National Sports Policy 2018-2027: Government to double investment to €220m

Policy aims to increase participation and bring greater high performance success

The doubling of Government investment in sport - from the current annual figure of €111 million to €220m - is one of the standout objectives of the new National Sports Policy 2018-2027.

Almost 10 years since the last policy document expired, there are plenty of similarly ambitious objectives over the next decade: 57, to be exact, the 2018-2027 policy stretching to 11 chapters, more than 108 pages, and touching on almost every aspect of sport in Ireland.

This includes the trebling of annual high performance investment support to some €30 million over the next decade.

Unveiled in Dublin on Wednesday morning after some two years in the works, it is built on one main strategic objective: “Elevate Ireland to the top of the table globally for both participation in sport and high performance.”


This is then broken down in 57 specific “actions” largely based around increasing participation, improving the sporting infrastructure, and maximising the high performance achievement of elite Irish athletes.

In the short term, this will see €1.5m allocation to support Tokyo 2020 preparations as part of a longer-term drive to treble the level of support to match comparator nations like New Zealand; there will be an immediate acceleration of Women in Sport Programme, double annual funding provision to €2million; there will also be the creation of a dedicated €1m programme for Disability Sport through the deployment of a Sport Inclusion Disability Officer in all 26 Local Sport Partnership’s countrywide.

The much maligned Sports Capital Programme has already been shaken up in terms of the application process: this will become an annual fund, and “the scoring system and assessment process for the Sports Capital Programme will be reviewed to ensure that the programme is achieving objectives in line with this National Sports Policy”.

A new Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund will also be implemented, “where the exchequer investment will exceed the maximum amount available under the Sports Capital Programme”.

There will also be a shake-up in the elite and high-performance end. The policy calls for more targeted high performance funding to deliver more Olympic/Paralympic medals (13 in 2016 to 20 in 2028), and also for funding to be provided on multi-annual basis, based on Olympic cycles. Essentially, increased funding to be targeted at fewer sports for more medals.

"The publication of this policy is an important milestone for the Irish sporting community," said Shane Ross, Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport. "Following an extensive consultation process and research of best practice internationally, this policy sets out a Vision for Irish Sport in 2027 along with 57 actions to transform our sporting landscape over the next decade.

“The benefits of sport and physical activity to physical and mental health are well proven. An estimated €1.5 billion cost to our annual health budget due to physical inactivity indicates the scale of the financial benefit to be gained.”

Minister of State at the Department, Brendan Griffin, also highlighted the need for the National Sports Policy to improve Ireland’s success rate on the global stage, with that trebling of annual high performance investment.

“The inspirational effect of our high performance athletes is hugely important,” said Griffin. “Seeing an Irish sportsperson on an Olympic podium or being crowned an All-Ireland Champion in Croke Park inspires the next generation of athletes in that sport.

“Because of the financial crisis, it has simply not been possible to support our high performance athletes as much as we would have liked over the last decade. However, it is my ambition to redress that situation. Comparator nations are investing multiples of what Ireland is currently doing and if we are to compete successfully we have to do likewise. It is my aim to treble our annual high performance investment support to some €30 million over the next decade.”

Interestingly, the policy suggests a move to make anti-doping in Irish sport independent of Sport Ireland: “Ireland sees an emerging requirement for the anti-doping system to be seen as independent of the system that supports and funds the achievement of excellence in sport. The trend internationally is for the establishment of an agency, separate to the sports development agency, to regulate anti-doping matters. We commit to a detailed consideration of this issue in the first two years of the policy.”

The policy was prepared after an extensive public consultation process and collaboration with the sports sector (National Governing Bodies of Sport - NGBs LSPs and other stakeholders - Govt. Depts, Local Authorities etc).

The three high-level Goals of the National Sports Policy are: Increased Participation in Sport and Physical Activity; More Excellence from our high performance athletes; Improved Capacity of NGBs and LSPs to deliver sport and physical activity programmes.

National Sports Policy 2018-2027

Main Targets/Actions for achievement by 2027:

- Overall participation in sport and physical activity to rise from 43 per cent to 50% of the population by 2027 (an extra 250,0000 people).

- More targeted high performance funding to deliver more Olympic/Paralympic medals (13 in 2016 to 20 in 2028).

- Funding to be provided on multi-annual basis, based on Olympic cycles.

- Sports Capital Programme to be run annually.

- Sharing of sports facilities between clubs will be prioritised for funding.

- Multi-sport, multi-use facilities will also be prioritised.

- All 65 NGBs, all 29 LSPs and circa 12,000 clubs - to adopt the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charity Sector.

- Inequalities in sports opportunities to be tackled. Drop-off rates in adolescence a particular concern, especially among young girls.

- Lead role for Local Authorities, who will be asked to prepare Local Sports Plans taking account of local facilities and amenities.

- Special focus on the socio-economically advantaged, women in sport, those with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities where participation levels are lower with resulting poorer health outcomes and prospects.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics