The Oireachtas Committee responsible for sport took a detailed look at the challenges facing Women in Sport yesterday with Minister of State Jack Chambers and representatives of Sport Ireland and the Federation of Irish Sport appearing virtually.

“One of the priorities of the Government in the National Sports policy is to eliminate the gender gap in sports participation by the end of 2027,” said Chambers.

“There was progress with the gap reducing to 3.4 per cent in 2019 and closed further during the pandemic but the latest research shows that while Men’s return to sport had bounced back to 48 per cent, the gap has re-emerged with Women’s return only getting back to 38 per cent, a full seven percentage points behind where it was two years ago.”

This gap is being monitored and additional funding is being targeted towards Women in sport as part of the Winter sports campaign.

The Minister referenced the letter received by 62 rugby players criticising the IRFU and reiterated that both he and Minister Catherine Martin had invited the IRFU to discuss the matter and offered to meet with the players, both of which were likely to happen before Christmas.

Senator Shane Cassells made a point that he hoped all those commenting on Twitter would actually go to matches rather than just express their outrage on social media before being highly critical of the IRFU’s response and asking whether funding was going to be withheld if the changes that are being called for are not implemented.

“We will be engaging in a very frank and comprehensive way with the IRFU and we take extremely seriously the matters that have been raised.”

“I was disappointed with some of the remarks in the IRFU response which could have been more conciliatory and I will raise that with them.”

“We need to be solutions-focused we need to have a constructive pathway on resolving the issues that have been raised with the players.”

Cassells pressed again on the withholding of funds which he said was the reason why FAI governance had been improved.

The minister was not going to be drawn on what would emerge from the meeting but he did not rule it out. He also highlighted the important role that Sport Ireland would play in resolving the issues.

Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon raised whether value for money was being gained from the €22 million investment made to date in Women in Sport programmes.

“Funding is targeted and very focused and this is across a multiplicity of gaps in participation.”

“We have seen strong actions being taken and we are pushing sporting bodies to better reflect the balance of membership on their leadership structures.”

The full session can be viewed at the link below and we will be returning to many of the matters raised in our ongoing commitment to ensure that Women in Sport as an issue does not fade away until proper equality of opportunity and visibility is gained.

Dr Una May and Nora Stapleton spoke on behalf of Sport Ireland at 1:55:00 in and Mary O’Connor on behalf of the Federation of Irish Sport.

It is well worth a look if you have the time over the coming days, and if you don’t but you care about Women’s sport it is worth making the time.


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