Minister O’Donovan Launches Irish Sports Monitor Report

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Patrick O’Donovan TD, today launched the sixth Irish Sports Monitor report, for the year April 2015-April 2016. 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 report shows that 45% of the adult population participate regularly in sport equating to approximately 1.6 million people benefiting from the physical, mental and social benefits obtained from participating in sport.

Overall personal exercise is the most popular activity (13.7%) with running (8.2%), swimming (8%), cycling (5.5%) and soccer (4.8%) the next most popular.

Speaking at the launch, Minister O’Donovan commented: “The Irish Sports Monitor provides us with vital insights into the role sport plays in not just encouraging healthier, more active lifestyles, but also in fostering community spirit and developing social capital right across the country. In that regard, it is encouraging to see such strong numbers engaging in sport through volunteering, club membership and attendance at sporting events.”

Away from sport participation, it is encouraging that the numbers regularly taking part in recreational walking, walking for transport and cycling for transport are strong resulting in almost 90% of Irish adults taking part in some form of physical activity at least once a week.

Kieran Mulvey, Chairman of Sport Ireland commented “I am delighted to see that the report also shows strong levels of social participation in sport through volunteering, club membership and attendance at sporting events. Team sports such as Gaelic football, soccer and hurling/camogie have the largest numbers of volunteers. Social participation in sport is very important, not just in terms of supporting sport and sporting organisations but also in maintaining the social fabric in Irish communities.”

John Treacy, Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, said: “This report shows that the level of sedentarism continues to decline and the latest figure of 12.1% is the lowest since the Irish Sports Monitor was initiated in 2007. However we cannot afford to be complacent. Following a number of years where we have seen increasing levels of involvement in sport, the current report has identified a slight decline in participation from 2013 driven primarily by improved economic conditions and associated time pressures on particular groups. Understanding the factors behind this decline is important in allowing us to focus attention on these groups. Sport Ireland will continue its work to increase participation in sport and reduce the level of sedentarism with a range of programmes and initiatives implemented through the National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships.”

Kieran O’Leary, Research Director, Ipsos MRBI, added: “The Irish Sports Monitor continues to demonstrate the significant role of sport in Irish society with 1.6 million people actively playing sport each week, and a similar number having another role through volunteering, attending an event or being a member of a club. However, differences exist across the population and challenges remain in increasing sports participation, particularly amongst females, older age groups and those not in paid employment.”

Key Findings Include:

  • Approximately 1.6 million Irish adults aged 16+ regularly participate in sport and exercise
  • Similar to the narrowing gender divide in sports participation, there is also a narrowing in the gender divide that exists in cycling for transport.
  • Over the longer time period, since 2011, participation in sport among females has increased by 2.5%
  • There has been an increase in participation by females aged 25-34 years since 2013.
  • Women aged between 16-19 years continue to be the most likely to take part among women, increasing by nearly 8% since 2011
  • The gender gap with regards to volunteering has narrowed from 4% in 2013 to 1.7% in 2015.
  • The gender gap with regards to club membership has narrowed from 18.5% in 2013 to 11.7% in 2015
  • Exercise, running, swimming, cycling and soccer are the five most popular sporting activities among adults
  • Soccer, Gaelic football and swimming are the most common sports played with children.
  • Mothers are more likely to say that they participate in more sport since having children.
  • Recreational walking remains the most popular activity, with more than two in three adults taking part at least once in the previous seven days
  • High numbers of parents participate in sport with their children on a frequent basis. In total, 74% do so at least once a week, with a further 13% participating at least once a month
  • The numbers walking for transport have increased since 2013
  • 2% of adults are meeting the National Physical Activity Guidelines through sport and recreational walking
  • Just over 12% of the adult population are sedentary i.e. take part in no regular sport, recreational walking, walking for transport or cycling for transport
  • Almost half of the adult population are involved in some form of social participation in sport through volunteering, club membership and attendance at events
  • The trend towards individual sports such as running/jogging, cycling and swimming continues, along with a rise in gym-based activities such as Personal Exercise and Yoga
  • Gaelic football remains the most popular form of sporting event
  • There has been a slight narrowing of the gender gap in terms of volunteering for sport
  • Females aged 35 to 44 are now more likely to volunteer for sport than males of the same age
  • Team sports such as Gaelic football, soccer and hurling/camogie having the largest numbers of volunteers.
  • Soccer, Gaelic football and swimming are the most common sports played with children.
  • Over 9 in 10 (93%) of those playing Gaelic football commenced playing that sport before turning 16.
  • Those playing popular team-based sports such as Gaelic football soccer (most of whom are male) are more likely to have taken up this sport as a child.

The full Irish Sports Monitor can be found on


Further Information:

Anne McCarthy, Sport Ireland 086-3771469

Notes to Editor:

The 2015 ISM report was written by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of Sport Ireland. It provides information on active participation in sport and recreational walking, club membership, volunteering and attendance at sporting events as well as information about walking and cycling for transport.

The 2015 ISM report was based on telephone interviews conducted throughout the year (April 2015 – April 2016) with 8,540 adults aged 16 and over in the Republic of Ireland. Give the large sample size the ISM also provides an opportunity to assess participation by age, gender, socio-economic status, etc.