Sport for Business has seen the pre-budget submission from the Federation of Irish Sport. It contains five clear and concise asks of Government as they consider spending plans for 2019 and beyond.
These include a ‘significant increase’ in current funding for National Governing Bodies and Local Sports partnerships; multi-annual funding programmes for performance and participation; a greater role for central sporting bodies in the allocation of Sports Capital Funding; an advance in the introduction of tax incentives relating to sport; and the provision of direct funding to cover increased costs of Governance and Compliance.
Following on from a listing of the spectacular successes achieved in Irish sport over the last twelve months the Federation hails the most important event as being the publication of the National Sports Policy 2018-2027.
Those wearing medals and brandishing trophies may beg to differ in a personal context but in the longer term, the Federation is right.
“This historic document enshrined the important role that sport plays in Ireland across so many different areas including health and well-being; economic activity; education and personal development; community development and social cohesion; and international reputation,” states the submission.
“It also reiterates the Government’s full commitment to fund sport in an appropriate manner with the target being a doubling of funding to an annual €220 million over the next ten years.”
The submission points out that if the full potential of the capital investments in clubs and at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus is to be fully realised that “there needs to be a commensurate investment in people and programmes.”
The Federation represents 100 organisations in sport from the GAA and Olympic Council to the Baton Twirlers Association and 26 Local Sports Partnerships.
It is an important voice in terms of advocating to Government on behalf of members, more so than Sport Ireland which, as an agency charged with distributing Government funds is inhibited from doing that.
The six areas in which Irish sport is seeking consideration in the budget, which will be announced on October 9th are as follows:
1. Increase in Current Funding:
The National Sports Policy document has pointed to the important role that will be played by the NGBs and LSPs in the ultimate delivery of the Policy. These two groups of organisations are responsible for the majority of the people and the programmes that will deliver the majority initiatives that to ensure sport meets the challenge set out in the Policy. In particular, to increase by 2027 the number of adults regularly participating in active and social sport by 7% (the equivalent of an extra 260,000 people participating in sport)
The sport policy has also rightly identified increasing participation, over the period of the plan, for older people, the disabled, and poorer communities. It is recognised, in the Policy document that these hard to reach segments will require higher levels of support than the current sports model has capacity for, particularly in a full employment economy.
It is vital our members begin this important task as soon as possible, it is equally important that the funding to achieve this is provided at the earliest possible opportunity. With 25% of LSPs and 33% of NGBs saying their biggest single challenge in delivering on their objectives is funding. We would call on the government to make a significant increase to current funding (that goes to our member organisations from Sport Ireland) in recognition of the role they have to play and the need to begin their work as quickly as possible.
2. More Certainty in Future Funding:
More certainty on funding has been a key policy demand for NGBs and LSPs for a number of years, the Federation is delighted to see that the Sports Policy is committed to ensuring that there is more certainty for funding for Irish sport in the future. The Policy has committed to multi-annual funding for High-Performance Programmes by 2019 and also for participation programmes.
We would ask the Government to align such multi-annual performance for participation programmes with the high-performance commitment and that multi-annual funding for participation programmes would also begin next year. The Federation is happy to work with both Sport Ireland and the Department of Sport to enable this to happen.
3. Sports Capital Programmes:
The Federation welcomes the Government’s commitment to further annual capital funding programmes both through the existing programme and through the new sports capital for larger infrastructural works. We would ask that the Government take on board the paper submitted by the Federation in April 2018 in relation to the allocation of such funding.
In this, we recommended that the knowledge and expertise of the National Governing Bodies be utilised to ensure that such capital funding is directed towards projects that will have maximum impact in meeting the objectives of the National Sports Policy.
We proposed that, for the next round of the SCP, the Federation would collate an exercise under which each NGB would identify the infrastructural deficiencies and national priorities that it identifies for its sport, and make this available to the Department as a checklist against which applications can be scored under a proposed new criterion. This would also ensure that the NGBs can plan to have the necessary people and programmes in place to ensure maximum benefit is derived from all new facilities once completed.
4. Sport and Tax:
The Federation has called on the Government previously to explore the role of tax incentives in attracting non-Exchequer investment. We are delighted that the Sports Policy includes a commitment to review this. We are happy to work with the Department of Finance and Revenue in making available the relevant expertise of many of our members so that proposals can be developed which deliver the required results in a way that offers value to the Exchequer. We believe that a tax incentive, proven to be effective internationally, will work in Ireland.
5. Good Governance & Compliance:
Over the past decade the proper governance of sport has rightly been highlighted. There has been a recognition that sport must embrace the highest standards particularly in encouraging more and more young people to participate. This has been totally accepted and embraced by our members for example, 60% of NGBs have reviewed their governing documentation in the last 2 years in an effort to ensure they are in line with best practice.
Included in such governance has been increasing regulatory requirements many of which are designed to protect participants and are therefore to be welcomed, but they have increased the administrative burden on NGBs & LSPs some of whom are still run on an entirely voluntary basis. These include commitments to health and safety; Garda vetting; Child Protection, Data protection (GDPR) and as well as full implementation of the Governance code which all NGBs & LSPs are due to complete by 2021 under the National Sports Policy.
The fact is, however, that over the last decade these very necessary activities have led to funds being taken from other activities and programmes. It has been estimated by our members that between 10% and 15% of their total budgets now go on such activities. We would call on the Government to recognise this cost and to begin reflecting its reality in the provision of funding directly for these activities.
It is, as would be expected from CEO Mary O’Connor and Chairman Roddy Guiney, a persuasively argued case. Sport is always up against it when going into a public arena battle with health, education and economic arguments but in the greater scheme of Government funding it remains an area where a substantial gain can be achieved for a relatively modest absolute increase.
The government recognises the popularity of sport and its importance in terms of overall strategy on health and wellbeing. It must be hoped that this will follow through in delivery on the financial front next month.
Read more about our 2018 Sport for Business Sport for Social Good Report and half day conference on September 27th and reserve your place to hear about campaigns from the Manchester United Foundation, Unicef, Allianz and many more