Pressing the Case for Sport

Irish sport has benefitted in the past from funding streams through the Dormant Accounts Fund and that may be a way in which Government financial support could be offered now as funding comes under the most intense pressure.

Last week the Government announced the creation of a €35 million Covid-19 Stability Fund to assist charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises.

It is intended to ‘provide a level of support to qualifying organisations who are most in need and have seen their trading and/or fundraising income drop significantly during the crisis.

There are those who would argue that sport is in some way too professional to benefit in those terms from additional Government funding but that is to be blinded by international as opposed to local realities.

Each of the three major field sports of Gaelic Games, Football and Rugby rely on amateur engagement for their appeal and the part they play in defining what it is to be part of a local and a national community.

Funding

They each get funding from the Government to cover part of the work they do but are better positioned than most sporting organisations to benefit from commercial partnerships and revenues from the elite end of their sport.

In the past eight weeks, and for a substantial period into the future those funding streams have been swept away. Yes, costs are also down but sport has stepped up in terms of providing bodies to answer Ireland’s community call up and down the country and if the principal of supporting charities who provide an invaluable service to the community is accepted, then sport should surely be considered as well.

The financial hit being taken collectively across those three sports alone is likely to reach as high as €100 million in 2020.

Some of that can be recovered when sport returns and some of it will be ‘mortgaged ‘ against future income by international sporting bodies that have more heft than any individual Government in keeping the wheels turning.

Much of it though will be lost. In team sport terms the biggest single outlay for many clubs, especially in urban areas, is the cost of electricity or rent in terms of providing winter training facilities.

Expenditure

That expenditure for the first three months of 2020 had already been incurred and if membership subscriptions drop as a result of individuals reduced circumstances, then clubs will feel the bite.

Investment in facilities has been paused and can be picked up again with the gradual return to action but those that are there have still to be maintained and clubs in the main are operating on a current account basis of spending what money they bring in.

Sports away from the big three like Gymnastics, Basketball and other indoor sports are likely to have to wait longer but are also still incurring expenses through the long term rental of premises.

They are part of the wider economic picture and will be able to benefit from some of the Government supports but their importance to the physical and mental wellbeing of the communities they serve is perhaps more important than most.

Discussions

We have no doubt that discussions between a supportive Government Department and an active and engaged Sport Ireland and the Federation of Irish Sport are taking place and that a way will be found.

Sometimes though it is the narrative and the timing of support that is most important. Sports clubs will look to the money now being made available to the local charity and wondering how they are going to pay the bills as they land at the end of the month.

What has helped us all get through the crisis better than many might have hoped has been the willingness to allay the worst of fears around how we can survive financially.

There is still fear of course and many in the tourism and hospitality sector, in particular, will be finding it hard to sleep for worry over what will happen next.

If we do not stand up though and plead the case for sport so that is heard in Government and within sport itself, then there will be an additional fear that we are being left further back in the queue for help.

There is a National Policy for Sport which outlines funding and actions that will leave us immeasurably stronger as a sporting nation with physical activity as a key component of how we live.

Now though it may be time to bring some of the funding intended for further down the line into play so that sport can be maintained in order to see that future.

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Image Credit: Sportsfile

 

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