Sport Ireland has launched its first Diversity and Inclusion Policy in Sport which expresses a clear vision for a sports sector that celebrates diversity, promotes inclusion, and is proactive in providing opportunities for lifelong participation for everyone.

That is a bold and ambitious statement of intent and the policy breaks it down into measurable and actionable elements that will make it a reality.

Sport Ireland CEO Dr Una May spoke at our Sport for Business Women in Sport Conference yesterday about the importance of always reaching out to those on the margins of the worlds of sport and physical activity and using some of the lessons learned and insights gained from successful Women in Sports Campaigns to target greater engagement from specific groups.

The process of developing the policy was informed by an extensive consultation process incorporating focus groups, semi-structured interviews and surveys. 2,275 individuals and over 150 organisations contributed to this process.

The five strategic pillars to emerge in the policy are Change, Communication, Access, Capacity and Leadership.

Twelve desired outcomes were devised within those five pillars.

Core Value

Inclusion is a core value of the National Sports Policy 2018-2027, and Sport Ireland’s Diversity and Inclusion Policy will build on the success of the Sport Ireland Policy on Participation in Sport by People with Disabilities and Sport Ireland Policy on Women in Sport.

“This policy will underpin our efforts to ensure that everyone feels welcome and included in sport in Ireland, whether that is in terms of active involvement, spectating, volunteering, administration or a whole host of other roles,” said Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers.

“The Sports Action Plan 2021 – 2023 places an important emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and the implementation of this policy will drive that process forward.”

Those comments were backed up by Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport & Media Catherine Martin TD who added “The sporting sector brings with it unrivalled joy at times of hardship and it is crucial for everyone to experience the same inclusivity and happiness, regardless of their background.”

“Inclusivity is a core value of the National Sports Policy 2018-2027. My Department and I strongly believe that sport must be welcoming and inclusive, offering appropriate opportunities for participation and improvement to all, regardless of socio-economic background, gender, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity. I look forward to watching this policy come to fruition.”

“Sport Ireland is delighted to publish the first Diversity and Inclusion Policy in Sport. This builds on our work in this area over the years and aims to support and complement the implementation of existing Sport Ireland policies, plans and strategies by embedding diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our work,” said May.

Identified Barriers

“Within the policy, we have identified important barriers for inclusion in sport and outlined a clear framework for working alongside members of underrepresented communities to assist with increasing participation and representation within these communities. This policy will play a crucial role in assisting us to help break down and tackle those barriers.”

“Ensuring that the views and opinions of those consulted are reflected in this policy was key for Sport Ireland,” added Siobhán Leonard, Sport Ireland Head of Anti-Doping and Ethics.

“This policy is the result of in-depth research and consultation with diverse groups within our population and the work of many brilliant people.”

“By enacting this policy, we hope to see more people from diverse communities participating and engaging in lifelong sport and physical activity and reaching their full potential, whatever that might be.”

The research found that for the target groups, ‘general barriers’ are compounded by attitudinal barriers, discrimination, prejudice, inaccessible facilities and equipment, abusive language and conduct, active exclusion and disengagement from volunteers and coaches who are fearful of causing offence or who don’t have the skills and capacities to adequately address needs.

These issues exacerbate interpersonal challenges such as feeling embarrassed, lacking confidence and self-esteem, or feeling like a burden to others and at its extreme, feeling fearful of safety.

In addition, other barriers such as language or accessibility of information reinforce exclusion and lower levels of participation and involvement, particularly as volunteers, club members or spectators were found.

As a result, many from underrepresented groups do not see themselves represented within their sport, which is a key barrier that may prevent participation in the first instance.

The policy objectives within each pillar are as follows:


Sport Ireland will lead from the front and provide a nationally coordinated approach, engaging with the sector to create a cultural and practical shift towards inclusion.

Support the sector to understand diversity and inclusion and its benefits, what it means at national, local and club level and how to be more inclusive, covering areas such as supporting culture change and developing champions of change.


Promote the availability of programmes, initiatives and opportunities for people from diverse communities, using targeted, inclusive and culturally appropriate methods of communication.

Develop and support the use of a visible outwards commitment to diversity and inclusion that will be promoted by campaign at national, for use at local level – club, venue, facility.

Improve the visibility and profile of local and national role models to inspire others in relation to participation, performance and high performance.


Provide support to sports and clubs to develop outreach programmes proactively bringing sport out to diverse communities or partnering with existing outreach programmes.

Developing of specific programmes to focus on diverse communities and on removing cost, transport and access barriers.


Develop a suite of capacity building and education resources for the sport sector to empower the sector to cater for the needs of diverse communities at national and club levels – these resources will be co-designed with expert partners.

Expansion of and investment in the Sports Inclusion programme to create a Diversity and Inclusion remit across the local sports partnerships network.


Improve research (data and insight) around the participation of diverse communities in sport across all levels, so that actions taken can be based on data, and changes tracked and evaluated.

Support the representation of a minimum percentage of marginalised groups in leadership positions at board level in Sport Ireland, National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships, and next within staffed positions, and later onwards to local/club level.

Establishment of a Diversity and Inclusion Champion at national and club level.


It is a comprehensive strategy and one that will set an important benchmark for all sports and those engaged within to be aware of.  Much like Cara’s Charter which we signed up to back in 2018, it makes us all think of what we might be doing to unintentionally exclude and challenge ourselves to always think of the exceptions and the way we might address them.

The policy can be downloaded by clicking on the image below.





Sport for Business Partners