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Sport Ireland launched its new Women in Sport Policy and confirmed former Irish international rugby player Lynne Cantwell as the Chair of Sport Ireland’s new Women in Sport Committee.

The policy, which was launched today at the Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena, seeks to build on the significant work that has already been undertaken in this area within the sport sector to date, recognising the opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of women through their involvement in sport. Coaching & Officiating, Active Participation, Leadership & Governance and Visibility are the four key target areas that will be addressed by the new Women in Sport Policy.

Speaking at the launch, Lynne Cantwell, outlined the rationale behind the policy: “The new Women in Sport Policy aims to provide a blueprint for Sport Ireland on the organisation’s future work in the area of women in sport. Sport Ireland began an extensive review in 2018, which examined the current landscape of women in sport in Ireland, identifying any barriers to their participation in all areas of sport. Through the hosting of focus groups, gathering and analysing qualitative and quantitative research on women’s involvement in sport, identifying international best practice in the area of advancing involvement in sport, and consultation with key stakeholders on the barriers and opportunities, Sport Ireland has developed this policy which we feel will have a significant impact of the future of women’s sport in Ireland. Together with the new Women in Sport Steering Committee, I look forward to overseeing the implementation of this ambitious policy.”

To activate the Women in Sport Policy, Sport Ireland is re-launching the Women in Sport funding programme for National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships. In line with the increase announced following Budget 2019, the Women in Sport fund will increase to €2 million annually, which will be committed to both funding for organisations as part of a competitive-bid process and Sport Ireland programmes at a national level.

Chairman of Sport Ireland, Kieran Mulvey, added: “While today is a very significant day, it is only another step towards where we want to be. In that way this policy is not so much the end as it is a means to an end. The Board of Sport Ireland recognises how positive an impact sport can have in the lives of women and this policy helps to advance and promote that positive impact. The policy will be underpinned by the commitment of resources – both financial and personnel. In that regard, today we are also re-launching the Sport Ireland Women in Sport funding programme. This will accompany the significant investment by Sport Ireland in women’s sport across the board through other established funding streams for organisations and athletes. ”

Sport Ireland established the Women in Sport Programme in 2005 and to date over €19 million has been invested through National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships. In 2018, the Women in Sport review was established to refresh the strategic approach to women in sport to reflect present-day challenges and opportunities. This policy is the result of that piece of work and it is aligned with the Government’s National Sports Policy 2018 to 2027. A key aim of that policy is to have equal participation between males and females in sport. The gap has closed from 15.7% to 4.5% since 2007 according to the Irish Sports Monitor 2017 but there is much work still to do in this area.

Three key measures will be undertaken to address the target areas. These are:

  1. The appointment of a Women in Sport Lead to strategically lead out on the development and promotion of women and girl’s involvement in sport from leadership to participation to high performance. A key output for this role will be to lead, advocate for and evaluate this policy.
  2. The relaunch of the Women in Sport funding programme with a move in investment towards initiatives by NGBs and LSPs addressing the four target areas on a sustainable basis.
  3. The Women in Sport Steering Committee will oversee the delivery of policy, in line with action 32 of the National Sports Policy 2018-2028: “NGBs will be asked to set gender diversity targets and develop equality action plans. Support will be provided for dedicated leadership training programmes for women including governance-related and technical training (coaching, refereeing and team management). Sport Ireland will monitor their progress in delivering on these and report annually.”

Sport Ireland Chief Executive, John Treacy, commented: “The Women in Sport Policy reaffirms the Sport Ireland’s commitment to women in sport. The policy identifies four key areas of focus, where Sport Ireland wants to make a significant, positive and measurable impact. Our work in the area of Women in Sport over the coming years will be centred on Coaching & Officiating, Active Participation, Leadership & Governance and Visibility. In order to help us deliver on the policy, Sport Ireland will shortly be appointing a Women in Sport Lead.”

Sport Ireland Director of Participation and Ethics, Dr Una May, said: “The publication of this policy is an important development for sport in Ireland. Sport Ireland is tasked with overseeing action 32 of the National Sports Policy 2018-2017, which promotes gender diversity and equality action plans. We are delighted to have put in place a Women in Sport Steering Committee that is full of experience and expertise, which will oversee the delivery of the policy. It is our intention that this will lead to a step-change in the landscape for women’s participation in sport across the board from grassroots to leadership.”


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