Gaelic football is most attended sport, according to Sports Council survey
Almost twice as many attending Rugby as four years ago
Coke Park hosted a full house for the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final between Kerry and Donegal. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.
Gaelic football remains the most attended form of sporting event in Ireland with 6.7 per cent of surveyed people saying they attend matches from children’s football to elite level.
Over 9,000 people were surveyed in the most recent Irish Sports Council, Irish Sports Monitor Annual Report (ISM) 2013.
Gaelic football’s attendance figures were followed by soccer (5.4 per cent of the survey) but it was rugby that has had the most impressive trajectory in terms of people attending matches.
The Ipsos MRBI report singles out rugby as being noteworthy as the attendance levels at fixtures is almost twice those recorded four years ago. None of the other major sports of Gaelic football, soccer or hurling/camogie have as strong an increase in attendance figures.
Illustrated by the possible 50,000 sell out of Aviva this weekend for Leinster’s meeting with Munster in an early-season Guinness Pro12 match,
1.4 per cent of those surveyed in 2009 said they had attended rugby with that figure rising to 2.5 per cent in the recent survey.
Rugby attendance figures rose between 2011 to ’13 while the others marginally fell. Those who said they had attended soccer dropped from 5.5 per cent to 5.4 per cent between 2011-’13.
In 2013, 20.3 per cent of adults reported attending a sporting event of any sort. This was the same level as measured in 2011, which may suggest that while the same numbers are attending sporting events, they have changed what they are watching.
The interviews were conducted at different times of the year to reflect the peaks and troughs for different sporting seasons.
Figures for golf indicated that the number of people playing the sport has declined over the past number of years.
“There is a notable decline in golf-club membership and this reflects the falling participation levels,” says the survey report. “Participation in golf is more common amongst particular age groups and these are the ones showing the largest decline in membership.
It may or may not come as a surprise that Exercise clubs, mainly gyms, are the most popular forms of clubs with 12.3 per cent of the adult population being members.
Exercise, swimming, running and cycling are the four most popular areas of adult participation in sport although in an organised contest participation among the four is generally low.
Gaelic football is the only one of the 10 most popular sports where participation within an organised context is significantly more common than in a casual context with 83 per cent of those playing Gaelic football participating within organised training and 24.8 per cent participating within an organised or match competition.
That participation in sport is increasingly done on a casual basis appears to present a negative picture of the club structure in Ireland, the survey concludes. And in many cases the club has a diminished role within the context of overall participating levels.
Another concern was that the social gradient that has traditionally existed in sport has been maintained and in many cases is widening. Those in the more deprived social groups – D and E – have seen no increase in participation levels suggesting that the rising tide is not lifting all of the boats.