Minister Ring, speaking at the European Parliament on January 23rd, confirmed that the sustainable financing of sport and dual careers for sportspeople would be the key issues from the EU Work Plan on Sport that Ireland would seek to progress during its European Presidency.

Speaking in Brussells,  Minister Ring was keen to highlight the positive impact of sport:

“There are huge economic and social benefits to be gained from sport. In the current climate it is important to recognise the importance of sport for economic and social development, both at national and European level. Sport plays a vital role in improving the health and well being of our citizens and instills a sense of place and belonging among those who play and those who follow sport.”

On Ireland’s Presidency, Minsister Ring continued:

“The Irish Presidency aims to ensure the implementation of the first EU workplan of sport in cooperation with the Commission and the Member States; and indeed with the support of our colleagues in the European Parliment, our priorities include dual careers, the sustainable financing of sport and issues around protecting the integrity of sport.”

Minister Ring said it was important that situations where sports people were forced to choose between either education and/or work and sport needs to be avoided. The Irish Presidency, in light of the increasing demands on professional sports players, will prepare a set of conclusions on dual careers with a view to them being adopted at the meeting of the Education, Culture, Youth & Sport Council in May

The sustainable financing of sport is another focus of the Irish presidency with Minister Ring indicating that the issue of economic contribution of sport and the financing of sport will be a common theme throughout the current trio of presidency.

On the econominc contribution of sport, Minister Ring said:

“The contribution of sport to economic growth and employment has been recorded by a series of recent studies. The gross value added by in the EU in €173bn or 1.76% of the EU total value; 3.1 million people are employed in sport in the EU and this amounts to 2.12% of total EU employment.”

Other areas of focus for the Irish Presidency include the areas of matching fixing and doping. Speaking about priorities for sport during Ireland’s presidency, the Federation of Irish Sport Chief Executive, Sarah O’Connor said:

“The Presidency gives Ireland an opportunity to contribute to the on-going development of European sports policy. Our track record of involvement in Europe in relation to sport was limited up until recently. However, this has approved over the last two years with the appointment of Irish representatives to each of the six EU Expert Groups on Sport. It is good to see that the focus of our Presidency will be on some of the outcomes of 3 of those Expert Groups.

“The Federation also welcomes Minister Ring’s acknowledgement of the contribution of sport to economic growth and employment. The Federation has sought to heighten awareness of this in Ireland with recent European research indicating that up to 40,000 jobs are supported by sport in Ireland alone with sport contributing €2.4 billion to GDP.”

Ireland will host will host two sport related events over the course of the Presidency with a conference on the Sustainable Financing of Sport on the 7th March with an informal meeting of the Sport Directors from across the EU taking place the following day. Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, will also represent Europe on the World Anti Doping Authority (WADA) council for the next 18 months.