News & Media

Labour proposes direct investment in school football

11 June 2021

Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
Spokesperson on Education, Enterprise and Trade

With Euro2020 finally kicking off, the Labour Party have published a new proposal calling for the creation of a transition year programme in participating schools to develop a football academy structure.

The proposal was published by Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin together with Sports spokesperson Senator Mark Wall, and youth spokesperson Senator Ivana Bacik.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“Football is a game that reaches across Irish society and plays a vital role in many of our most disadvantaged communities. It brings people together from all ages and walks of life.

“But Irish football has many challenges:

  • 30% of professional players in the League of Ireland have only a Junior Certificate qualification.
  • Football has weak linkages with the education system compared to other mainstream team sports.
  • Too much of the financial and emotional investment amongst Irish football fans is based in England – their teams, their coaching structures, their players with Irish heritage.

“That’s why we are proposing a new programme for transition year students in secondary schools providing football academies, based on existing models including Stephen Elliot’s Improtech academy in the UK.

“Intensive football coaching would be provided in schools in tandem with regular schoolwork and progress towards qualifications. It would be part of the school curriculum and has been proven to improve football ability, school attendance and career pathways for the young people involved.

Labour Senator Mark Wall, sports spokesperson said:

“By pursing this proposal, we can work towards building a domestic Irish football industry and establish a successful, buoyant, and viable domestic league.

“The pilot programme costs would be approximately €50,000 per school annually and would be financed directly through an extra 0.25% increase in the betting levy that would raise an estimated €11 million.

“A more engaged football learning structure embedded in the Irish education system will provide a bedrock for a domestic football industry and improve the potential for national sides to improve into the future.

“Participation in grassroots football currently contributes €1.13bn to the Irish economy with a direct economic impact of almost €115m, almost €272m in social benefits and healthcare savings of almost €750m (UEFA Grow report, 2019). Further investment would only improve such outcomes.

Labour Youth spokesperson Ivana Bacik said:

“Football is an international language that the world over has been shown to drive integration, equality, social mobility, collective self-esteem, and physical and mental well-being.

“Across Ireland young people are lifted by their experiences of playing and watching football and our country feels a great sense of pride when our national sides perform well.

“As a parent I’ve seen the benefit especially of encouraging teenage girls to stay involved in team sport, and this would be a real gamechanger for the development of soccer in Ireland with huge knock-on benefits.

“Introducing this proposal, we can promote professional pathways in Ireland for young people with a passion for the game. The ambition to quality for World Cup 2023 and Euro 2024 starts today and the Labour Party are setting out that ambition.”

ENDS

The proposal is available here: https://www.labour.ie/assets/files/pdf/football_proposal.pdf