Monday, October 14, 2013

Should governments spend more on sport?

BMX Ireland
Katie O' Neill on her BMX PIC Stephen Kane
It's Budget Day in Ireland tomorrow - a good time to look at how little of our hefty tax-bill supports public sports - a stark contrast to the bulging health budget. Prevention rather than cure is definitely not the slogan of the day.

Website 'Public Policy ie' allows tax-payers to see where their tax goes. As a sports-fan it was very disheartening to see the tiny % going to Sports and Recreation Payments. 
  • A salary of €20,000 means €2,218.80 in tax with €2.64 going to sports
  • A salary of €40,000 means €9,930 in tax with €11.82 going to sports 
  • A salary of €60,00 means €20,330 in tax with €24.19 going to sports
  • A salary of €80,000 means €30,770 in tax with €36.57 going to sports
  • A salary of €100,000 means €41,130 in tax with €48.95 going to sports

Compare this to the thousands taken from those salaries to service our mammoth National Debt.(or maybe don't if you value your blood pressure) But it's also thousands/per person less than the money being poured into our health system.

Obviously speaking from a biased perspective here, but surely more investment in sports ultimately results in decreased demand on some health services?

I only moved back to Ireland a few years ago, and am still baffled at the huge growth in costly private gyms vs the low investment in public facilities.

There's a lot of talk about an obesity epidemic, taxing sugar, taxing salt and so on - but what about a bit of preventative medicine? 

This report prepared in 2010 found: 'there is a very significant net overall return on government investment in sport in Ireland'. It lists health benefits from reducing the risk of heart attacks to helping treat depression. And a myriad of other physical or mental benefits in-between. 

The authors also look at the economic impact of a fit population vs not-so-fit - including the scary statistic that almost one in five Irish people exercises for less than 20 minutes each week.

Although to be fair, this line made me laugh: 'Similarly, extremely high levels of participation in sport can cause health problems as well'  Ahem, guilty as charged! 

It's a not a clear link between more sport and health of course, but there is surely enough evidence to pull more spending into this area.

What do you think? 

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