THE SPORTING BODY that represents over 100 sporting organisations in this country has called on government to provide “innovative thinking, swift action, and investment at local and national level to help sustain sport through this unprecedented emergency”.

In a statement released this morning, the Federation of Irish Sport whose membership consists of over 100 National Governing Bodies and Local Sport Partnerships, asked for a government task force to be set up.

Their statement read: “There has been no organised sport in Ireland for 10 weeks. The stark reality is that the knock-on effects of Covid-19 financially for all sports organisations in the country are devastating.

“Within the last week, we have seen a number of our major team sports talk publicly of losses up to 70% of their turnover. Unfortunately, we are also seeing these type of percentages in revenue losses right across the sporting landscape in Ireland. All sports have been impacted.

While we welcome the setting up of the Return to Sport Expert Group, its remit is very specific which is to assess the consistency of the various protocols being prepared by NGBs to return to sport in Ireland.

“The Federation believes however that in addition to this Group, that sport needs a separate Task Force similar to the one Government has set up for the Tourism Industry. We need innovative thinking, swift action, and investment at local and national level providing business and administrative supports to Irish Sport to help sustain it through this unprecedented emergency and the recovery.

“The fact is that many of our 13,000 clubs and sporting organisations may not survive the financial impact of Covid-19 without financial assistance now. We are calling on the Government to introduce a Resilience Fund for sport immediately.

While the government are to be commended not alone on their support for the charitable sector but also for the €250 million fund set up for small business, the reality is that sport needs similar support. Sports clubs across all sports are in most cases small businesses as well as social enterprises – in some cases not that small either!

“It is all too easy to forget that sport in Ireland is today an industry that employs some 40,000 people (supported by some 500,000 volunteers) and which also accounts for €2.7 billion in consumer spending. It also is worth €500 million to our tourism industry.

“The Covid-19 Irish Sport Resilience Fund needs to be established by Government as a matter of urgency. Similar funds were introduced by Sport England and Sport New Zealand a number of weeks ago.

“As is the case in both those countries, support will be needed for club and community sports organisations as well as sports organisations funded through Sport Ireland. This financial assistance must help sports organisations facing particular financial difficulty and support organisations in getting back to business and adapting to the new reality as restrictions lift.”

Sarah Keane, Swim Ireland’s CEO, added: “Whilst we have been operating at full speed providing different engagement opportunities for our members (over 2,000 people will have undergone some form of training/learning with us in May alone), we are very concerned about our clubs and getting our members back into the water.

“We are particularly concerned about the ability of swimming pools to open and be viable whilst adhering to physical distancing protocols. Many are facing a scenario of retaining 80-100% of the running costs whilst operating at only 30-40% of capacity. The impact of this on swimming, leisure centres and hotels, and therefore our sport and physical activity, is potentially catastrophic.”