National Sports Policy – Measuring Impact


The Government has sought input from those with an interest in Irish Sport on how to frame a new national Sports policy for the next decade.  

This is the first time in 20 years that such a framework will be adopted at Government level and it is a crucial opportunity to put sport into its important context as part of overall Government thinking.

The Key Areas of interest and the Sport for Business views on each are as follows:

How should Government investment in sport be measured? 

If this is to be measured in absolute terms then a link could be established to health spending as this is the area which will receive the biggest positive outcome from a holistic ‘all of Government’ approach to spending on sport and physical activity.

If it is to be measured in terms of output then the targets set in the national Physical Activity Plan make for a good start, to reduce inactivity and increase the number of people participating in determined weekly bursts of sufficient physical activity to benefit health.

Measurement in terms of medals and trophies is a less wholesome approach but one that is an easy refuge for both an audience on the sidelines and for media.  It does nonetheless have a role to play in measurement of high performance investment as there should be a clear correlation as proven elsewhere between financial investment and success.

Extending that measure of ‘success’ to a broader more active population is more challenging but we have addressed this earlier in the submission.

How can appropriate evaluative mechanisms be developed which inform on the short, medium and long-term effectiveness of funding, policies and interventions in sport?

Much of the investment analysis at present is based on the Irish Sport Monitor which is a good start but should be extended to an annual or even more regular report so as to plan interventions in a more timely manner.

It should also extend towards child physical activity as this is the period of time in which lifelong habits and values are formed and yet data on which is largely piecemeal at present.

Sport is dominated at different levels by data.  Sport for Business has already broached the possibility of harnessing large scale data provided through health, fitness, transport and other sources to provide an anonymised baseline on which to judge future investment and success.

We are small and agile enough to make this work, we have world leading technology companies established locally and we should be presenting ourselves as a test case on how to use sport and technology in harmony for a better, fitter society.

What outputs and outcomes should be included across the different areas of the sports policy framework?

Enabling an independent sport sector which has the capacity to deliver sport and physical activity to the broad population in a manner that benefits their overall physical and mental wellbeing.

That should be the central theme against which investment, support and promotion should be geared.

How can the broader outcomes from sport be quantified?

A fitter, healthier nation in body and mind is quantifiable through reference to accepted points largely controlled within the health sector.

Benefits from spending on sport, the creation of sustainable jobs and the contribution to the wider economy in terms of tourism, media and other areas can be defined at an individual level.

Are there gaps in the current evidence base for sport?

As outlined above we do not know enough about people’s physical activity on a regular enough basis and we are lacking in understanding of where children’s sport is working and failing.

It is possible though to address these gaps through smart use of new technology and data, again as outlined above.


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