Grassroots football in Ireland now delivers an annual €1.8billion impact to Irish society according to a landmark survey carried out for the FAI by UEFA for its Social Return On Investment model.
This covers a figure of €355 million in direct contributions to the economy, €303 million in value of economic impact from the social benefits, and €1.14 billion in healthcare savings from the additional mental and physical fitness that playing team sport delivers.
The model is robust and has been endorsed by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation. It is also being made available to other sporting organisations by UEFA and it is understood that discussions have already taken place with the IRFU.
Dublin GAA club Na Fianna completed its own Social Impact survey with Whitebarn Consulting in 2019 which found that the Social Impact value in its locality in the preceding year amounted to €50 million.
This solid evidence-based evaluation of the Social Good that sport delivers is valuable in terms of presenting a case to Government that central investment in facilities and programmes is both worthwhile and very good value for money.
The UEFA and FAI Report was launched yesterday by Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers and has been warmly welcomed.
The value is based primarily on the number of registered players in the sport. Organic growth and a better registration system saw this number in football rise from 177,000 players when the report was first undertaken in 2019 to a figure of 221,000 in 2021.
They are bolstered by 42,950 registered volunteers helping to deliver the game in clubs and communities up and down the country.
Some of the highlights of the report, carried out by UK based agency Substance, include:
- The current annual minimum impact of participation total of €1.8billion features €304million from the economic impact of social benefits, €355million in direct contributions to the Irish economy by those engaged in football activity and €1.14billion in healthcare savings and benefits from football participation.
- In terms of social benefits, volunteering accounts for €202million with education and employment returning €92million.
- Direct contributions to the Irish economy include player spending of €218million and a facility investment and use value of €136million.
- Healthcare savings arising from football participation amount to €1.14billion including €862million from improved subjective wellbeing, €261million from reduced incidence of CVD and diabetes, €13million from reduced incidence of mental health conditions, €2million from reduced cases of cancer and €896k from health-related projects and programmes
The report goes deeper in breaking these down into specific areas with a saving on health spending of €260.95 million on cardio vascular disease and diabetes, €13.68 million on mental health and €861.95 on what is broadly defined as subjective wellbeing.
“This is a significant and hugely important piece of research which clearly demonstrates the enormous social benefits from participation in physical activity and football specifically,” said Chambers.
“The link between playing football and the associated health benefits have long been understood but now there is clear information and data to underscore how important and beneficial investment in grassroots football really is.”
“The report shows that healthcare savings arising from football participation amount to €1.14billion. In particular, I note savings of €13million from reduced incidence of mental health conditions through football participation.”
“These UEFA Grow SROI results come at a time when we are formulating the FAI Strategy 2022 to 2025 document and will inform all future discussions with Government and external stakeholders around supporting football to have an even greater impact on Irish society,” added FAI Grassroots Director Ger McDermott.
“As these findings prove, the impact of Grassroots football on Irish society and local economies is significant and the figures in this report highlight the huge impact in so many key areas, including economic, health and wellbeing, that football has on all sectors of Irish life.”
“I am delighted that we can now put a value on how much Ireland’s biggest participation sport gives back to the country. In the area of mental health alone we see huge potential to grow that €13million figure given our recent partnership announcement with the youth mental health charity Jigsaw as chosen by FAI staff.”
“One of the key strategies for the FAI going forward is to grow participation at all levels of the game for girls, boys, women and men and we can now see the positive impact increased participation will have on Irish life as well.”
“Sport and football are key players that contribute more than competitions, events, and elite athletes to society and investing in sport delivers key social outcomes for many different groups in society,” said UEFA Strategic Development Manager Liam McGroarty.
“The return is clear and these studies confirm we must continue to invest in and design sport and football for development goals.”
The Sport for Business Perspective:
We all know in our hearts that sport is a good thing. Having the evidence to put genuine supportable values on them is vitally important when it comes to arguing the case for greater public investment in the games we play.
The Irish Government has been willing to back sport in terms of financial support and stood firm in doing so even under the enormous pressures of the past two years.
Being able to provide evidence for the impact which the investment to date has had, and measurement of the success of individual programmes is of huge value at a national level. The next step will be to bring it to the regional and local club level so that local commercial partners and local authorities can also invest with confidence that what they are enabling has a broad positive societal impact.
“A powerful and influential network of information and collaboration”
Sport for Business Partners