Sport and Social Disadvantage in Ireland

E XECUTIVE S UMMARY

BRIEF SUMMARY This report examines the impact of social disadvantage on various forms of participation in sport, using data from more than 3,000 Irish adults. It found those with low income or low educational attainment are many times less likely to participate. This effect is so strong that the large majority of people who play sport in Ireland are from higher income and better educated social groups. Placed in the context of Irish sports policy, this means that public spending on sport is very likely to be regressive, with the less well off subsidising the activities of the better off. If public spending on sport is to continue to be justified on the grounds that it benefits all in Irish society, greater priority needs to be given to policies that are of clear benefit to the disadvantaged. T he broad aim of this report is to assess the impact of social disadvantage on various forms of participation in sport. The main focus is on playing of sport by adults, but volunteering for sport- related activity, membership of sports clubs and attendance at sports events are also examined. There is also a brief assessment of whether schoolchildren’s sporting opportunities are affected by attending a school designated as disadvantaged. The report asks three questions in relation to participation in sport: (1) How strong is the impact of social disadvantage on participation in sport? (2) What are the factors behind it? (3) What policy implications can be drawn? T he main data source is the Survey of Sport and Physical Exercise carried out in July-September 2003, which consisted of interviews with a representative sample of over 3,000 Irish adults. The chapter on schools employs a survey of schoolchildren and school principals undertaken in a nationally representative sample of primary and second-level schools in late 2004. Both surveys were conducted by the Survey Unit of The Economic and Social Research Institute.

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