Sport Ireland was joined by the Minister of State for Sport and Physical Education, Thomas Byrne TD, to announce the development of a new Policy on Volunteering in Sport, which advanced a vision for a sport sector in Ireland that had the best volunteering culture in the world.
The policy identified a wide range of initiatives to empower the sport sector to tackle the challenges currently faced through clear, evidence-based, and data-driven solutions. Effectively, one in every four adults who had volunteered within a club prior to the pandemic might not have returned since, with the number of adults who volunteered in Ireland dropping from 12% in 2019 to 9% in 2022.
Speaking about the new Policy on Volunteering in Sport, Minister of State for Sport and Physical Education, Thomas Byrne TD, said:
“Volunteers are the backbone of the Irish sporting community. According to the 2022 Irish Sports Monitor, 370,000 regular volunteers helped to keep the 12,000 sports clubs around the country functioning and their 1.26 million members engaged in sport. Volunteering is critically important to sustain involvement in sport, and this new policy will guide and assist the ongoing development and growth of volunteering by enabling more volunteers to contribute their skills and expertise to help others fulfill their potential through sport.”
Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, Dr. Úna May, commented: “We are very happy to announce our Policy on Volunteering in Sport. This is underpinned by Sport Ireland’s strong ethos of inclusion and diversity, and we welcome anyone who feels they have something to contribute as a volunteer in sport. Ireland’s 12,000 sport clubs, National Governing Bodies (NGBs), and network of Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs) were ideally placed to recruit, recognize, and retain volunteers, and this had the potential to re-energize the entire volunteering base.”
Sport Ireland conducted extensive consultation involving in-depth one-to-one interviews, focus groups, and a survey that received 522 responses from across the sport sector. Those surveyed included NGBs, LSPs, leaders in sport, current and past volunteers, athletes, coaches, administrators, Government departments, and national and local agencies involved in volunteering in areas outside of sport.
Sport Ireland’s actions included investing in NGBs, LSPs, and funded bodies to improve the volunteer experience. As well as resourcing professional roles across the sport sector, establishing a Volunteer in Sport Working Group and a Respect Officials’ Working Group, and creating a Volunteer in Sport Digital Resource which consolidated learning and development opportunities.
To deliver on the commitments of this policy, the objectives were to recognize and value volunteers, retain volunteers and encourage lifelong volunteering, recruit and grow the volunteer population, and diversify the volunteer base.