Belfast Telegraph

Sports clubs in Ireland urged to become more inclusive

The Federation of Irish Sport has expressed concern about under representation of certain minority groups

Boidu Sayeh of Westmeath (Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile/PA)
Boidu Sayeh of Westmeath (Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile/PA)

Ireland’s sporting community has been challenged to be more inclusive after research found that foreign nationals are significantly underrepresented in clubs.

The Federation of Irish Sport said non-nationals were 61% less likely to be a member of a sports club or organisation than Irish-born players.

Around one in five Irish-born adults are members of a sports club (19.7%) compared to just 7.7% of non-Irish-born adults, the federation said.

It also raised concern about participation rates among people on lower incomes and those with disabilities.

The federation said while 43% of Irish adults participate in sport, the rate was 30% among those in the lowest income bracket and 23% of adults with disabilities.

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Former Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas will speak at the federation annual conference (Mike Egerton/PA)

The research was released ahead of the federation’s annual conference in Dublin this week.

The federation is the representative organisation for national governing bodies and local sports partnerships in Ireland.

The event will seek to challenge sporting bodies on their inclusivity record, urging them to make more efforts to include people with disabilities, members of the LGBT community, ethnic minorities and members of the older generation.

Conference speakers include Gareth Thomas, former Wales rugby international and gay rights advocate, and Boidu Sayeh, the Liberian-born Westmeath GAA star.

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Liberian born Westmeath footballer Boidu Sayeh will address the conference. (Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile/PA)

Ahead of Thursday’s conference, 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.”

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