The Sports Action Plan announced this week 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 this week and second up this morning is the section devoted to Communication and Promotion

The introduction to this section of the plan recognises that effective promotion is essential and that even if the message being put out is a positive one, there will be no change unless it is heard.

The benefits for physical and mental wellbeing of physical activity need to be continually pushed through sustained marketing and promotion. This is happening through sports and in local authorities but they can only ever be episodic and the value of a sustained campaign can leverage the good work they have already done.

There are seven action points under the heading of communication and promotion.

2.1 Undertake a multi-annual, nationwide communications campaign to support the delivery of the National Sports Policy, fostering lifelong involvement in lifetime-friendly sport and fitness and highlighting awareness of the NSP’s core values, rationales and messages about the importance of sport – recreational and competitive – to a healthy population. This campaign will focus especially on women, minority communities, people with disabilities and communities with lower levels of participation.

Targetting the harder to reach groups that under index on participation is a positive step and will lead to a broader population base of good health through activity.  Those who understand sport, who participate and encourage their children to do so, do not need to see reminders of why that is so important but those who live around them, and who may not be as committed are the ones that need to be persuaded.  The Department is taking the lead on this and it will be interesting to see the creativity that goes into the campaigns.

2.2 Develop a physical literacy consensus statement and promote the adoption of physical literacy in sport and PE. Introduce a means to regularly assess and drive the adoption and implementation of this statement.

Getting the basic fundamentals of activity across to children at a young age is proven in education terms.  In the same way as we learn letters or numbers we should give as much time and energy to movement.  Keith Earls is posting the same sprinting speed at the age of 34 to what he was able to do as a 19-year-old, not because of innate physiological make-up but because he was taught the correct form and technique at the outset of his rugby career.  The buy-in of the Department of education will be vital in this.

2.3 In line with relevant national strategies of both the Department of Justice and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth undertake an information campaign highlighting the unacceptability of prejudice, racism, homophobia and all forms of discrimination in sport, supported by the ethical practice in sport programme/values-based sport.

The values of sport are those of a healthy society.  We compete as equals and celebrate together afterwards, knowing that there will be another game, another race, another event and that the lessons learned in defeat can be applied to help the next victory.  Athletes are role models and have found their voice in recent years to challenge inequity in terms of race, gender, physical ability and more.

2.4 Develop and promote a publicly accessible National Geodatabase of Recreation Amenities, which will include the mapping of indoor and outdoor sports facilities. This Database will enable local communities to drive participation in local sporting organisations through schools, local authorities and community organisations.

Technology can be our friend here.  In the Dublin City Sport and Wellbeing Partnership this project is already underway, with the mapping of programmes and club initiatives likely to follow.  Helping different arms of a local authority to work together has a huge benefit in terms of accessible sports infrastructure and a collaborative approach to facilities.  Physical wellbeing has never been a more central part of how we live and how we play our social fabric.  This is our time.

2.5 Building on the proven success of existing fitness media campaigns, deliver a new seasonal campaign promoting active and social participation in sport during the winter months, to be launched during the European Week of Sport each September.

This will be of particular benefit to indoor sports that are not dependent on our temperate climate and which have had a harder time through the pandemic than those that can continue out of doors.  Encouraging people to try new activities can be part of this and a driver of long term positive change of habits.  Kicking off in September is good in avoiding the busier period of fitness promotion that comes in January.

2.6 Identify and promote ways to maximise physical activity throughout the school day.

As in 2.2 getting activity into children creates a lifelong habit.  Programmes like the Daily Mile, dance and movement in classrooms and others have already created a foundation for this.  Sport for Business works with the PExpo which asks children and schools for their ideas and will take place again next April.  We will sponsor a separate prize this year for a project that inspires innovation in this particular area.

2.7 Support engagement between sports clubs and schools with a view to increasing physical activity and increasing participation.

This is a tried and tested bedrock of Games Promotion Officers working in GAA clubs and local schools.  The template is there for others to adopt. There are 3,300 primary and 729 post-primary schools in Ireland, and 13,000 sports clubs.  There could be a pack developed for clubs to adopt a school and provide access to coaching, sports promotion and other areas of mutual benefit.  The two Departments are taking the joint lead on this.

This is an exciting area of the plan where a lot of smart people can play a part given the right guidance and the right criteria.

Join us through the week as we look in detail at each of the seven core areas.

This afternoon we will consider the eight action points in relation to funding.


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