Department logoThe Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport was praised here last year for setting out a list of priorities for 2013 and then issuing its own report card on where it had got to with them.

It is refreshing for a Government department to hold itself to account in this way and for 2014 they have done it again.

Naturally in a Department of such scale and breadth of interest, sport has to fight hard to gain attention above Transport and Tourism but it has done so with a series of key targets outlines as on the agenda for the next twelve months.

“In tourism, we will build on The Gathering and focus on increasing visitor numbers to Ireland by 4%, and tourism revenue by 8%,” said Minister Leo Varadkar.

“There will be a strong focus on sports tourism and outdoor tourism with the Giro d’Italia, Croke Park Classic and the Wild Atlantic Way.”

“The foundations will be laid for our bid for the Rugby World Cup. Work will start on the National Indoor Arena at the National Sports Campus in Dublin, and we will publish a new Masterplan for Sport.”

Government Sports Priorities for 2014

    • Begin work on a Masterplan for Sport;
    • Publish/Enact the Sport Ireland Bill;
    • Lay the foundations for a bid for the Rugby World Cup;
    • Review the National Cycle Policy Framework;
    • Develop and promote the Wild Atlantic Way at home and abroad;
    • Make new allocations for facilities and equipment under the Sports Capital Programme;
    • Develop facilities at the National Sports Campus including the commencement of work on the National Indoor Arena;
    • Provide City Bikes in Cork, Limerick and Galway;

This is not, nor should it be the limit of ambitions for sport under Government but it is a list of achievable targets which will focus the mind and deliver projects that make Ireland a better and more able sporting nation by the time the new year has become an old one.

The Capital Grants scheme is imperfect in that it is still influenced to a degree by political rather than sporting need but it is a €40 million fund that would not otherwise be available and should be welcomed and pitched intelligently for as it stands.

The administrative landscape around sport will change with the work on a masterplan for sport and the enactment of the Sport Ireland Bill which will bring together a number of bodies currently managing different areas of sport. This needs to be handled properly with a view on the bigger picture as opposed to competing individual plans and hopes that might clash.

Sports Tourism is a major focus and we will contribute to that debate through the Irish Sports Tourism Alliance which formed as a result of our seminar on sports tourism last November. We will carry weekly features highlighting ways around the world that sport and tourism and combined in ways that can deliver for Ireland.

Minister Varadkar has highlighted the promotion of the Giro d’Italia and the Croke Park Classic as events which will draw visitors and we should also be aware of the natural habitat we have which has drawn significant interest and visitors from around the world this week alone to ride waves and barrels off the West Coast.

The Rugby World Cup bid is clearly a major item which will take time, energy and resource but which will deliver for Ireland on a global stage and build upon much of the stadium and sporting infrastructure we already have in place. Events in European Club rugby may yet conspire to make the landscape different than it is today but those issues should be clarified sooner rather than later.

It is always easy to throw rocks at Government which has to deal with competing arguments for how to distribute public money and public service expertise. In the case of sport though we are fortunate to have a Department that believes in open government and is willing to lay out where it wants to go.

As a community of professionals involved in sport or with an interest in it from a business perspective we need to play our part in helping to deliver on the promises made and shaping the ones that will come to prominence over the next 12 months.