'Our clubs may not survive' Calls for support fund to protect Irish sports organisations during pandemic
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'Our clubs may not survive' Calls for support fund to protect Irish sports organisations during pandemic

CONCERNS for the future of sporting organisations across Ireland have led to the call for a support fund to be established to see them through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Federation of Irish Sport has called on the Government to create a Resilience Fund and set up a task force to ensure “the survival and reignition of sport organisations nationwide”.

The Federation, whose members include the 81 National Governing Bodies and 29 Local Sports Partnerships that organise sport and physical activity in Ireland, issued a statement on behalf of those members this week - claiming the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been devastating for them.

“There has been no organised sport in Ireland for 10 weeks,” they said.

“The stark reality is that the knock-on effects of Covid-19 financially for all sports organisations in the country are devastating.”

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They explained: “Within the last week, we have seen a number of our major team sports talk publicly of losses up to 70 per cent of their turnover.

“Unfortunately, we are also seeing these types of percentages in revenue losses right across the sporting landscape in Ireland.

“All sports have been impacted.”

The organisation, which is headquartered in Dublin and describes itself as ‘The Voice of Irish Sport’, acknowledged the Government’s announcement earlier this month that it would set up a Return to Sport Expert Group, designed to provide guidance for sporting organisations on how to prepare for their phased return to activity in Ireland.

But they believe the state must go further and put measures in place to also protect those organisations.

“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 states.

“[We] believe 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.”

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They add: “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.”

The Federation also highlights the fact that sports clubs across Ireland are – in most cases – small businesses as well as social enterprises.

At large, Ireland’s sporting industry employs 40,0000 people, supported by 500,000 volunteers.

It also accounts for €2.7billion in consumer spending and is worth €500million to the nation’s tourism industry.

“While the government are to be commended not alone on their support for the charitable sector but also for the €250 million fund set up for small business, the reality is that sport needs similar support,” the Federation explains.

“Sports clubs across all sports are in most cases small businesses as well as social enterprises – in some cases not that small either.”

The Federation claims those businesses have seen their usual income stopped while facing extra costs to get themselves ready to reopen in line with public health guidelines.

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“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,” they state.

“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.”

They add: “The Covid-19 Irish Sport Resilience Fund needs to be established by Government as a matter of urgency.”

Similar funds were introduced by Sport England and Sport New Zealand a number of weeks ago, the Federation states.

“As is the case in both those countries, support will be needed for club and community sports organisations as well as sports organisations funded through Sport Ireland,” they add.

“This financial assistance must help sports organisations facing particular financial difficulty and support organisations in getting back to business and adapting to the new reality as restrictions lift.”

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