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Social and Economic Value of Sport in Ireland


05/10/2005

Social and Economic Value of Sport in Ireland

By Liam Delaney & Tony Fahey (ESRI)
Embargo: 12 Noon, Wednesday 5 October
Published By The Economic And Social Research Institute in conjunction with The Irish Sports Council
Launch: Liffey Room, Conrad Hotel, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2 Wednesday, October 5, 2005, at 12.30 p.m.

Sport in Ireland has enormous social benefits, comparable to its benefits as physical exercise. This must be recognised in the levels and pattern of investment in sport, with three people volunteering in sport for every four who play regularly and many more taking part in social activities connected with sport. These are the key findings of a new study of the social and economic value of sport published today (October 5) by the Economic and Social Research Institute, in association with the Irish Sports Council.

The main social aspects of sport have a combined economic value of 1.4 billion Euro, 1.26% of GNP in 2003. Comparable direct investment in through the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in 2004 was 122 million Euro, approximately 9% of the estimated economic value.

The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Mr John O'Donoghue T.D. formally launching the report stated: "The Report addresses a critical gap in our understanding of sport in Ireland. By quantifying the economic and social value it provides us with the evidence base to make the case for continued substantial investment in sport. The Government has invested more than 700 million Euro in sport since 1997, an investment strategy endorsed by the study series which demonstrates the health, and social benefits of sport and physical activity. The report also confirms that voluntarism is the foundation of Irish sport and there is a challenge for all involved in sport to continue to respect and develop the role of the volunteers."

400,000 adults, 15% of the adult population, volunteer for sport in some way during the sporting year in Ireland. This compares with the 20% who play sport on a regular basis. This means that for every four adults who play we have three who volunteer for sport, representing a significant level of social activity, volunteering and community involvement.

The report highlights the unique contribution of the GAA as one the "great generators of social capital in Ireland". With its large share of volunteering, memberships in sports clubs and attendance at sporting events, the GAA, is a model of what the voluntary, community-based sports organisation can contribute to society.

Ossie Kilkenny, Chairperson of the Irish Sports Council, said at the launch: "The Irish Sports Council believes passionately in the intrinsic value of sport to individuals and communities. Our research programme is clearly demonstrating that sport has enormous value beyond that with substantial economic, social and health benefits to the wider population. We will make the case for investment to reflect that importance and work with sport to maximise its potential benefit to the country".

The study was based on a national sample of over 3,000 adults interviewed in 2003. It was undertaken by the Economic and Social Research Institute in a joint initiative with the Irish Sports Council. It is part of a comprehensive programme of research designed to increase understanding of the shape and dynamics of sport in Ireland. A report on adult participation in sport was published in November 2004 and a report on children and sport will be published later this month.

The key recommendation of the report is that sports policy in Ireland should recognise and support the social aspects of sport, taking account of the social bonding, community involvement and general contribution to the effective functioning of society that they provide.

Funding for sport should be shaped with a view to supporting the social as well as the physical benefits of sport, particularly by encouraging the development of community-based models of sports organisation; sustaining or increasing the numbers who volunteer for sport; enhancing the volunteer experience; promoting social membership as well as playing membership of sports clubs; and facilitating attendance at sports events, for example with funding for sports stadiums and club facilities.

John Treacy, Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council said: "In the Ireland of 2005 sport is the major generator of social capital. This fact presents an enormous policy challenge and also an opportunity for sport. As a sector working together we have to ensure that the sporting infrastructure meets its responsibility to the community".