The Federation of Irish Sport, the NISF’s sister body in the South, has written to politicians to express their concern at the reduction of funding for sport in the Republic and in particular a reduction in funding for the Irish Sports Council.
Some 35% has been wiped from overall government investment in sport for 2009 with suspension of the Sports Capital Programmes, the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme and uncertainty regarding the future of the National Sports Campus.
Calling on the Government to protect the remaining sports budget, Ms Sarah O’Connor, Chief Executive of the Federation of Irish Sports, said that it was particularly important that the Government made no further reduction into Irish Sports Council funding which has already been reduced by 8% over the 2008 level.
She commented, “Any further reduction in this budget will undoubtedly have a major impa! ct on sport at all levels from the grassroots right through to our elite sportsmen and sportswomen especially those with their sights set on the 2012 Olympics in London.”
She said that she was speaking on behalf of all of Irish sports including the major sporting bodies, all of whom expressed their concern at the potential for long-term damage should funding be reduced. In particular she noted that any further reduction in the Sports Council funding could not be sustained without:-
· loss of jobs & expertise in the NGB sector and Local Sports Partnerships
· collapse in the sports development and participation programmes
· significant reduction and/or elimination of the High Performance Programmes
· loss of grant aid received by elite athletes
· impact on international performance including London 2012
· reduction in access of local communities to sport & physical activity
·! 0;erosion of social capital provided by sport
She said that the belief amongst all of the sporting organisations was that further reductions in funding could set Irish sports back ten years. “Irish Sport has progressed significantly in the last 10 years. There can be little doubt that much of this progress is attributable to the government investment in sport which only commenced with any significance in 1997.
The reality is however that any further reduction in the funding available to the Irish Sports Council will result in much of this hard work and effort being undone resulting in the reduction of the availability of sport in local communities as well as impacting on the ability of our elite athletes to be the best that they can be.”
She added, that in the appeal to the Government they had also pointed out the major role sport has to play both in terms of self esteem but also in the actual health of the nation. “We have much to be proud of but sport is not just about national pride. It is ! even more important than that. Each year sport contributes more than €2 billion to our economy (ESRI Report).
And that again is only part of the story. Over one million people actively participate in sport on a regular basis and as worldwide research shows that has a hugely positive effort on the cost of health provision in this country. To put it in perspective research has shown in the US inactivity (non participation in any sporting activity) costs the country in excess of $70 billion annually in terms of spending on health. If the same model was to be applied in Ireland the cost to our health service is almost €1 billion.”