Ireland Active has called for a reduced rate of VAT of 5 per cent on popular sporting activities.

The current rate for access to facilities is nine per cent and 13.5 per cent for exercise classes.

The sector employs approximately 12,000 people in roles such as lifeguards, swim teachers, fitness instructors, sports coaches and operational staff.

In order for facilities to continue offering the two highest participation sports in Ireland, Personal exercise (16%) and swimming (9%), the body is also calling on the government to introduce a direct industry-specific energy facility subsidy grant as part of Budget 2023 similar to the 2020 and 2021 swimming pool grants schemes.

“Leisure Health and Fitness operators are being adversely and disproportionately affected because of high energy demands, especially those facilities with swimming pools,” said CEO Karl Dunne.

“Energy costs are typically a leisure operator’s second highest cost after staffing costs. This is further exacerbated due to energy inefficient facilities.”

“Leisure providers are trying to mitigate the costs but they are unable to budget forecast for gas and electricity costs as the price is fluctuating so erratically. ”

“The energy issue is now reaching a point where it is driving decisions about facility closures or reduced opening hours. This will negatively impact on the health and wellbeing of communities as well as the recovery and future viability of the sector.”