Participation in grassroots football delivers more than €1.13bn of positive value to Irish society according to a new European econometric model published yesterday and launched as part of the FAI’s ‘Festival of Football’ at Ratoath Harps FC in County Meath.
It was unveiled by FAI General Manager Noel Mooney who was comfortable talking through the data having been responsible for commissioning it across Europe as part of the UEFA GROW programme, while he was managing that.
Ireland is the third country to feature in the research, after Romania and Sweden, where both gave rise to high-level government discussion about ways in which investment in the sport could be leveraged.
It is unlikely to unlock the Gordian knot that is wrapped around the Government and FAI relationship at present but will stand the test of time for when things move on an=d the FAI returns to the fold of a more robust approach to good governance.
All Sport Ireland funding is currently suspended but will in time be restored in full and the financial obligations are being met by UEFA out of future income streams.
The hope then is that while the funding structure is far from ideal, understandably in the midst of so many financial investigations, that the grassroots programmes which it funds will be maintained.
The econometric model, commissioned by European football’s governing body UEFA in conjunction with the FAI, uncovers “unique tangible evidence” of the impact that grassroots club football has on the country’s economy, society and health of the nation.
As well as a total ‘social return on investment’ of €1.13bn, the UEFA Grow report highlights a direct economic impact of almost €115m, almost €272m in social benefits and healthcare savings of almost €750m.
The research was undertaken with the expert help of an advisory panel of 10 educational institutions across the continent, including Loughborough and Sheffield Hallam Universities.
It is modelled on the feedback from 177,765 registered players and while the gender split of 86% male is a little over what you would hope for that will change over time as programmes encouraging more young girls to take part begins to filter through.
Regular football participation is also recognised as a major contributor to preventative healthcare savings, with over €46m of savings on mental health, calculated at around 5,000 cases prevented; €13m in cardiovascular disease and almost €9m in type-2 diabetes.
The game is also credited with making a significant contribution to education, crime reduction and assisting those not in employment, education or training.
Figures also demonstrate how the game supports job creation and drives economic growth.
“We know that football participation is a huge contributor to a better Ireland,” said Mooney. “These results put an economic, social and health case forward as to why increased investment in grassroots football is a very positive investment.”
“To have such a robust academic model, approved by EU institutions and the World Health Organisation, permits the government to invest in grassroots sport in the knowledge that there are enormous returns to society and the economy.”
“The findings in the UEFA GROW report outline the extent to which football is a force for good in helping to deliver the Irish Government’s health and wellbeing agenda, and also the dramatic impact the biggest team participation sport in the country has on the Irish economy.”
The full report is accessible to members of Sport for Business by requesting it via email.
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