Political Promises on Sport Ahead of #GE2020

They want our votes. They will look to be part of the Government that guides our state and society for the next four to five years.

Why we choose to vote for one particular party over another will be down to a number of reasons and will be different for each of us.

Making an informed choice on voting is important.

Today Sport for Business takes a look at the manifesto pledges on Sport of each of the main political parties. This is the first election that each has devoted specific reference to sport and physical activity.

At times it is easy to find, at others, it is buried in different areas but we have taken the trouble to sift and filter to bring this agnostic guide to what each of the parties is promising.

There is good support among the major parties for a continuation of the Sports capital Grant scheme at or around the €50 million mark on an annual basis.

A number have made specific reference to issues at the FAI and the protection of grassroots football.

As a Government forms, there will, of course, be give and take in certain areas but this is what those who would ask us to vote for them are offering and promising in the world of sport.

Fine Gael

Sport is listed on the main contents page and there is a specific section dedicated on page 89 to ‘A Sporting and Active Nation’.

“Sport helps to bring communities together in a way that is both remarkable and inspiring. It can engender enormous national and local pride when our teams and athletes do well. Most importantly, playing a sport keeps our bodies and our minds healthy.”

Double spending on sport

We will double Government spending on sport by 2027 and we will use this investment to achieve the high-level targets in the National Sports Policy 2018-2027, particularly the elimination of the gender gap in sporting participation and the increase of active sporting participation among the adult population, from the current level of 43% to 50%.

Providing funding for sports capital grants

We know the importance of sports capital grants in the development of clubs across the country. Fine Gael has ensured that the Sports Capital Programme was re-established once it came to office in 2011. Since then €293 million in Sports Capital Funding has supported 6,134 sports clubs and organisations nationwide.

Over the next five years, we will ensure that there are regular rounds of the Sports Capital Programme for clubs and local authority sportsgrounds across the country at a local and regional level.

The Sports Capital Programme co-funds local and regional sporting infrastructure and equipment. However, we also established the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure
Fund (LSSIF) for larger sports facility projects. The first round of the LSSIF was very popular with €77m of the €100m fund allocated, though many good projects have not yet been funded. We will make sure that there is another round of funding allocated early in the life of the next Government.

Lifelong sporting activity

The health benefits of lifelong sporting activity are well known. Some sporting activities are especially suitable for participation across a person’s lifespan, such as swimming, cycling, walking and running. A strong emphasis needs to be placed on these activities from an early age, particularly through PE, so that people have the foundational skills to continue with them throughout their lives. For these four sports, in particular, schemes to help older people participate will be developed and enabled by central and local government such as park runs.

Encouraging sporting participation by all in society

For a wide variety of factors, the take- up and participation in sport is lower for those who have a disability. Increasing participation levels among people with disabilities is especially important. We will mandate Sports Ireland to develop a programme of interventions to boost participation levels.

Olympic and high-performance funding

As we double overall sports funding by 2027, we will triple funding for our
high-performance programmes. This additional funding will be associated with the goal of securing at least 10 medals at the 2028 Olympics and at least 12 at the Paralympics.

International sporting events

The decision to host the Ryder Cup in Adare Manor in 2026, as well as the role that Dublin will play in Euro 2020, speaks to the capacity Ireland has to be involved in some of the biggest sporting events in the world.

If returned to office, we will develop a strategy to identify, on a systematic basis, what type of sporting events we can and should bid for, and how these events can be used to increase sporting participation, encourage domestic and international tourism and promote Ireland. We are also open to a bid for a future Rugby World Cup.

Importance of Physical Education (PE)

The greatest fall-off in sporting participation occurs in secondary school. Our education system needs to be at the centre of our efforts to improve participation in sport. In line with Project Ireland 2040, we will deliver a PE build and modernisation programme, so that students in more post-primary schools have access to indoor facilities for PE. This complements the decision by Fine Gael in Government to make PE an examinable subject at Leaving Certificate level. Enhanced and modernised PE facilities will also provide extra amenities for local communities.

Fianna Fáil

They have chosen to include their sports pledges, alongside those relating to media and tourism under the heading of Supporting Irish Towns on page 86 of the manifesto.

Keeping sports at the heart of communities

Sports clubs and community groups are the lifeblood of Irish life across the country. The spirit of volunteerism that inspires so many people to spend time as coaches, directors and a wide host of other roles is the glue that keeps our communities together. Fianna Fáil will assist local authorities to assist those people to ensure clubs reach their full potential and as many people as possible can access sports facilities.

Establish an annualised Sports Capital Grant of €50m

The deep spirit of volunteerism that sustains clubs has helped to build a vibrant society we can all be proud of. The Sports Capital grant has been a key component in developing sports grounds across Ireland to allow these clubs and organisations to grow and flourish. We will increase funding by €22m above Budget 2020 levels to create a €50m fund.

Create a new €5m per annum Playground Building fund

Playgrounds are the liveliest part of any community. However, too many parts of the country are still neglected by a lack of investment in this key local amenity. A new Playground fund worth €5m per annum which local authorities can apply for is a clear route to boost the building of playgrounds across the country. This is an increase of €4.6m.

Protect grassroots soccer

Ordinary grassroots players and supports at all ages have been let down by the scandals in the FAI. We will work with UEFA to build a consensus on how to protect jobs and ensure that Irish soccer has the support and administrative capacity to thrive and prosper into the future. We will ensure that the FAI is fundamentally reformed to give taxpayers value for money and secure a bright future for soccer in Ireland that we can all take pride in.

Ensure development directly supports local sports groups

Local sports and cultural groups are the backbone of our communities and bring out the best of people across the country. We will revamp the development levy system to require all major construction projects to give a contribution to locals sports clubs such as land or monetary contributions.

Ensure funding is linked to increased female participation in sports

We will set out statutory guidelines to ensure the allocation of sports funding is linked to criteria enhancing female participation in sports.

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin has chosen to list their pledges along the lines of existing Departments.

The sporting commitments come under the area of Transport, Tourism and Sport on page 88.


Ireland has long been a sporting nation. We get behind our teams and our athletes. Whether that be at grassroots, amateur level or supporting our elite athletes and teams wherever or whenever they represent Ireland in competition.

We fill stadiums, we flood the streets and we travel the globe to support our teams and sportspeople. Sport is a large part of our culture, a part of who we are and what we do. Sport in Ireland is reflective of the society that we have created and brings with it multiple benefits to each individual and communities that is part of this tradition and culture.

A recent report for the Federation of Irish Sport shows that every euro invested in Sport returns up to €1.95 in value for the country. This clearly shows the benefit of the sporting economy. But there is simply no monetary value that can be placed on the health, well-being and social benefits that sport delivers to us all.

Sinn Féin believe that sport and exercise are key elements of building a healthier Ireland and tackling obesity, especially amongst our youth. We recognise that by promoting healthy lifestyles through sport and exercise, we can enable people to live long and active lives.

Investment in sports can be recouped through preventative spending capacity in other areas, such as health and mental health.

Sport has a proven role both in post-conflict situations and as a targeted programme of intervention that contributes to social cohesion.

Sinn Féin has long called for all-Ireland leagues and teams wherever possible. Not only would this improve our competitiveness on the international stage but would be an important step in terms of the process of reconciliation that is required right across our island.

We acknowledge the link between investment in sport and the reduction of child poverty and believe that it can also play an important role in crime and anti-social behaviour reduction.

In Government, we would seek to tackle the most prominent sources of inequality in sports participation; namely class, gender, and geography. Without tackling these three issues, there is a real risk of masking the growing polarisation in the consumption of sport between the classes.

We recognise the potential of the sporting economy, especially in terms of job creation and increased sports tourism. We will boost sport in local communities and at grassroots level through increased funding of the Sports Capital Programme and the delivery of a Large-Scale Sports infrastructure Fund.

Sinn Féin insists that sport can and should be for all, regardless of ability, gender, geography or class and to achieve this we would include the following as priorities for Government.

Sinn Féin priorities:

  • €1.35m of Sugar Tax to pay for anti-obesity campaign
  • Host Homeless World Cup (Irish Homeless Street Leagues)
  • Increase public expenditure on Sports and Recreation Services by €7 million or 10%
  • Support for the 20×20 campaign meaning a 20% increase in media coverage of women in sport, a 20% increase in female participation at all levels of sport and a 20% increase in attendance at women’s games and events
  • Reduce by €50 to €200 the eligibility threshold for capital reliefs on individual donations to sports capital projects
  • €9 million or 20% increase for the Sports Capital Programme making it an annual grant scheme
  • Work with all sports bodies to support the creation of all-Ireland teams and leagues wherever possible
  • Aim for 20 Olympic/Paralympic medals in Paris 2024 through support for elite athletes meaning a Top 50 performance in the Olympics and a top 20 in the Paralympics.


Like Sinn Féin Labour have listed their priorities by Government Department.  They come under the Transport, Tourism and Sport section on page 37 in the shortest of the party manifestos.

Women in Sport

Labour will require at least 40% representation of women in sport governing bodies and will push for greater participation in sport by women and girls.

Animal Welfare

Labour will ring-fence part of the Betting Levy to fund animal welfare inspectors to ensure only the highest practice is permitted in any sports or pursuits involving animals (such as greyhound racing and horseracing) and to reform the situation of unwanted dogs.


Labour will implement an ambitious strategy to save community grassroots football and to strengthen football’s role in social inclusion, following the serious financial problems in the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

One-eighth of the Betting Duty receipts will be allocated to a new Football Fund. This would go some way to recognising that the majority of bets placed are on football.

Based on an estimated total revenue of €100 million from Betting Duty in 2020, this would be roughly €12.5 million.

This funding would be a lifeline to the game of football and to the many communities who have been failed by the FAI. And it would give a reformed FAI the opportunity to get its finances in order.

Labour will support splitting Irish football into two entities, with the state taking responsibility for funding the grassroots underage game.

Funding would focus on social inclusion, gender equality, anti-racism and integration. The state’s role will be to support the model emerging from the football community, rather than initiate and develop it.

Part of the goal of the new grassroots underage football organisation would be to tackle low education levels within the domestic game and to encourage school completion.

A pilot programme would involve five DEIS secondary schools to provide football academies, along the lines of Stephen Elliot academies in the UK, where schools provide intensive football coaching in tandem with regular school work and progress towards qualifications. The new funding would allow for an increase in the number of Football Development Officers co-funded with local authorities.

Green Party

The Green party have included reference to sport as the final part of a section devoted to Arts, Heritage and Culture on page 51.

Sports and Recreation

Participation in sport and physical activity has the potential to achieve many of the health, social and environmental outcomes that are valued by the Green Party. We believe that it is the State’s job to improve the quality of life of the public. This means providing people’s basic needs such as education, health care, housing and social protection but it also means promoting community development, recreation and fun.

Our sport and recreation policy is based on four principles: improving our health, developing our communities, participating in nature, and enhancing social inclusion. We advance the following policy positions.

  • Providing an environment to engage in physical recreation is one of the immediate benefits
    of protecting our natural environment. Our policies, elaborated on elsewhere in this manifesto, will ensure that people have safe greenways to cycle on, bright native woodland to walk through, and clean water to swim in.
  • We will oversee the nationwide rollout of successful initiatives run by or in conjunction with Local Sports Partnerships. These include the likes of the ‘Men on the Move’ project which attempts to tackle social isolation among men, and the ‘Go for Life Games’ which promote physical activity among older people.
  • We will undertake a review of inclusiveness and participation in all funded sports to ensure that gender, ethnicity and culture are not a barrier to involvement.
  • We support the 20×20 movement to encourage female participation in sport.
  • We propose to work with representative groups from the disability community to improve access to local sporting infrastructure.
  • Our strategy for keeping children in sport will be centred on low-stakes participation. We will encourage National Governing Bodies to limit score-keeping and record taking in underage sport. This will promote continued participation into adolescence and adulthood, leading to improved elite performance outcomes.

People Before Profit

The People Before profit party have a section devoted to Sport and wellbeing as part of the Fairer Society – Healthy Lives area of the manifesto on page 21.

  • Tackle growing levels of childhood obesity. Put a ‘sugar tax’ on the profits of carbonated soda companies. Ban vending machines from schools and provide water fountains.
  • Start Fruit and Veg Clubs in all schools to make sure children get their five portions a day and build healthy eating habits for the future.
  • Increase physical activity in the school curriculum.
  • Invest in local facilities and create affordable public gyms. In an urban environment, we need more access to exercise facilities. Publicly-owned gyms and swimming pools can keep prices down and help create greater community spirit.
  • Provide outdoor recreational facilities, such as skate parks and dirt tracks.
  • Ensure all urban and rural areas have sporting facilities available to the local population, including pitches and equipment.
  • Create a country-wide network of cycle lanes. A nationwide cycle-lane programme would reduce pollution and make the nation healthier.
  • Legislate to give registered fans control over the running of clubs: Sport should be run by its participants and supporters – not by big business or executives on super-salaries; sports grounds should not be sold off by cliques that gain control of clubs.
  • Keep the broadcasting rights to major sporting events open.

That’s it.  Some of it sensible, some aspirational and some of it slightly out of left field.

If sport is one of the issues on which you will be making up your mind then this is what you need to determine the destination of your first preference and perhaps the destiny of the country.

Read More: Looking Back on Looking Forward to The Sporting Year Ahead
Read More: Federation Pushes Sport Agenda for GE2020

Image Credit: Twitter 

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