We gathered yesterday once more for our first Sport for Business Members Round Table since the pandemic put a halt to in-person activity and it was to discuss the appropriate topic of Sports Tourism.

The room was filled with smart individuals that have and will continue to play a key role in bringing sporting events to Ireland and accomodating those who will travel to watch or participate in them.

First on our agenda for discussion was the public consultation now underway through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

The deadline for making a contribution is 5-30 PM on Thursday, May 26th and it will provide an important framework for how the Department develops a policy and strategy on the attracting of major sporting events.

There are nine questions to be answered and with the creation of a policy being part of the programme for Government, this is going to happen.


There was significant praise for the advances made since the creation of a ‘Major Events Unit’ in the Department in 2019 and for the assistance that has been provided towards events like the Euro 2020 Championships, and their subsequent loss to Covid, as well as the College Football Classic and other events.

Our discussion focused on what could happen to put more of a structure on the bid process and the support available to those who might have an idea and want to either test the water or mount a full bid.

Consistency of messaging on what we can deliver and what we want to say about Ireland is needed as well as a structure towards how potential ideas might be assessed.

The Event Ireland model was mentioned in terms of the value that had delivered but it was felt that its two-year lifespan was too short to have been as fully effective as it might have been.

Having independent input into that assessment process was thought to be of value and that is certainly something which Sport for Business would like to assist in.

Building out a one-stop-shop of the kind of questions that need to be asked and the kind of assessment that needs to be applied has worked well for UL in terms of attracting a range of mid-tier European and World Championships.  The next stage will be to create a consistent set of criteria against which to measure the impacts that are being had from hosting events.


The wider storytelling elements have become a much more important part of any bid process now.  We heard that in the bid documents that arrived recently surrounding the joint bid to host the Euro 2028 Championships, sustainability was much higher up the list of priorities than in previous similar requests and this was clearly going to be a long term trend.

Inbound sports travellers were starting to ask the question of how their own carbon impact of travelling to an event was going to be offset, the view being that it would be the event and the tourism sector that should provide opportunities to offset.

We spoke of legacy and the challenges that lie within that.  England’s hosting of the Olympic Games in 2012 and the Rugby World Cup in 2015 were spoken of as being best in class when it came to the plans and aims of long term impact but questions remain about whether they have come even close to delivering.

There has to be impact and legacy but perhaps we are measuring the wrong things.

We looked at the impact of mass participation events and the questions around domestic versus international tourism and also at the opportunities presented by the rapid growth of competitive gaming, surely perfectly suited as an indoor event to our temperate climate.


Data and the consistent collection and analysis of that will be a crucial part of success.  We talked about comparisons of dwell time and the different spending power of fans of different sports and from different regions.

We also considered the need for greater diversity in terms of the story we tell of modern Ireland and of the potential audiences we might reach out to, the global LGBTQ+ community being one in particular.


The purpose of our Monthly Round Table discussions is to bring smart minds together in a semi-structured forum and see where that takes us.

The first output from yesterday will be a more informed ability to make our views known through the consultation, and then to gather again once its report has been published to see what input we as a group can provide for the greater good.

We were joined yesterday by:

Rob Hartnett, Sport for Business
Brendan Meehan, Aer Lingus College Football Classic
Jenny Rafter, Aer Lingus Head of Global Leisure Sales
Alex Saul, Chief Revenue Officer, Carr Golf
Cormac O Donnchú, Founder, Experience Gaelic Games
Fidelma Alford, Territory Manager, Sports Travel International
Eoin Kelly, Executive, Sports Travel International
David Ward, University of Limerick
Alicia McConnell, Sporting Pride, Former Director US Olympic Committee
Oliver Kirwan, Founder, Elite Events
Aidan O’Brien, Strategy Manager, FAI
Stuart Dempsey, CEO, Legion eSports and Media
Martin Murphy, CEO, Aviva Stadium
Sam Johnston, Fáilte Ireland

Upcoming Round Tables will be held on:

* Sport and Physical Activity on the Road back to Workplace Wellbeing
* The Rise of eSports and where Ireland can be a Winner
* Sports Medicine
* Third Level Sport
* The Impact of Gambling on Sport and Society

Contact us rob@sportforbusiness.com if you are interested in being part of one of these or if you would like to build a group of smart minds around your particular area of interest.


Sport for Business Partners