Ireland’s New National Sports Policy

The Government has published its National Policy on Sport which sets a blueprint for what we can aspire to, what we can expect and what we can focus on as those responsible for delivering sport in its many forms over the next decade.

It is a long and detailed paper, running to 57 individual action points and 108 pages, reflecting the time that has gone into its creation and the complexity of dealing with a broad canvas with impact points at every life stage and area of how he live as a society.

The reaction from across the sporting sector, both public and private has been positive to the extent that it is now out there and either accepting or a little bit cynical that much of the detail of how to implement will not become apparent until the report of a new Sports Leadership Group which will be delivered one year from now.

Given the nature of politics that will likely be just in the wake of a general election which presents challenges in terms of the potential for transition between either individual Ministers or entire Governments.

Nevertheless there will always be a reason to say now is not the time.  Thankfully that temptation to delay until after the summer or for any one of 100 other reasons has not been taken and we now have a working document to analyse, disect and work with.

Inevitably the headline is always down to money and there are a number of strong positives there.

Doubling

The lead financial commitment is that Government will raise spending on sport from a current level of €110 million to double that at €220 million by 2028.

Doing the maths that is equivalent to an annual increase each year of the decade of 7.2 percent, a figure that is real and positive over such a long period.

Part of the sports communities occasional frustration with Government is a percieved imbalance between capital and current spending.  There is a commitment to an annual fund for capital projects which currently represents around 40 per cent of total spending in the sector but the assumption has to be that this will remain equivalent and so the current spending will climb at roughly the same pace as a standalone.

As part of the plan, the long called for multi annual funding will be delivered, from 2019 onwards based on four year cycles and reviewed at each cycle.

There is an undertaking to raise funding of high performance sport to the level of comparator nations, with New Zealand as a standard.  This would effectively mean an increase to €30 Million of annual funding in that area, effectively a trebling of the investment that will be available in 2018.

There were more financial incentives delivered by Ministers Ross and Griffin yesterday as well.

A fresh €1.5 million of funding towards high performance programmes aimed specifically at Tokyo 2020 will be delivered.

There will be a doubling of investment exclusively targetting Women in Sport, backed up by the powerful personal contribution which Kellie Harrington made as  part of yesterday’s launch and by the presence of nine-year-old Charlie Moore, pictured left, who had written to Minister Shane Ross asking him to ‘get off his butt and do something more for girls and women in sport.  Neat touch, that.

There will also be a €1 million commitment to disability sport through the funding of a Sports inclusion disability officer in all Local Sports Partnerships, as opposed to some as is currently the case.

A Policy is not a budget though and it is there to inform the straegic initiatives that will lead to delivery of the ultimate goals.

We now know what those are, in three key areas.

Overall particiaption in sport is to rise from 43 percent to 50 percent of the population, an equivalent of 260,000 additional people taking part in sport.

More targetted high performance funding to lift the number of medals at Olympic and Paralympic Games from the 13 achieved in Rio to a target of 20 at Los Angeles in 2028.  This does mean that funding will be spent more in some sports than others and introduce a more merit and evidence basis to the distribution of the finite pot.  This will please some, and leave others on the sideline but sport understands the nature of competition and the aim of winning.

The third key goal is that all funded sports bodies, and this rolls all the way through to clubs, will be in compoliance with the Governance Code for the Community, Voluntary and Charity Sector.

Sport Leadership Group

The next key milestone is only three months away with the formation of the Sport Leadership Group from the sector, Government and hopefully some independent thinking.

That is to be created by October 25th and will report to Government by July 25th 2019. Its remit will be to develop and publish a comprehensive set of key performance indicators covering all elements of the policy  Progress in implementing the policy will be assessed against these indicators.

That choice of words is the 57th action of the policy paper.  Over the coming days and weeks Sport for Business will publish each of the others others and give our view of why they are in and how they might be implemented.

We will do so in order to kick start a conversation around how each might be treated, using our understanding of the wider sport sector and the business and leadership communities in which we operate.

We do not have any higher athority on smart thinking or imagination but we can perhaps provide some common sense and practical suggestions which we hope will help to move the policy along.

It is an exciting time to be involved in sport.  We have a Taoiseach and a Finance Minister who have both served as Minister in the Department governing sport and who are both committed to an understanding of the real benefits it brings.  That is a political strength which sport has.  It does not guarantee any favourable treatment but it does suggest that this is an area that is treated seriously, and that is a winner in itself.

 

 

You can read the full National Sports policy document here.

 

 

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