Sport for Business was live yesterday at the Federation of Irish Sport Annual Conference.

The audience in the Edmund Burke Theatre at Trinity College included leadership from all the major sports in Ireland as well as those throughout the sector drawn by the prospect of hearing how New Zealand, with similar size, population and sporting culture, has stepped up through the gears to win 14 medals at the Rio Olympic Games.

We learned lessons in the way that this one country approached structure by gathering all of the high-performance elements under one organisation, targetted sports on a ‘tough love’ basis of podium potential and delivered for the country and it’s sports stars by delivering an exceptional return on the investment across a multitude of sport.

The pursuit of medals though was not the only item up for discussion as the levels of participation in sport at community level also formed a key part of what was discussed.

It was a day to challenge what we do as a nation with regard to the management and funding of sport, to find that we are right in many areas but to ask also what could we do better.

New Zealand’s march towards the third best per capita performance in terms of medals at Rio began in 2007, a mere decade ago and the first major breakthrough took five years.

Here is a flavour of what the four key speakers delivered.


There is a great turnout of pretty much everyone who is anyone in Sport.  A total audience of 320 registered for the event, twice as many as have been at previous federation Conferences and indicative of both the quality of the speakers and the willingness and desire to learn.

Chairman of Federation of Irish Sport Roddy Guiney

”We will know we have succeeded when Sport is treated seriously at Government level, as seriously as health.”

Minister Brendan Griffin is on his feet now welcoming everyone.

”The new national sports policy will be ready for publication in early July.”

”We know what are people and our communities need and want as a result of the recent Irish Sports Monitor.”

”Our new Capital Sports Programme will be launched next month and the large scale infrastructure fund will be likewise.”

”These facilities will inspire our high performance Sporting stars to inspire greater participation.”

Peter Miskimmin, CEO Sport New Zealand

”€80M of equivalent government spending on Sport split between high performance and participation.”

”89% of Kiwi Kids get 3+ hours of physical activity each week, ranked number one in the world”

”We love sport, our heroes are from Sport Our kids have a playful upbringing

Quality physical education in primary and secondary school allied to late specialization”

“Massive active volunteer base and quality investment in coaching.”

“Sport traditionally run by baby boomers, saying if it was good enough for me. They are not adapting to meet the demand of modern children”

People are looking for convenience at a time to suit and with fewer formal structures that are the norm in organised Sport

The cost of winning

2013-16 GB $62m into rowing, Australia $34m and NZ $19m all chasing after same 42 medals.

The days of command and control leadership are over.  We collaborate, we work together to discover best practice.

Investment based on enriching and inspiring New Zealanders.

We drive towards a system led approach.

The 11 Critical factors for success in high performance.

Political support

Strong leadership – Single entity focused just on making athletes go faster

System integration – Central funded expertise deployed to sports

Alignment between sports and Sport NZ

Sustainable Funding Its a Money game  Philanthropy raised $9m through Black Gold

Targetting investment  9 Sports in 2007, 13 in 2018.

Size and collaboration  between coaches

Being nimble

Smarts Goldmine programme driving performance through innovation and technology

World Class People

Daily training environment through facilities at home

Mary O’Connor, CEO Federation of Irish Sport

How does Sport contribute?

Health, Reputation, Jobs, economic benefit, community and Tourism Sport is important at every level of our society.

We need strategic and targeted support of people and programmes.

The results of a survey of 56 NGB’s

Geoff Barry, Head of Community Sport NZ

”The system that supplies Sport and active recreation is not meeting the needs of those who need it most.”

”Physical education is in decline and there is significant pressure on teachers.”

“Importance of putting participants at the heart of decision making”

Targetted people not sports. Decision to focus on 5-18 age bracket, particularly teenage girls, those in lower socioeconomic economic groups and those playing competitive sport.

Locally led and nationally supported as opposed to the reverse.

Early specialization is damaging. Creates worry over missing out and the signs of childhood success rarely map to adult success.

Investment based on 60% over four years, 34% over two years, 2 and 3% over 2 and three years of an Olympic cycle.

Sarah Keane, President Olympic Council of Ireland

“Our young people see their place as being on top of the world. We need to match their ambition.  We need to be less distrustful of elite.”

“Supporting ambition to be the best in the world is important in its own right, not just in backing up participation.”

“We can be proud to be ambitious, proud to be proud.”

“We need to create a system where excellence is to be expected.  Instead our system is ad hoc and not properly funded.”

“Throw off shackles of seeing funding of high performance as a vanity project.”

”We need multi-annual funding to enable proper planning and effective consistent results.”

“As a nation, we invest to be the best in many areas. It is time for Government to commit to doing that in sport.”

Join us next week when we have an exclusive interview with Peter Miskimmin and Geoff Barry diving into the specifics of merit-based funding.

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Image Credit: Morgan Treacy, Inpho Photography