Ireland’s Favourite Sporting Activity

It runs to 86 pages and provides one of the most important snapshots we could ask for in terms of how Ireland participates in sport.

The Irish Sports Monitor is published every two years and draws on the insight of over 8,000 interviewees to provide a report card as well as a roadmap on how Ireland can ‘do’ sport better in almost every way.

Over the next two weeks, Sport for Business will devote time and measured analysis each morning to looking at particular aspects of the report, from the overall numbers playing and getting active, to the impact of social advantage, education, gender, investment and technology.

The key finding of the 2017 ISM is that 43% of the Irish population – approximately 1.6 million people – participate in sport at least once a week.  That is a small decrease since the last report but considered fair at a time when economic circumstances are improving.

We hit a high of 47.5 percent in 2013 but that was when more people had more time.

It is still a number though that should be rising and the report points out many of the opportunities and the barriers to that being the case.

A particular high point is the fact that the gap between male and female participation is lower now than it has ever been.  We will explore that in detail as a subject close to our hearts and activities over recent years.

One of the league tables that we continually refer to in many areas is the respective popularity and participation in different sports and activities.  It is not a measure of how many people watch or how many buy a jersey but of how many play and is a key element in how individual sports can plan their own future paths.

In 2017 these were the most popular forms of sporting activity.

We will explore what those numbers mean, in particular where and why they are falling in some sports with soccer and rugby standing out.  The smaller the number the greater level of margin for error but still numbers in decline are always worthy of note and where required remedial action.

“The Irish Sports Monitor shows us that a significant proportion of the population is benefitting from the physical, mental and social benefits obtained by participating in sport and physical activity,” said Minister Brendan Griffin launching the report.

“While playing an important role in encouraging healthy lifestyles, sport is also vital for developing social capital and building community spirit.”

“The Irish Sports Monitor shows that those engaging in sport through volunteering, attendance at sporting events and club membership remains strong, which is to be welcomed.”

“It is encouraging to note that 43% of the population regularly participate in sport, and it is even more encouraging to note that the gender gap in sports participation is narrower than at any point since the Irish Sports Monitor was introduced in 2007.”

“The scale of the challenge ahead is evident when one considers that there is more than half the population who do not participate in sport regularly. My Department will continue to work closely with Sport Ireland to ensure opportunities to participate in sport are afforded to all members of society.”

The report shows that 10.8% of respondents volunteered in sport on a regular basis, with Gaelic football (3.4%), Soccer (2.2%), Hurling/Camogie (2%), Rugby (0.6%) and Running (0.5%) the most popular sports among volunteers. Just under a fifth of respondents attended a sporting event with Gaelic Football, Soccer, Hurling/Camogie, Rugby, Swimming and Running the most popular among spectators.

“The Irish Sports Monitor shows strong levels of participation, not just participation in sport but also social participation through volunteering, club membership and attendance at sporting events,” added Sport Ireland Chairman, Kieran Mulvey.

“A key priority of the Board of Sport Ireland is increasing participation across every age group and from all social backgrounds throughout Ireland, and the Irish Sports Monitor will be instrumental in shaping the development of plans and policies at a local and national level.”

“The Irish Sports Monitor shows that participation in sport has remained broadly consistent since the previous iteration in 2015,” said Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy.

“This is particularly interesting given economic conditions typically lead to lower levels of participation due to time constraints. With the more recent change in the economic environment, the Irish Sports Monitor shows reduced participation among certain groups most likely to be affected by having less time in participate. Understanding the factors behind this is important in allowing us to focus our attention on these groups.”

“Another welcome finding is that the gender gap in sports participation is narrower than any point since the Irish Sports Monitor was introduced a decade ago. Sport Ireland has invested in over €20 million through the Women in Sport Programme, which aims to increase women’s participation in sport, including non-participatory opportunities through volunteering and coaching. I would like to commend the National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships for playing an important role in getting more women active more often.”

“This year’s ISM also provides unique insights into public attitudes to investment in sport.,” concluded Kieran O’Leary from IPSOS MRBI who conducted the polling and worked closely with Peter Smyth at Sport Ireland ion its construction.

“Overall it shows that the investment in sport over the past few years is paying dividends with 86% feeling that there are more opportunities to participate in sport now than there were 10 years ago.”

A copy of the 2017 Irish Sports Monitor can be downloaded here.


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Image Credit:  Inpho Photography

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