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The Philip Lee Sport Report II

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


“Since our first Philip Lee Sport Report in 2014 and following a steady return to growth in the economy, recovery in consumer spending and the emergence of a more diverse media landscape, sport is now more accessible to viewers and fans than ever before. But it’s not just about entertainment. Sport is a big business worth billions to the Exchequer annually, playing its part in the creation of jobs and revenue for the economy. Our latest survey reflects the stark reality that while we’re spending more money with the sport business (€2.5 billion in 2016 vs €2.4 billion in 2014), as citizens we’re spending less time on sports and activity. That clearly presents challenges for the future, particularly around Government policy and the promotion of sport in addition to physical well-being and the general health of the nation. In that context, it’s interesting to note the finding that an emphatic 86% of respondents believe that greater participation in sport by children when at school would help reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.

That’s according to Philip Lee, the firm’s managing partner at the launch of the second Philip Lee Sport Report. Conducted by research firm Amárach, the survey provides a comprehensive snapshot of sport in Ireland. It looks at the levels of interest and participation in sport, examines sports-related commitment and spending, explores the changing landscape of sport sponsorship and advertising and looks at perceptions of how well the Government is doing with sport policy.

The Report also includes exclusive commentary by Olympics silver medal winner Annalise Murphy, rugby legend Ronan O’Gara, John Treacy, Olympian and Chief Executive, Sport Ireland, Sarah Keane, newly appointed President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, Philip Browne, Chief Executive, Irish Rugby Football Union and parkrun County Manager Matt Shields.

Key findings include:

  • 2.7 million Irish adults are interested in sport and exercise while 2.6 million adults participate in sports or other physical activity in Ireland
  • While the average active adult spends over two hours a week in physical activities such as walking etc. participation has FALLEN on average by 16 minutes since 2014. Men now spend more time than women on sport and exercise, while older people spend more time than younger people on activity.
  • 44% those polled agreed with the sentiment that Sports Ireland (formally the Irish Sports Council) should reduce its support for the Olympic Council of Ireland considering the ticketing scandal.
  • An emphatic 86% of respondents believe that greater participation in sport by children when at school would help reduce the incidence of childhood obesity – video games and digital devices were blamed as major distractions to activity.
  • 68% believes that funding to sports in Ireland should be increased. 81% would like to see increased funding for sport used to encourage greater participation in sport generally throughout Ireland. By contrast only 15% felt that increased funding should go to improving elite level sport performance so Irish players and athletes can be more successful in international competitions.
  • Regarding women in sport, it appears that male dominance is still a problem in this country. Nearly half of those surveyed (44%) have not watched any women’s sporting events in the past six months and three in four have not attended any female sporting events.
  • Asked how sport should be funded and supported, 64% believed that government funding was the way forward, 53% said sponsorship income while 42% identified revenues from specific taxes on gambling.
  • 50% feel that the GAA is becoming too professional for an amateur sport by introducing professional training regimes that lead to burn out and increased levels of injury.
  • MMA star Conor McGregor and rugby player Paul O’Connell tie for the title of Ireland’s favourite male sporting personality while boxer Katie Taylor is the outright favourite female sporting personality. 42% agree or strongly agree with the notion that MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is a sport we can be proud of in Ireland due to the success of Conor McGregor.
  • Walking (55%), fitness (28%) swimming (23%) and running (22%) are the most popular activities – largely unchanged since 2014 (See Editor’s Note 3 for further analysis).
  • The average sports fan spends around €260 per annum on the various matches, heats and finals that attract them. Though this figure is down significantly from an average of €340 in 2014. The active Irish spend on sports gear has increased since 2014, to an average of €195 from €172: on top of their other sports commitments. This increase speaks to the growing trend of sportswear fashion. Women now outspend men when it comes to sports gear, a switch in the gender balance since 2014 (2016 average female €220 vs male spend of €171).
  • On the 2023 Rugby World Cup, 68% agree or strongly agree with the Government decision to bid to host the event with 76% believing that hosting such a major sporting event will have a positive economic impact.