Building inclusivity in sport: Federation hosts conference at DCU

Story by John Donohoe

Wednesday, 22nd May, 2019 1:13pm

Building inclusivity in sport: Federation hosts conference at DCU

Boidu Sayeh, Liberian-born Westmeath GAA intercounty star.

Irish sport is widely recognised for its ability to unite the community, but research suggests this is not necessarily true for all.  
Participation rates among those born outside of Ireland (17.3% of population) are significantly below the national average; 19.7% of Irish-born adults are members of a sports club, compared to just 7.7% of non-Irish-born adults. In effect non-Irish-born adults are 61% less likely to be involved in organised sport.     
Overall, 43% of the Irish adult population are involved in some social form of sports participation, this figure drops to 30% among those in the lowest income bracket and just 23% among adults with disabilities. 
These challenges, amongst others, will be discussed by international and national experts speaking at the Federation of Irish Sport’s 2019 annual conference on the theme of building greater inclusivity in Irish sport, on Thursday 23rd May in DCU, Dublin.  
This 2019 Federation of Irish Sport’s annual conference seeks to challenge the Irish sporting community on its record in delivering real inclusivity; taking in those with disabilities, members of the LGBT community, ethnic minorities and the elderly; and reflecting the priorities set out in the Irish Government’s Irish Sports Policy 2018 – 2027 published last July.   
Irish Sports Policy 2018–2027
The Irish Sports Policy 2018–2027 saw the Government pledge to double sports funding from €111 million per year to €220 million over a ten-year period, including an 11% increase in capital funding in the 2019 Budget.  
Utilising sport to achieve greater inclusivity and social cohesion was a consistent theme throughout the report: “Sport must be welcoming and inclusive, offering appropriate opportunities for participation and improvement to all. We will promote inclusion to deliver our desired outcomes with a focus on addressing social, disability, gender, ethnic and other gradients’. 
Speaker line-up
The Federation of Irish Sport is utilising its 2019 annual conference to build on the priorities laid out in the Government’s National Sports Policy—namely doubling sports funding from €111 million per year to €220 million over a ten-year period and utilising sport to achieve greater social cohesion—and challenge its 102-member sporting organisations on this theme. 
The annual conference will be chaired by sports broadcaster Grainne McElwain.  In addition to key-note speaker Gareth Thomas, former Wales rugby international and gay rights advocate; Piara Powar of Football Against Racism (Europe) will outline his vision for harnessing football to propel social cohesion. Boidu Sayeh will share his experience of leaving war-torn Liberia, aged eight, without his family to start a new life in Westmeath and his subsequent sporting success and challenges.  The full list of confirmed speakers at the annual conference includes:
Gareth Thomas, former Wales rugby international and gay rights advocate
Piara Powar, Executive Director of Football Against Racism (Europe)
Boidu Sayeh, Liberian-born Westmeath GAA intercounty star
Katie Sadleir, GM of Women’s World Rugby
Jon Morgan, Disability Sport Wales
Michelle Daltry, Disability Sport Wales & Chair of LGBT Sport Cymru
Hugo McNeil, former Irish rugby international and peace advocate
Trevor Ringland, former Irish rugby international and peace advocate
Colin Regan, GAA health and Community Development

 Federation of Irish Sport CEO Mary O’Connor, said:  “Sport isn’t just about All-Ireland glory, World Cup qualification or Olympic success.  We all recognise the invaluable role it plays in bringing communities together, stimulating personal development and fostering greater social cohesion across society.  
“While nearly half of Irish adults are involved in some level of sports participation, unfortunately these numbers drop off dramatically when it comes to the economically disadvantaged, adults with disabilities, ethnic minorities, the LGBT community and ageing populations.  At present, 17.3% of the Irish population were born outside Ireland.  
“Sport has the potential to be a key gateway for integrating foreign-born populations into the local community, however the research suggests non-Irish born adults are 61% less likely to be a member of a sports club versus those born in Ireland. 
“While a lot of great work is being done by many of our member organisations and local grassroots sports clubs, we want to use the conference as an opportunity to ask our members what more can be done to increase participation rates among these communities.
“Equally, if we are to inspire social change and deliver on the action points outlined in the National Physical Activity Plan and National Sports Policy 2027, continued Government support is essential.  This starts with funding.  More specifically, making greater funding available for bespoke programmes aimed at tracking and driving sports participation amongst underrepresented strands of the population and at-risk communities. In the 2019 Budget, the Government increased current funding by 11%.  While this was welcomed by the sports community, it is critical that the Government again honours its commitment in the 2020 Budget, as set out in the National Sport Policy 2027, to double annual current funding over a ten-year period.” 
Tickets for the Federation of Irish Sport’s annual conference are available at

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