Joining forces the GAA, FAI, IRFU, the GUI, the Olympic Council of Ireland, the Paralympic Council and Special Olympics Ireland, and the Federation of Irish Sport.
In making the submission on behalf of everyone involved in Irish sport, the delegation emphasised the important role sport plays in Irish life, in improving public health, contributing to economic activity, driving tourism, building communities and projecting a positive image of brand “Ireland” at home and abroad.
Irish sport has already suffered a significant reduction in funding with the suspension of the Sports Capital Programme and an 11% reduction in 2009 of Irish Sports Council funding. The McCarthy Report now recommends further cuts.
Sport is not looking for additional funding but rather to protect existing and promised investment. This includes capital developments such as the proposed National Sports Campus at Abbotstown, which has been granted full planning permission and which was intended to be a cornerstone of Ireland’s programme in relation to the 2012 London Olympics.
In order to protect the future funding of Irish sport, the group called on the government to ensure that:
‘There is no further reduction in the budget allocated to sport through the Irish Sports Council;
Sport remains as a separate Government Department;
The Sports Capital Programme is reinstated;
The National Sports Campus is developed.
Patrick Hickey, President of the OCI, said he was delighted that sport had united in the campaign. He said it was all too easy to bask in the glory of Irish sporting success without thinking of just what had gone into creating that success.
He said that it was essential that the Government continued to give full backing to Irish sport if we want to continue to be successful, and that if investment in sport was curtailed at this point in time that not alone could Ireland virtually write off any chance of success at the 2012 London Olympics, the closest thing to a ‘home games’ for Ireland but in all likelihood we could also forget about Rio in 2016.
Speaking at the briefing Paraic Duffy, Director General of the GAA, stressed that all of the sports bodies were agreed on what was required and that they would be taking their message to the millions of people who both participated and watched Irish sport every week.
Duffy said: ‘Sport has a significant role to play in improving public health, contributing to the economy, building communities, driving tourism and establishing pride in Ireland both at home and abroad. Sport also has a remarkable power to make us feel good and that is hugely important in the current difficult times.
‘In the GAA alone Government funding has been vital to help put 75,000 primary school children through GAA development programmes in Dublin and to also run development programmes throughout our 2,610 clubs.’
John Delaney, CEO of the FAI, said that all present acknowledged the commitment of Government to Irish sport over the past decade. He said: ‘The funding both of capital projects, of sportsmen and women and of developmental programmes has been hugely important to all of our sports. It is not, however, a particularly large budget by comparison to other countries and to cut it back further at this point in time would have disastrous effects. We believe it could set Irish sport back many years.
‘It is recognised worldwide that you cannot simply turn sports funding on and off. If funding dries up programmes disappear and we lose sportsmen and sportswomen with potential who may never come back into sport.
‘We are all agreed that the Irish Sports Council has a made a major difference in the way it has not alone administered the funding but also in the way it has assisted in setting up key programmes countrywide. Indeed, the emphasis of the Irish Sports Council has been on building participation with every €1 spent on high performance sport being matched by a €3 spend on sports development. Their funds have already been cut. Their budget cannot and should not be cut further.’
Philip Browne, CEO of the Irish Rugby Football Union, said it has been estimated that sport contributes at least a twelvefold return on the funding put in by Government. It also contributes 1.7% of Ireland’s GDP. He said: ‘Major sporting occasions contribute millions to the local economy and sustain many jobs across a range of industries. It has been well researched and documented that an Ireland v England rugby international contributes in excess of €80 million to the local Dublin economy.
‘It is often overlooked that the funding the Government puts into the Sports Capital Programme has a huge return. If we take the construction of the new Aviva Stadium, the Government has contributed €191 million. During the construction period they will receive almost €150 million of that back in VAT and taxes. The total project, which is also being funded by the FAI and the IRFU, will represent an overall Government investment of just over €400 million.’
He continued: ‘And that is only part of the impact felt in economic terms. Over the three-year period since the project began, there has been up to 800 jobs created by the construction. When finished, the stadium has the potential to deliver up to 1,000 jobs on match days.’
‘Once we start holding other events, the stadium will become an income earner for the local Dublin economy, creating indirect jobs and also generating Government revenue. Other indirect benefits come from the exposure that major events generate for Ireland.’