The Sports Action Plan announced this month is a blueprint for Government investment, Sport Ireland enabling, and stakeholder delivery in sport over the next two years.

We are looking at the seven key focus areas one by one and in this instalment, we are looking at the recommendations made around plans and strategies.

There are seven action points under the heading.

6.1 In addition to the development of equality action plans, NGBs will be asked to achieve, by end 2023, the Government’s target for State Boards of a minimum of 40% representation of each gender in the membership of their Boards. Support will be provided for dedicated leadership training programmes for women including governance-related and technical training (coaching, refereeing and team management). Sport Ireland will monitor NGB progress against targets and report annually on whether additional measures such as gender quotas are warranted.

This was the headline figure to emerge when the Sports Action Plan was launched and the one that will perhaps be capturing the most headlines over the course of this plan.  Encouragement to commit to a more diverse leadership structure will be backed up by the threat of financial penalties in the event that progress is not being made.  There is no ‘back door’ clause in the language.  40 per cent by December 2023 is a solid deadline, and one that falls within the likely lifetime of the current government that is standing firmly over it.

6.2 Sport Ireland will work with Local Authorities nationally to develop a framework to support the development and implementation of Local Sports Plans, ensuring in particular collaboration with LSPs and NGBs.

Learning from each other is important and there is a mechanic for Local Authorities to do just that.  They also have to work on a schedule that fits each County, rather than one laid down at national level.  Making it work for each Local Sports Partnership, without making the burden of administration unmanageable is one of the challenges that needs to be worked out over the term of this plan.

6.3 Implement Sport Ireland’s High Performance Strategy 2021-2032 involving revised approaches on focused performance investment, coaching development and retention.

It is a crude measure but one that is hard to budge.  How many Olympic and Paralympic medals do we win in each cycle.  The optimism of the build-up and the celebration of the victories are laid down in the 365 days of hard work that go in each year to make those highlights possible.  The High-performance strategy runs longer term than the National Sports Policy or indeed this Action Plan, but the elements that make it up are an important element of each.

6.4 Complete a new 15-year Masterplan for the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus, to include projects already underway and in the pipeline, such as athlete accommodation and a velodrome.

Naming the Velodrome and the Athlete Accommodation makes them more real and money has been set aside.  Combining the former with the National Badminton Centre makes the best use of facilities and feeds into the more collaborative approach to sporting development that the Campus has been central to.  Then what next? An Athletics track? A Rowing Centre? A National Cricket Arena.  These are the elements that will make the future happen.

6.5 Sport Ireland will lead by example and will demonstrate sport’s commitment to sustainability in the development of infrastructure projects at the Campus through the development and implementation of a new sustainability strategy for the Campus. The new Strategy will seek to embed sustainability in the planning, design, construction and operation of all new infrastructure projects at the Campus.

Sustainability is the touchpoint for the coming years and making it central to the Sport Ireland Campus development is not only smart but will position sport at the heart of that debate, with the benefit that brings in terms of storytelling, fitting into corporate sponsorship strategies and more.

6.6 Develop a policy on the hosting of international sports events that will align the efforts of state bodies, national governing bodies, local authorities and all other relevant stakeholders, to ensure Ireland can compete with the best in the world when bidding for major events.

Creating the right framework to learn from each feasibility study and each bid, the losers as well as the winners, is imperative in terms of being seen as credible bidders.  We are a preferred host with our near neighbours for the Cricket World Cup of 2030, and right in the mix for the FIFA World Cup of the same year or the UEFA Euros of two years beyond.  Every one you host successfully makes you more likely to win another and putting the right structures in place as suggested can be a big momentum shifter.

6.7 Continue to engage positively on a North-South basis, to facilitate the delivery of sport and physical activity to all on the island, and to enable the sharing of best practices and access to facilities. Sport Ireland to explore potential areas of greater strategic alignment on the further development of sport on an all-island basis, including the potential for new all-island competitions at elite and recreational levels, and opportunities to make joint North/South bids in the future for international tournaments.

We sit on the Culture, Arts, Sport and Tourism Committee of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, a valuable meeting point where the wider areas of North-South cooperation can be encouraged and where crossover collaborations between those different strands of a shared island can be brought to life.  Putting it into this action plan is another winner.

 

Take a look at our other analyses of the Plan right here:

 

Analysis of the Sports Action Plan – Part Five – Programmes and Events

Analysis of the Sports Action Plan – Part Four – Training and Resources

Analysis of the Sports Action Plan – Part Three – Funding

Analysis of the Sports Action Plan – Part Two – Communication and Promotion

Analysis of the Sports Action Plan – Part One – Covid Recovery

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