There are bold targets in the new Sport Ireland Statement of Strategy launched at the Sport Ireland Campus yesterday.

Strategy is the long term antithesis to the short term judgement of results that sport is prey to but it is the foundation on which those results are ultimately built.

The number of adults regularly playing sport in 2021, the latest full year for baseline statistics to be available is 40 percent. The target for this by 2027 has been set at 60 percent.

The target for those adults participating in sport from the three lowest socio-economic groups is to hit 40 percent from the 2021 figure of 30 percent.

Volunteering in sport has also been targeted. The baseline from 2017 was 11 percent but Covid recovery in this area has been slower than in others and the 2021 figure dipped to seven percent. The 2023 target is to bring this back up to 13 percent and by 2027 for it to be at 15 percent.

Gender equality has been an area of real focus over recent years and the ambition here is not slowing with a zero percent target for the gender gap in activity and a 50 percent target for gender balance on boards of National Governing Bodies. In 2017 that figure was 24 percent. That is transformational change.

There is also a target for the number of medals to be achieved at major championships but this will always be a relatively simple yardstick and the one we prefer is the target for the number of top ten finishes with that rising from a range of 45-55 in the 2024 cycle to 49-60 in the 2028 one.

The vision espoused in the Statement of Strategy is to foster “An active Ireland where
everyone can enjoy the lifelong benefits of sport and physical activity.”

That addition of physical activity is important in moving away from a narrow focus on sport at the highest level, something which appeals to most but not all and which can run the risk if being left to ‘the market’ if judges only on the success or otherwise of a limited number of teams.

Over the course of the next week we will take a look at a number of key elements within the Statement of Strategy, diving into the 28 High Level Strategic Objectives across three Core Focus Areas of Sport Development Services; Leadership and Governance; and Social Responsibility.

“I am very pleased to officially launch Sport Ireland’s Statement of Strategy 2023-2027,” said Minister for Sport and Physical Education Thomas Byrne at the launch.

“Sport has multiple benefits, from the pride we feel when witnessing our high-performance athletes on the world stage, to the positive impact on our society’s physical health and mental wellbeing.”

“As a Government, we are determined to boost participation levels in sport and I welcome the strategy’s strong focus on active participation and social participation. The delivery of this wide-ranging strategy relies on strong partnership with National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships as well as other funded bodies and good governance will be a key factor.”

“I look forward to working with Sport Ireland and my Department on this strategy which seeks to implement the goals of the National Sports Policy 2018-2027.”

“The development of our new five-year strategy is an opportunity to reflect upon and review Sport Ireland’s vision, mission, and values,” added Sport Ireland Chair John Foley.

“It builds upon the progress made during our previous strategic cycle. It acknowledges and reinforces the alignment of Sport Ireland’s work with the National Sports Policy, the importance of our connection with the Irish Government, and our strong relationships with partners, in particular NGBs, LSPs, other funded bodies, and the wider sport sector, including clubs, communities, coaches, officials, administrators, and volunteers.”

Dr. Una May, CEO of Sport Ireland, expressed the organization’s commitment to delivering the strategy.

“This strategy sets out a five-year vision of how Sport Ireland will lead the sport sector to further develop sport and physical activity in Ireland. The strategy was developed following a wide ranging consultation with key stakeholders and the general public.”

“We have been encouraged by the number of contributions received and impressed by the quality of inputs throughout the consultation process. The key measure of success will be our ability to deliver on the participation and high-performance National Sports Policy targets, which we will pursue relentlessly over this next cycle,” she said.