There has been no organised sport in Ireland for 10 weeks. The stark reality is that the knock-on effects of Covid-19 financially for all sports organisations in the country are devastating. Within the last week, we have seen a number of our major team sports talk publicly of losses up to 70% of their turnover. Unfortunately, we are also seeing these type of percentages in revenue losses right across the sporting landscape in Ireland. All sports have been impacted.
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 believes 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.
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.
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. Sports clubs across all sports are in most cases small businesses as well as social enterprises – in some cases not that small either! It is all too easy to forget that sport in Ireland is today an industry that employs some 40,000 people (supported by some 500,000 volunteers) and which also accounts for €2.7bn in consumer spending. It also is worth €500m to our tourism industry.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
This at a time when physical activity and exercise has never been as important to maintain both physical and mental well-being. Irish Sport is supporting the Government call in this regard with sports organisations of all types being innovative in their use of digital channels to encourage activity and maintain a sense of community.