Today, October 7th, the Federation of Irish Sport accepted an invitation from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and An Gaeltacht to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on sporting organisations and mass participation events. It was a welcome opportunity to highlight the significant challenges facing a sector that generates €2.7bn in consumer spending each year and employs some 39,500 people.
The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for clubs and their governing bodies for many reasons, including significant financial losses of up to 70%, reduced provision of programmes and initiatives for participation and cancellation of seasons, leagues and events. Today was an opportunity to illustrate examples of such loss and emphasis the importance of continued government support for the sector building on the previously welcomed €70 support package announced in June.
It also provided a further platform to illustrate our pre-budget asks of government in advance of the publication of the 2021 budget on October 13th. At today’s hearing the Federation reiterated the importance of the National Sports Policy and it’s target trajectory over the next 7 years. The Federation’s single biggest ask is that government continue to deliver on their commitment to incrementally double funding for sport by 2027. While the challenge of COVID-19 has been immense for many organisations, is it essential that the long term future of the sport sector is protected and invested in in order to deliver a brighter future for all who engage with it. While the sector must survive COVID-19 in order to thrive long into the future, commitment by government to build on progress made prior to the pandemic is vital.
Speaking after the committee meeting, Federation of Irish Sport CEO Mary O’Connor said,
‘We are pleased to have the opportunity to appear before the committee today and highlight some of the significant challenges facing our member organisations as they look towards 2021. While COVID-19 has been devastating in 2020, we are also concerned about what 2021 will bring for a sector that relies so heavily on mass participation and bringing people together to take part. We have stressed the importance of continued COVID related supports to build on the government support package of June but we have also demonstrated the need for a continued and sustained increase in funding for sporting organisations. It is essential that core funding is maintained so that when this pandemic begins to retreat, our organisations are ready to build on the very successful position they held heading into 2020 and continue to provide invaluable opportunities for individuals to become healthier, more active members of our society.”