The Federation of Irish Sport has delivered its Pre-Budget Submission to the government, identifying four key areas where it believes that budget decision making can have a material positive impact in the realm of sport and physical activity.
At the core of the submission is an appeal to government to continue to demonstrate its commitment to the National Sports Policy by increasing core funding for member national governing bodies and local sports partnerships. The original intent in the policy was to double the level of overall sports funding over the life of the policy which runs to 2027 and has remained on track despite the storms of Covid and Ukraine.
The submission highlights that “a combination of inflation and the need to invest ever more funds in vital areas such as governance, child protection, and privacy has had an impact on the funding available for the essential work of the NGB’s and LSP’s in bringing more people into sport.
While recognising the importance of the sports capital investment programme, it stresses that investment into people and programmes must be protected in order to continue to enjoy the successes of recent years both in participation levels and high performance.
In tandem with this they are again asking government to move to a multi-annual system of core funding for sport and physical activity by confirming the annual increase in funding in line with the National Sports Policy – thereby giving the NGB’s and LSP’s the opportunity to plan ahead.
It notes that this is particularly important if Ireland is to retain its best people across the sporting spectrum.
The Federations second request of government concerns making a number of changes in current taxation policy.
Action 3.7 of the Sports Policy action plan 2021-2023 contains a number of tax expenditure reforms which at their core seek to help make sporting organisations become more self-sustainable and less reliant on government.
The Federation of Irish Sport was given responsibility to drive this action and they enlisted the support of A&L Goodbody to produce a detailed report on the subject. This report, which is highlighted in the Federation’s Submission has been with government since August 2022.
It suggests extending relief on donations to approved sporting bodies; providing for VAT relief for sporting bodies; the granting of charitable status to those NGBs and LSPs who wish to pursue that option; and tax-driven incentives for personal exercise.
The report contains detailed proposals on all areas of taxation that might be relatively easily changed to benefit sport and ultimately the health of the nation.
Third on the list is the suggestion that the government increase betting tax from 2% to 3% with the additional monies raised be devoted to sport and also to how sport might be able to assist in tackling the problems of gambling addiction.
The Department of Finance has traditionally pushed back on ring fencing of taxation, preferring the idea of one big pot. Even the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, while related to the amount drawn in from betting tax, is still funded out of the general public purse. This may be a stretch, though with increased public and sporting concern over gambling, it does have a chance this time around.
The final ask of Government, is that they look closely at insurance reform to quickly reduce liability premiums to affordable levels. These reforms have been identified but they are not happening fast enough and are consequently negatively impacting the sports sector and its ability to providing sporting facilities and host sporting events.
“It is vital that the NGB’s and the LSP’s have continuing access to the funding necessary to facilitate the achievement of the aims of the National Sports Policy as well as their own strategic objectives,” said Federation of Irish Sport CEO Mary O’Connor.
“We have said on many occasions it is equally important that the government commits to such funding on a multi-annual basis if we are to realise the potential of all funding and make impactful and sustainable interventions.”
“What we are proposing here today are achievable means by which the Government can immediately boost the sports sector at no extra cost to the exchequer.”
The Government aim is to increase overall public spending next year to a total of €91.2 Billion. The current year budget allocation for Sport Ireland is €89.7 million, equivalent to a little less than 0.01 percent, surely a value price to pay for the physical and mental wellbeing benefits of sport as well as the morale of the nation in an Olympic and Paralympic year.
The Budget will be published on Tuesday, October 10th.