Trade missions should accompany Irish sports teams abroad, forum told
Call for new agency to help sports organisations bid for major events
Minister of State Michael Ring: organisations often feel they don’t have the funds or support to bid for an international event. Photograph: Frank Miller
The Government should set up an organisation to support the bidding and staging of major international sporting events, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring has said.
Speaking at the Global Irish Economic Forum at the weekend, Mr Ring said organisations often feel they don’t have the funds or support to bid for an international event.
“We need an agency to help with that. We should be looking at bringing major international sporting events into Ireland.”
He suggested the agency could be set up in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs, or as part of Bord Fáilte.
Mr Ring said people didn’t realise the value of sport for a long time, adding that it employs 40,000 people in Ireland and drives tourism.
Addressing a panel debate on promoting the interests of Ireland and its people abroad through sport, Mr Ring said trade missions should be conducted in conjunction with Irish sporting teams.
The chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, John Delaney, said he supported Mr Ring’s idea that sports teams should lead trade missions abroad.
“Every time we go away, it’s a good opportunity for the Government to tag on.”
He said the Irish players and fans were good ambassadors for their country. “One great thing we learned from the Euros – certainly not on the pitch, but off the pitch – is that our supporters are the best in the world. The fans got an award for that.”
Discussing the value of hosting international sporting events, he said the Celtic v Liverpool game in Croke Park attracted more than 12,000 supporters from abroad, which brought new money into the country. He said the idea of having an agency to help sporting organisations bid for events such as the Euro soccer championships would be welcomed by the FAI.
“If the Irish soccer team or rugby team are going abroad we should have trade missions going with them because sport opens doors.”
Hugo MacNeill, managing director of Goldman Sachs in Ireland and a former rugby international, said sport not only improved social inclusion and derived health benefits, but also brought money to the economy.
“The Notre Dame versus Old Navy game brought €100 million to the economy. The Volvo Ocean race brought €100 million for the economy. Recreational angling creates €750 million for the economy every year.”
The director general of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Paraic Duffy, said there was a “greater sense of common interest among all sporting bodies now” adding that good relationships had been built up between the GAA, Irish Rugby Football Union, FAI and Federation of Irish Sport.