Stadium on 24th & 25th January.

The discussion on culture, tourism and sport was designed to develop two or three initiatives to be brought to government to assist collaboration between those sectors and business. The speakers included former Irish rugby international and Chair of the Ireland Funds, Hugo MacNeill, CEO of Business2Arts, Stuart McLaughlin and musician, film-maker and broadcaster Philip King.

There was general agreement that culture and sport had a key role to play in forging relations between Britian and Ireland.  It was recognised that there was a need for more data or information on the role of culture and sport in particular. Research however should focus not just on quantitative information but also qualitative.

The need for a joining of the dots was also highlighted. The positive impact on business of the Navy v Notre Dame rugby match was mentioned but it was felt that there could be more communication around such events so that business was better place to take advantage of the influx of people and sense of occasion created by such events.

The role culture and sport could play in contributing to the development of a shared future between he communities in Northern Ireland was also emphasised.  Hugo MacNeil stated that a best in class economy was simply not possible whilst sectarianism was in existence. He felt there was a role for sport and culture in bringing sectarianism to an end mentioning that the highlight of his rugby career was the involvement in the Peace International in Landsdowne Road in 1996.

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce was established in August 2011 with a view to assisting and improving the longstanding commercial and economic relationship between the Islands. The Chamber has a Culture, Tourism & Sport Committee of which Ulster Bank’s Head of Product and Service Sales is Chair. Further information on the British Irish Chamber of Commerce can be found on their website