The chief executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy, has welcomed insights revealed by a new study conducted by Sport Ireland and Sheffield Hallam University's Sport Industry Research Centre. Photo: Sportsfile

Huge benefits sport has on society and economy confirmed by new study

Over the past 10 years, the sport economy has grown faster than the economy as a whole according to a new study by Sport Ireland and Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre.

The study aims to gain a deeper understanding of the value of sport in Ireland and the returns that government investment in sport provides across relevant policy areas such as physical and mental health, economic activity, tourism, sport club membership and volunteering.

Among the study’s key findings are:

- 97,000 cases of disease were prevented in Ireland due to physical activity participation in 2019 for a total cost saving over €405m. Diseases prevented include stroke, certain cancers and Type 2 diabetes

- In 2018 the sports sector employed more than 64,000 people in Ireland

- Consumer expenditure on sport-related goods and services in Ireland in 2018 was €3,341.6m, or 3.1% of total consumers' expenditure, and is largely driven by the participation elements of sport such as subscription to sports clubs (€622.9m), clothing and footwear (€568.8m), and subscriptions to fitness and dance (€490.9m)


The research study was broken down in to two main parts, firstly the economic impact of sport in Ireland, including an economic valuation of sport volunteering, and secondly the value of the health impact of participation in sport and physical activity.

Volunteers are an integral aspect of sport in Ireland that help to sustain clubs and input to the activities of amateur community sport up to elite professional sports. Without volunteers, there would be fewer sports activities and they would be more expensive to deliver.

The study used average industrial wages and measured the time provided by the 435,000 volunteers in sport in Ireland to show the economic value of sport volunteering in Ireland in 2018 stood at €1.5 billion. This represents a substantial increase from 2008 (€0.3-€0.6 billion).

The chief executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy, welcomed the study, stating: “The insights gained in this study show a side of sport that is not always evident but one that is critical to the future development of the sector. While the economic value of the sector is hugely important, it is also encouraging to the see the estimated health benefits and disease prevention as a result of sport and physical activity.

“We have all seen in the past year and a half the impact of the global pandemic on the world and there is scientific evidence that highlights the benefit of being physically active in relation to Covid-19. Combined with the economic aspect of being physically active, these insights demonstrate the importance of sport and physical activity to the Irish economy. As a sector we will continue to work together to ensure the sector and all of those involved at a policy and a participation level continue to see the benefits.”


The study was undertaken by Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC), who have a proven track record in devising approaches to measure the value of sport in relation its economic, health and broader outcomes.

They have also conducted similar research in the UK for bodies such as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), UK Sport, Sport England, Sport Wales and Sport Northern Ireland, and internationally for countries such as Lithuania, Belgium, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and Turkey.

Simon Shibli, head of the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with Sport Ireland to calculate the economic importance of sport to the economy of Ireland. This work updates our earlier research in Ireland from 2010 and benefits from the expertise we have accumulated from conducting similar studies across the EU and Japan over the last decade.

“Our analysis shows that sport is a growing and resilient component of the economy in Ireland and an excellent catalyst for employment. In a post-Covid world, sport has the potential to enhance our physical and mental wellbeing, to entertain us and to inspire us; whilst simultaneously contributing to our economic recovery and growth.”