World business, political and social leaders will gather at Dublin Castle this weekend for the third Global Irish Economic Forum. It is a gathering of those with an affection for Ireland and the capacity to bring projects to life that will enhance the recovery and growth of Ireland and its people.
Sport is on the formal agenda for the first time as we have discussed here this morning.
It cannot afford though to be there as a ‘fun way to fill a morning.’ There has been talk through the weeks leading up to this event of the desire to bring forward ideas from the gathered audience. On the eve of the session we at Sport for Business suggest that ideas are available, and that it is supportive action, in the shape of resource, expertise and funding that are needed and need to be asked for.
This must be taken as an opportunity to be more than a talking shop.
We need to act decisively and with speed, like in any sporting environment, to get the best possible result. A significant number of those who will be present are already engaged or involved in some fashion with what we do at Sport for Business.
These three ideas are for you to consider in the coming 24 hours, and to bring to life not over the next decade but over the coming weeks and months.
Sport for Business can help bring the right people to the projects and to make the people of Ireland feel that they have always been there because they make sense and they deliver.
A Foundation for the Promotion of Women’s Sport in Ireland
Women’s sport offers the greatest scope for large scale impact from a small investment in programmes that are well thought through and innovative.
In Rugby, Soccer and Gaelic Games we are producing players and teams that are competing at the highest level. The national team managers and administrators of all three joined us for the Business of Women’s Sport Conference in June and laid out the difference that sums as small as 50,000 would make in their worlds.
The establishment of an Irish Women’s Sports Foundation, with philanthropic funding of €1 million over an initial three years could provide grants and more importantly mentoring and inspiration to grassroots groups that would make a difference on the ground, that would reverse the alarming drop off in girls participation in sport in teenage years and would help create the role models that will make it sustainable through continued support from both the public and private sectors.
From Sunday morning we could nominate leaders in business, sporting and political circles that could begin the detailed promotion of the project within weeks and commence support for groups as early as the spring of 2014. It needs energy, it needs support at a high level, it is possible and perhaps even essential.
Promotion of Ireland as a Global Centre of Excellence in Sports Science
The IFSC was born from a simple idea and a willing Government. Its value over the years has been enormous in terms of jobs, global reach and economic value.
Sports science can be the next financial services sector and Ireland is well placed to make that happen.
The global sports economy is estimated by PwC to be heading towards a value in pure revenue terms of almost $150 Billion within the next two years. Sports science is delivering the marginal gains that can double the value of a sporting franchise overnight.
The approach of Irish Sports Scientists, in a broad sense, to the sport of boxing through the work of Gary Keegan and others has been transformational. Gathering smart people together in a collaborative and then competitive environment breeds improvement.
The entertainment and then the digital industries gathered around California. By attracting talent, you attract those who want to emulate that talent.
The Irish Institute of Sport has the talent but not yet the funding to make it a serious player on a world stage. The companies that are already becoming involved can play a part in bolstering the reputation and increasing the magnetism of what is happening in Ireland.
Government can play its part by tax incentives for companies in the area of research and development around sports science projects. It needs work on definition but bureaucracy should not be allowed stand in the way of innovation. The sports science sector is growing quickly and in a fragmented fashion. Ireland can become a major hub.
Build Capacity within Sport to seek Private Funding
Sport for Business was involved in the judging of the Arthur Guinness Projects which for the first time this year has given philanthropic funding to sport on the same basis as the arts. There was a great range of projects put forward and it showed that there is imagination and innovation to match the appeal of sport in a general context.
The number of projects submitted in sport though was one third of that which came from the Arts community. Arts has long had a clear focus on how to seek and attract funding from sources such as those that are gathered in Dublin for the Economic Forum. Sport has a greater emotional pull on a larger number of people from a more diverse social palette. It needs to up its capacity to promote the value it brings to society and to express that by raising more money from the private sector.
The role should not be ceded to agencies or relied upon to come from Government. Sport should be willing to learn how to put together proposals from grassroots to elite, with a strong business case, a clear social dividend and a persuasive ability to deliver.
A programme which would cost €2 million over three years is ready to roll with backing from the Irish Sports Council, the new National Lottery operators, Government and the Private sector. It would raise the capacity to raise funding that would generate a minimum of €5 million over its initial life cycle, and substantially more in the longer term.
Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a life. Sport needs to be taught how to effectively fundraise, even in the first instance just to the same level as the arts. By assisting in this, the first tranche of public and private investment can be seen as the seed capital which will grow a substantially larger harvest in years to come and leave a legacy that counts for generations yet unborn.
Good luck to those who are gathered this weekend. We are standing by from Saturday lunchtime to deliver the energy and innovation that your funding and resource can bring to life to great effect.
Founder, Sport for Business