Irish Sport stunned at tough Budget cuts to local sport.

Minister Leo Varadkar, who's Department is responsible for sports funding.

The Irish sporting community is stunned following the Government announcement that funding to domestic sport is being cut by 8% in the 2014 Budget.

This cut, which is well in excess of the average cut across public expenditure, is considered very bad form considering the significant financial contribution that sport has made to the exchequer over the past couple of years. In 2013, many voluntary sporting bodies got behind the idea of The Gathering and were responsible for bringing in 100,000s of extra tourism bed nights to the country [Note: the IAFA, which is one of the smaller NGBs in Ireland brought in in excess of 1,000 bed-nights for it’s The Gathering events]. 19% of all The Gathering events were run by local sports organisations. This follows on from 1012 when, according to the Department, sporting events such as the Emerald Isle Classic added an extra €100m to the Irish economy. The expectation within sporting circles was that the Government would reward sport for the additional tourism income it has generated by increasing funding in 2014. It was also expected that Minister would fulfill his moral obligation to ‘put something back’ for the extra income generated for the Irish economy by sport. Sadly, not only has this not happened, but the Government has targetted sport for additional cuts not inflicted on other sectors of expenditure.

The Federation of Irish Sport has requested an urgent meeting with Minister Varadkar on this issue.

Below is a statement issued by Federation of Irish Sport CEO Sarah O’Connor on the matter.

Federation of Irish Sport Statement

We are extremely disappointed with today’s announcement which sees a further 8% reduction in current funding for Irish Sport with funding to the Irish Sports Council believed to be in the region of €40 million for next year – a reduction of approximately €3 million on 2013. This is the funding that enables over 100 Irish Sports organisations to run sports development programmes essential to delivering sporting opportunities to all, provide much needed support to grassroots clubs and volunteers as well as providing assistance to our international athletes.

This is the sixth year in a row for cuts – investment in sport already having fallen by some 25% – and now sees Irish Sport back to 2006 levels of support. This is particularly damaging given that consistent government investment in sport only commenced in a meaningful way in 1999 and broke the €30 million barrier for the first time in 2004.

Funding for sport through the Irish Sports Council now amounts to a spend of just €8.73 per citizen. This latest reduction is particularly disappointing given the fact that investment in sport today is likely to have a significant impact in reducing the health spend in future years – a budget line that has caused continuous difficulty for the Government not just in the run up to this budget but over the last number of years.

The overall investment in sport at €40 million for 2014 represents just 0.3% of the €13.3 billion projected health spend.

We are also disappointed that our pre-budget submission in which we set out a proposal where an investment of just €1 per citizen could create 150 jobs immediately seems to have received little or no consideration. These were jobs which Irish Sport felt would be become self-sustaining over a two to three year period and for which, 2,000 graduates with sport specific training are qualifying every year.

That the potential of this proposal has not been grasped is all the more disappointing given the Government’s insistence that job creation is the way out of our current economic troubles.

Cuts to sports funding are at odds with wider government policies and counter intuitive as sporting events have proven to be key drivers in boosting tourism figures during the Gathering. As we slowly emerge from recession it is short sighted and unnecessary to target one of the performing sectors in the economy which has the potential to further create sustainable, indigenous employment and economic growth. The cuts come at a time of increasing market volatility affecting the funding models of many of our leading sporting organisations further jeopardising the future of sports development in Ireland.

We urgently request a meeting with the Minister and his officials to address our concerns and propose alternative innovative ways forward.

Sarah O’ Connor, CEO,