Sports clubs accused of being too Irish-born and unwelcoming to poorer people

Irish-born adults more than twice as likely to be member of sports club as adults born outside State

Minister for Sport Shane Ross: “We want to see every citizen engaging regularly in some form of sport and physical activity, irrespective of their age, economic or social circumstances, their ethnic background or their physical capabilities.”Photograph: Getty Images

Minister for Sport Shane Ross: “We want to see every citizen engaging regularly in some form of sport and physical activity, irrespective of their age, economic or social circumstances, their ethnic background or their physical capabilities.”Photograph: Getty Images

 

Irish sports clubs are too Irish-born* and too unwelcoming to people with disabilities, older people and people from poorer backgrounds, a major conference will hear this week.

The Federation of Irish Sport, which is the representative organisation for the national governing bodies of sport and local sports partnerships in Ireland, will on Thursday challenge its 102 members to say what they are doing about this.

According to its figures, Irish-born adults are more than twice as likely to be a member of a sports club as adults born outside the State.

And while overall 43 per cent of the adult population are involved in a sporting activity, just 30 per cent of adults from poorer backgrounds are, and 23 per cent of adults with disabilities take part.

People born outside Ireland account for 17.3 per cent of the population but just 7.7 per cent of them are members of sports clubs, compared with 19.7 per cent of Irish-born people.

“Sport is known for its power to integrate communities and break down barriers,” says federation chief executive Mary O’Connor. “We want to challenge our member to tell us what they are doing to ask people in.

“Clubs and organisations can’t simply expect people who have not traditionally been involved before to just walk in and get involved. It’s not that easy. The clubs have to decide how they are going to reach out and welcome people in.”

In his foreword to the Government’s National Sports Policy 2018 to 2027, published last year, Minister for Sport Shane Ross says: “We want to see every citizen engaging regularly in some form of sport and physical activity, irrespective of their age, economic or social circumstances, their ethnic background or their physical capabilities.”

Opportunities

Initiatives like GymAble, an inclusive programme to provide opportunities to people with disabilities to take part in gymnastics, by Gymnastics Ireland is growing in popularity across the country.

“This is a opportunity for clubs to grow and learn from members of their community they might not have had the chance to, and for people to take part in sports who might not have before,” says Ms O’Connor.

“Sport is not just about physical activity. It’s about community, team-work, emotional growth, stress relief, decision-making under pressure – a whole range of life skills too.”

Speakers at Thursday’s conference include Gareth Thomas former Wales rugby international and LGBT activist, and Katie Sadlier, general manager of Women’s World Rugby.

*This article was edited on Tuesday, May 21st, 2019