Federation of Irish sports plead for government resilience fund

Federation of Irish sports plead for government resilience fund
Picture Dan Linehan

The Federation of Irish Sports has called on the Government to urgently introduce a resilience fund to ensure the survival of its member organisations.

The Federation represents 81 national governing bodies and 29 local sports partnerships that organise sport and physical activities in Ireland.

With organised sport grinding to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, revenue streams have dried up for the majority of organisations with growing fears that many of them may not survive the crisis without immediate financial assistance.

A spokesperson said: While we welcome the setting up of the Return to Sport Expert Group, its remit is very specific which is to assess the consistency of the various protocols being prepared by NGBs to return to sport in Ireland. 

"The Federation believes however that in addition to this Group, that sport needs a separate Task Force similar to the one Government has set up for the Tourism Industry. We need innovative thinking, swift action, and investment at local and national level providing business and administrative supports to Irish Sport to help sustain it through this unprecedented emergency and the recovery. 

"The fact is that many of our 13,000 clubs and sporting organisations may not survive the financial impact of Covid-19 without financial assistance now. We are calling on the Government to introduce a Resilience Fund for sport immediately.

"Sports clubs across all sports are in most cases small businesses as well as social enterprises – in some cases not that small either! It is all too easy to forget that sport in Ireland is today an industry that employs some 40,000 people (supported by some 500,000 volunteers) and which also accounts for €2.7 billion in consumer spending. It also is worth €500 million to our tourism industry.” 

The spokesperson added: “There has been a significant fall off in income, as the normal revenue sources such as subscriptions, gate receipts, sponsorship, summer camp and coach education income have dried up. At the same time, running costs including insurance and facilities maintenance all continue to be incurred. Most sports clubs are not-for-profit organisations with minimal reserves, and they are now also facing substantial costs to be able to implement return to sport protocols in accordance with public health guidelines.” 

Swim Ireland CEO Sarah admitted concern “about our clubs and getting our members back into the water. We are particularly concerned about the ability of swimming pools to open and be viable whilst adhering to physical distancing protocols. Many are facing a scenario of retaining 80-100% of the running costs whilst operating at only 30-40% of capacity. The impact of this on swimming, leisure centres and hotels, and therefore our sport and physical activity, is potentially catastrophic."

Hamish Adams, CEO, Athletics Ireland added: “The financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been extremely severe on our business. We are an NGB that prides itself in terms of revenue generation through our recreation, competition and sponsorship ability. In a normal year, we generate approximately 60% of our income from these sources and 40% is granted by Sport Ireland. However, this year we are forecasting a decrease in total revenue in the area of 30% of turnover. This represents over €1.5 million loss to our organisation. Additionally, our clubs, county boards and provinces are also hurting financially due to significant losses, as no recreational events or competitions are taking place. As an organisation, we are under severe financial stress at this time."

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