This is an omnibus section which outlines the functions of Sport Ireland. On the basis of promoting elite athletes and excellence in competitive sports, the Minister of State may be able to advise me what will be the relationship between Sport Ireland and the Olympic Council of Ireland, a body which selects Irish Olympians and other high ranking sporting organisations. Apart from the funding and organisational elements of Sport Ireland and the promotion, encouragement and development of the participation of young people in sport, will Sport Ireland have a hands-on involvement at high level such as the Olympics? The Olympic Games are held every four years and there are often difficulties associated with selection and which sports are to be represented. Does the Minister of State envisage Sport Ireland having some form of role at that level, quite apart from the funding level?
I raised previously with the Minister a subject which is close to the Acting Chairman's heart, the development of League of Ireland soccer. I put down a Commencement debate matter, asking that the Department, through the Minister and perhaps through Sport Ireland, would have discussions with the League of Ireland or the FAI to see if anything can be done to save League of Ireland soccer from itself. The new season is under way and while I am not the expert in this House on the League of Ireland or maybe the greatest League of Ireland soccer fan, I am concerned that, once again, the problems, crises and disasters which have happened almost every year over the past five or six years are emerging again. Whether it is management structures, finance or whatever, the league, as a serious and credible entity, is disappearing before our eyes. The league comes under the ambit of the FAI but in our promotion of sport under the functions of Sport Ireland we should recognise that a semi-professional League of Ireland, if properly functioning, properly managed, properly marketed and properly supported, could be as successful as any of the semi-professional leagues in some of the European countries such as the Scandinavian countries. Every League of Ireland club is not just a sporting organisation; it is a focal point for its own community and a mini-employer, a generator of economic activity. However, it is crumbling. There may be some mechanism by which the new organisation could sit down with the main players and try to knock heads together. Otherwise, there will be no League of Ireland of any credibility in the next number of years.