May 23rd saw the Federation of Irish Sport host its Annual Conference in Dublin City University. The 2019 theme was Sport – the most inclusive community of all?
The day saw speakers covering topics including women in sport, disability, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ and healthy communities. A host of international speakers joined us to share their own personal stories as well as their professional lessons that everyone in the room could take away with them. The day was expertly moderated by Grainne McElwain.
Katie Sadleir opened proceedings with the work of World Rugby in growing the female game. Katie showcased the brand new World Rugby campaign, ‘Try and Stop Us’ and gave the audience a fantastic insight into the work that is being done to own and grow the involvement of women in rugby.
Katie was followed by Jon Morgan and Tom Rogers of Disability Sport Wales who brought the audience through the work of Disability Sport Wales and the work of the CARA Centre, focusing on how organisations can make themselves more inclusive for everyone through small steps. Jon wowed the audience with video footage of facilitates that have made small changes to become more inclusive and welcoming for all.
Next up was an International Rugby double act in the form of Hugo McNeill and Trevor Ringland who showcased the power of sport to cross boarders and unite communities. The duo spoke of the importance of understanding our history but moving forward. They also drew on how significant traditional symbols can be as barriers to inclusion.
Colin Regan of the GAA provided the next session on healthy clubs and communities for all ages, genders and ability levels. Colin enlightened the audience with how GAA clubs have become hubs for all those in the community and are breaking down the tradition of the club being for sport – the club is for everyone.
Pre and post lunch the audience were treated to a snapshot of some of the fantastic projects and people working on the ground around Ireland in the area of inclusivity and diversity via our Fast Four presentations. Special thanks to parkrun, Dublin City Council, SARI, DANDI, Cork LSP, Dublin Viking Dragon Boat Club and Sporting Pride for their contributions on the day.
After lunch the audience geared up for what was to be a very special address by former Welsh Rugby player Gareth Thomas. Thomas brought the crowd to tears and to their feet with his very personal account of what inclusivity in sport means to him and his journey. In his open and honest account of his time playing sport as a gay man, Thomas addressed how the issue of inclusivity in sport still needs work. The former Welsh international also gave his views on recent issues of discrimination by fellow members of the rugby world.
Next to the stage was a panel comprised of Special Olympian Oisin Feery, Nicky Hamill Irish Wheelchair Association Director of Sport and Westmeath Footballer Boidu Sayeh who debated and discussed what diversity in sport means to them and how society can work to improve the situation for many. Oisin and Boidu shared their thoughts and experiences of being role models for young athletes and what it means to them to be able to give back.
Our final speaker was Piara Powar, Directior of the FARE Network who addressed the audience on the areas of racism and diversity in Sport. Powar spoke of recent incidents in the UK Premier League and how we haven’t come quite as far as we may think when it comes to accepting diversity in Sport – both on and off the field of play.
A great day with lessons for all! We’re looking forward to 2020’s conference already.