Dr Una May appointed as chief executive of Sport Ireland

Long-time Sport Ireland employee takes over role from John Treacy

The board of Sport Ireland has appointed Dr Una May as its new chief executive, succeeding John Treacy, who held the position from 1999, when the body was first established on a statutory basis in the country as the Irish Sports Council.

With some 23 years' experience with Sport Ireland already, May's appointment was approved on Friday by the Minister for Sport Catherine Martin and Minister of State Jack Chambers, and followed a publicly advertised and extensive recruitment process that included an international dimension.

Treacy was originally set to retire at the end of 2020, but agreed to a one-year extension during the pandemic given the then precarious position of certain elements of Irish sport including funding. It was confirmed in October that he would be stepping aside at the end of 2021.

The new recruitment process involved both internal and external candidates, overseen by Lansdowne Executive Search, who specialise in the appointment of senior business leaders.

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With a considerable sporting background of her own, representing Ireland in both orienteering and mountain running, May has been Sport Ireland’s director of participation and ethics since 2013, while also continuing with her previous role of director of anti-doping.

After Treacy, she is also body’s longest serving member. Even before the Irish Sports Council received statutory status, in 1999, May was already on board as one of four development officers, working alongside Treacy, already identifying pathways to progressing Irish sport across the board, which would soon evolve significantly over the years.

In that time, she has led the creation of a world-class, globally recognised anti-doping programme, and has also grown the grassroots local delivery of sport, through the ongoing development of the National Network of Local Sports Partnerships, and the growing core investment in this area.

May’s own role has evolved significantly, as she soon found herself director of anti-doping, expanding that further to director of participation and ethics: “Within months of starting, I took up the anti-doping role,”May told The Irish Times last month, “once it became very clear this was more than just a project, it was a huge thing, and later in 1999, anti-doping was written into the constitution.”

May also holds a PhD in exercise physiology in sports science from John Moores University in Liverpool, and on several occasions has served as a Wada independent observer at major championship events.

“Dr Una May takes up this post at a critical time for Irish sport,” said Chambers. “Una will work with the board of Sport Ireland and all stakeholders from the wider sports sector to ensure the sector’s continued recovery from the impact of Covid-19.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with Una in implementing a “Sport for All” inclusive approach across all parts of the sports sector, in achieving the targets within Sport Ireland’s high-performance strategy and in expanding the world-class facilities at the Sport Ireland Campus.”

Sport Ireland chairperson Kieran Mulvey added: "Dr Una May was selected from a field of extremely experienced and capable candidates. Una brings huge experience to the role and has been a strong advocate for ethical and inclusive sport in Ireland and internationally.

“She has been a prominent figure in many of Sport Ireland’s key projects over the past number of years. Her deep knowledge of the sector and passion for the work of Sport Ireland has led to her engagement with almost every area of Sport Ireland’s business.”