Sport Ireland Publishes Findings of 2017 Irish Sports Monitor 


Sport Ireland today published the findings of the Irish Sports Monitor (ISM) Report for 2017.

The report, written by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of Sport Ireland, measures adult participation in sport and physical activity and compares it with information published for previous years.

The key findings of the 2017 ISM include: -

  • 43% of the population regularly participate in sport
  • Gender gap in sports participation narrower than any point since Irish Sports Monitor introduced in 2007
  • The most popular sports to participate in are personal exercise (12.4%), swimming (8.5%), running (6.2%), cycling (5.1%) and soccer (4.1%)
  • Proportion of adults meeting National Physical Activity Guidelines has increased since 2015
  • Social and disability gradients in participation are still strong

Speaking at the launch in Dublin today, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, welcomed the findings: “The Irish Sports Monitor shows us that a significant proportion of the population is benefitting from the physical, mental and social benefits obtained by participating in sport and physical activity. While playing an important role in encouraging healthy lifestyles, sport is also vital for developing social capital and building community spirit. The Irish Sports Monitor shows that those engaging in sport through volunteering, attendance at sporting events and club membership remains strong, which is to be welcomed. It is encouraging to note that 43% of the population regularly participate in sport, and it is even more encouraging to note that the gender gap in sports participation is narrower than at any point since the Irish Sports Monitor was introduced in 2007. The scale of the challenge ahead is evident when one considers that there is more than half the population who do not participate in sport regularly. My Department will continue to work closely with Sport Ireland to ensure opportunities to participate in sport are afforded to all members of society.”

The report shows that 10.8% of respondents volunteered in sport on a regular basis, with Gaelic football (3.4%), Soccer (2.2%), Hurling/Camogie (2%), Rugby (0.6%) and Running (0.5%) the most popular sports among volunteers. Just under a fifth of respondents attended a sporting event with Gaelic Football, Soccer, Hurling/Camogie, Rugby, Swimming and Running the most popular among spectators.

Chairman of Sport Ireland, Kieran Mulvey, commented: “The Irish Sports Monitor shows strong levels of participation, not just participation in sport but also social participation through volunteering, club membership and attendance at sporting events. A key priority of the Board of Sport Ireland is increasing participation across every age group and from all social backgrounds throughout Ireland, and the Irish Sports Monitor will be instrumental in shaping the development of plans and policies at a local and national level.”

Having commenced around the same time as Ireland’s recent economic woes, the Irish Sports Monitor has acted as a barometer for the social and economic uncertainty which the country has seen during the last 10 years. One of the key messages from the Irish Sports Monitor has been the importance of these social and economic forces in shaping participation in sport and physical activity over the last 10 years.

Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy, added: “The Irish Sports Monitor shows that participation in sport has remained broadly consistent since the previous iteration in 2015. This is particularly interesting given economic conditions typically lead to lower levels of participation due to time constraints. With the more recent change in the economic environment, the Irish Sports Monitor shows reduced participation among certain groups most likely to be affected by having less time in participate. Understanding the factors behind this is important in allowing us to focus our attentions on these groups.”

The report finds that gender gap in sports participation (4.5%) is narrower now than at any point since the ISM was introduced in 2007 when it was 15.7%.

Mr Treacy continued: “Another welcome finding is that the gender gap in sports participation is narrower than any point since the Irish Sports Monitor was introduced a decade ago. Sport Ireland has invested in over €20 million through the Women in Sport Programme, which aims to increase women's participation in sport, including non-participatory opportunities through volunteering and coaching. I would like to commend the National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships for playing an important role in getting more women active more often.”

Kieran O’Leary, Research Director, Ipsos MRBI added: “This year’s ISM also provides unique insights into public attitudes to investment in sport. Overall it shows that the investment in sport over the past few years is paying dividends with 86% feeling that there are more opportunities to participate in sport now than there were 10 years ago.”

While the report contains many positives, challenges exist particularly around the resilient social and disability gradients in all forms of participation. Sport Ireland is addressing challenges identified in the Irish Sports Monitor through working strategically with National Governing Bodies for Sport and Local Sports Partnerships to provide as many opportunities as possible for people to engage in sport and physical activity.

Among the programmes currently being rolled out nationwide are those funded through the Dormant Accounts Fund. This investment is aligned with the National Physical Activity Plan, with a particular emphasis on implementing programmes to promote physical activity and develop programmes to address transitions and drop out from physical activity. This fund has also seen the establishment of Community Physical Activity Hubs around the country, which aim to increase the number of people of all ages participating in sport and physical activity in their communities.

A copy of the 2017 Irish Sports Monitor can be downloaded here.

Key Findings Include:

  •  43% of the population regularly take part in sport representing 1.6 million regular participants. This is the same level recorded in 2015.
  • Gender gap in sports participation (4.5%) is narrower now than at any point since the ISM was introduced in 2007 when it was 15.7%.
  • 45.3% of men and 40.8% of women take part in sport/exercise. This represents a decrease among men (from 47.2% in 2015) and a slight increase among women (from 39.3% in 2015).
  • The most popular sports to participate in are personal exercise (12.4%), swimming (8.5%), running (6.2%), cycling (5.1%) and soccer (4.1%).
  • There has been an increase in the proportions that are walking for recreation (from 63.6% to 66.2%), and the proportion walking for transport (from 45.6% to 46.6%).
  • There has been an increase in the proportion that is highly active, with almost a third (32.6%) now achieving the minimum level of activity set by the National Physical Activity Guidelines while the proportion categorised as sedentary remains unchanged (13%).
  • Almost 9 out of 10 (86%) feel that there are more opportunities now to participate in sport than there were 10 years ago.
  • 28% currently use technology to measure the amount or nature of physical activity they undertake, with 43% having used one at some stage in the past.

About the Irish Sports Monitor:

This is the seventh edition of the Irish Sports Monitor (ISM) report, following editions in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015.

The ISM is based on regular interview conducted with 8,482 adults of age 16 and over in the Republic of Ireland

The ISM is written by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of Sport Ireland and provides information on active participation in sport and physical activity, club membership, volunteering and attendance at sporting events

In addition to measuring physical participation in sport, the ISM also measures social participation i.e. club membership, volunteering in sport and attending sporting events. In addition to the core questionnaire a number of topical issues are also examined such as governance in sport, coaching and the influence of wearable technology.