Federation of Irish Sport Annual Conference – What we learned?

The Conference asked the question if sport is the most inclusive community of all. Simply put, yes it is. Sport is one of the few communities that welcomes people from all communities, cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds. The key to successfully managing this is showing leadership and managing strong relationships. Cross-sectoral approaches form the basis of doing this successfully. The case studies of the GAA Healthy Club Project and Parkrun outline how sporting organisations work with the wider community and not-for-profit sector to bring diversity and inclusion into sport.

Parkrun is an Irish example of an organisation that collaborates outside of sporting circles. They work with charities, politicians and community groups, solely aiming to bring people together for the good of health, mental health and inclusivity. For example, the number of visually impaired participants has increased from 12 to over 170 in the space of one year. All participants take place in the same run. There is no segregation.

Questions arose about having segregated sporting teams, in regards to the like of LGBTQ+ sporting events for example. In an ideal world, we would not need to have such events. However, at the time of writing, young people either hide their sexuality or stop playing team sports at an early age due to “dressing room culture.”

Garreth Thomas addressed these points through discussing his own personal journey through sport. Without a doubt, there exists a strong element of homophobic abuse on and off the pitch in sport, which becomes a massive barrier for gay athletes. However, curtailing this issues will prove difficult. In the writers opinion, it will take a campaign on the level of “Kick it out.”

In what was a hugely insightful day, the overall message was simple, we need to change our behaviour when it comes to inclusivity in Sport. Wouldn’t it be great that instead of talking about disability sports, or the LGBTQ+ sporting community, we were just talking about the sport and the sporting community?