Federation warns many sports won't return without funding

Irish sport will not return as we knew it unless the government commits to a significant financial 'resilience fund' similar to those introduced in England and New Zealand, the Federation of Irish Sport has warned.
Federation warns many sports won't return without funding
Mary O'Connor, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport

Irish sport will not return as we knew it unless the government commits to a significant financial 'resilience fund' similar to those introduced in England and New Zealand, the Federation of Irish Sport has warned.

Sport England made €219 million available to the sports sector at the end of March through a combination of lottery funding and government contributions.

New Zealand followed only days ago with a package of €147m which is even more impressive given the country's size.

Both nations have separated the funding into distinct areas in order to help sport through the immediate problems caused by Covid-19 and the many legacy issues which the industry will face as it reopens for business and into the future.

The Federation here, which represents 81 NGBs and 29 local sports partnerships, is calling for something similar.

Some clubs would need no more than a couple of thousand euro to get by while some of the bigger team sport bodies are facing shortfalls into the tens of millions.

"It's a big day, an important day,” said CEO Mary O'Connor who also discussed the call for a sports task force to add to the Return to Sport Expert Group that was established over the weekend.

“Sport as we know it can't be taken for granted.”

There is a recognition here that every sector is facing similar problems but yet a determination that the sector needs to bat for itself and stress the many benefits – economic, societal, cultural and medical – that it offers even beyond the pure enjoyment it brings.

If a resilience fund is not put in place now then it will cost the state much more down the line,” said O'Connor, touching on past findings that explained how, for every €100 spent on sport by the state, a return of €195 finds its way back into the exchequer.

There was little dressing on yesterday's statement which warned that “many” of the 13,000 sports clubs and organisations in this country will simply not survive the economic fallout from this pandemic if financial assistance isn't forthcoming from the state.

How much that assistance would amount to is another thing.

O'Connor claimed a final figure could not be put forward given the effects of the shutdown are building with every day lost to trading, although the return to play of golf and tennis yesterday served as encouraging shafts of light.

The government has already recognised the need to aid certain sectors with €250 million set aside for small businesses and a number of sport's administrators explained yesterday just how hard devastating the crisis has been.

Hamish Adams, CEO of Athletics Ireland, predicted that the body would lose over 1.5m as a direct result of the pandemic.

A survey by Gymnastics Ireland has found that their network of clubs is losing €2.4million for every month their doors remain closed.

Only 4% of our clubs believe they can make it through the next 3-6 months under current conditions, with many having concerns about their ability to start back up from a financial perspective,” said Gymnastics Ireland CEO Ciaran Gallagher.

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