Irish Sport is worth $3.3 billion to the economy and supports more than 40,000 jobs, Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar told a special reception to mark sport’s first ever inclusion in the Global Irish Economic Forum.

The Global Irish Economic Forum will include a panel debate on sport, called “Promoting the interests of Ireland and its people abroad through Sport”. The panel will be hosted by Ger Gilroy (Newstalk) with panelists Eugenie Buckley (Suiko Consulting Australia), Páraic Duffy (GAA), Hugo MacNeill (Rugby, Managing Directing, Investment Banking, Goldman Sachs), Martin Naughton (President, Glen Dimplex), Kevin O’Brien (Cricket) and Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring.

In advance of the Forum session, a range of sporting organizations were invited to attend a reception in the National Concert Hall, where Ministers Varadkar and Ring set out their vision for the sporting sector. Guests heard that more than 2% of Ireland’s total workforce work in a sport-related area, and that $1,103 million is spent annually by Ireland’s 12,000 voluntary sport clubs.

Minister Varadkar said “Sport lifts the spirit in a way that no other sector can. It also makes a significant contribution to the economy, as shown by a recent EU study on the contribution of sport to economic growth. The report highlighted sport’s ability to develop other sectors of the economy including, tourism, fitness, the media, and education.”

The reception heard how some 8,826 people are employed directly in the voluntary sport sector, which creates around one job for every $33,800 invested. Employment in sport is also growing – to take one example, 313 people are now employed in Games Development by the GAA compared to 20 in 1991.

Minister Ring added: “Grants for sports capital projects play a very important role in supporting employment. For example, my officials have calculated that the $18.2 million allocated to sports capital subhead in 2013 will support almost 600 jobs in the construction and related sectors in 2013. Much of this will benefit job creation in rural areas.”

Minister Varadkar said: “I set out four priorities for sport when I was appointed Minister. These were to re-start development of the National Sports Campus on a realistic level, re-launch the Sports Capital Programme, protect funding for sport through the Sports Council, and promote sport as an exam subject in schools. Work is progressing well in all these areas.”

“Furthermore, sports-based tourism is prioritized in the Programme for Government because it brings high-yield, high-value international visitors to the country. Sports tourists spend on average twice as much as general tourists, whether attending sporting events or taking part in sport. We have also focused on major events that attract large spectator numbers and overseas media coverage, like the Navy versus Notre Dame American football game, or the annual Irish Open golf event. Almost a fifth of all Gathering events this year were sports-related, while 254,000 Irish residents travelled domestically to sports events last year with an average overnight stay of two nights.”