Treacy warns cuts will impact on medal hopes
KEEP your axe away from our funding, we're worth it.
That was the strong message from the Sports Council (ISC) to government yesterday ahead of next month's dreaded hairshirt budget.
The ISC launched a report assessing the economic impact of sport in Ireland to be 1.4pc of gross domestic product (GDP) and 2pc of employment nationally -- and that did not even include the horse-racing industry, which falls outside the ISC's remit.
It found that for every €100 invested by the State in sport, the Exchequer receives a €149 return.
In 2008, from a State spend of €618m, the Exchequer received €922m in sports sector taxes.
New Sports Council chairman Kieran Mulvey made an impassioned plea for the ISC's funding to be maintained at its current level (€51m last year), saying this research proved that sport has economic, health and social benefits that far outweigh its funding.
He said that the ISC has been given no prior warning of any impending cuts, but admitted that the best they are hoping for is to escape the knife.
The ISC insisted that the timing of yesterday's research was coincidental, but CEO John Treacy said that "if investment in sport is reduced, it will obviously have an impact on future medals.
"We don't want to be dismantling a high-performance support system that has been in place since 2003," Treacy added.
The ISC escaped with just a 4pc cut to its budget last year but, with the bottom already fallen out of the Irish sports sponsorship market -- estimated to be €75m last year -- and the London Olympics just two years away, any further cuts will be particularly untimely.
Mulvey stressed that the Sports Council are prepared to be creative with their funding and he is also resolved to finding a way to make school and college sports facilities more accessible to their communities during holiday periods.
The report found that Irish households spend a total of €1.8bn on sport and sport-related goods (€390m on club subscriptions alone), which is 2pc of annual consumer spending.
It also found that 38,225 Irish people are employed in the sports sector, complementing the work of 270,000 volunteers whose economic contribution annually is estimated at between €322m and €582m. It calculated that there are 12,000 sports clubs across 64 sports in Ireland, and though soccer has the most clubs (2,454) compared to the GAA's 1,908, the latter's membership of 550,000 is twice that of the FAI.