Group issues call to action on sports participation rate

Liberian-born Westmeath footballer Boidu Sayeh will be among the speakers at the conference. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

More needs to be done to make sport more inclusive for minorities, the economically disadvantaged, and people with disabilities, according to the chief executive of the organisation that represents Ireland’s sporting governing bodies.

Mary O’Connor issued the call for a more inclusive sporting sector ahead of the Federation of Irish Sport’s annual conference this week.

The Irish Sports Monitor’s 2017 report found non-Irish-born adults are 61% less likely to be involved in organised sport, and participation rates among those born outside of Ireland (17.3% of population) are far below the national average.

It found that while 43% of Irish adults participate in sport, this drops to 30% for those in the lowest income bracket and 23% for adults with disabilities.

“Sport isn’t just about All-Ireland glory, World Cup qualification, or Olympic success,” said Ms O’Connor.

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, 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.”

The Federation of Irish Sport annual conference will take place in DCU on Thursday, and speakers will include Gareth Thomas, former Wales rugby international and gay rights advocate; Piara Powar of Football Against Racism (Europe), and Westmeath footballer Boidu Sayeh, who will share his experience of leaving war-torn Liberia aged eight.

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