Press Release from the Irish Sports Council


·         Participation in sport increased from 34% in 2009 to 46% in 2011

·         Sedentarism fell from 16% in 2009 to 13% in 2011

·         Rates of volunteering in sport increased from 7% in 2009 to 15% in 2011

·         Club membership has increased from 32% to 38%

·         Attendance at sporting events rose from 17% in 2009 to 22% in 2011  

·         Personal exercise (11%) and swimming (10%) are the most popular physical activities

·         Increased time a key factor in increased participation with notable increases among the unemployed as well as those among the younger and older groups of adults  


The fourth Irish Sports Monitor report, for the year 2011, was published today by the Irish Sports Council. The report, written by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of the Council, measures adult participation in sport and physical activity and compares it with previously published information.

The report shows that there were very significant increases in the levels of engagement with sport across active and social participation measures. This occurred most notably in relation to active participation in sport which recorded a rise from 34% in 2009 to 46% in 2011.

Another key metric is the level of sedentarism which reflects the extent of inactivity within the population. Between 2009 and 2011 this measure recorded a decrease from 16% to 13%. This is important for population health as the biggest health gains are shown to be achieved when getting totally inactive people to participate in some form of physical activity.

Overall personal exercise is the most popular activity (11%). Swimming continues to grow (10%) and the apparent boom in running is captured with 7%  participating. Soccer (6%), cycling (6%) golf (5%) and dance (4%) are also very popular.


The report was officially launched by Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring. Speaking at the launch in Dublin he said: ‘The growing participation in sport is great news, especially for all the people and organisations who work hard to get more people involved. I’m particularly happy to see that there are more volunteers, more people joining clubs, and more people attending sporting events. The Report shows that Government investment in sport is boosting sporting activity, and hopefully producing a healthier society’.


The Irish Sport Monitor reports a rise in levels of voluntary activity for sport between 2009 and 2011 from 7% to 15%. It is also significant to note the increase in club membership from 32% to 38% and attendance at sporting events for 17% to 22% including 8% who had attended a Gaelic football match. Each of these measures indicates that sport makes a very significant contribution to community and economic life in Ireland.

John Treacy, Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council: “The increase in participation and the decrease in sedantarism are significant and very important from a health point of view. The ISM reports on a notable shift in the behaviour of the Irish population which is the result of the interventions of many agencies, groups and individuals. The challenge now is to maintain the good work and keep Ireland active”


Changes ion participation between the two years varied across groups with significant increases being particularly notable among the younger (16 – 25 year old) and older (55+) age groups as well as among the unemployed suggesting the importance of free time as an influence on sporting behaviour. Despite the significant increases being reported it is interesting to note that there is a strong desire across the adult population to increase their current levels of activity with swimming, walking and cycling being particular favourites in this regard.

Kieran O’Leary, Research Director, Ipsos MRBI: “The wider context to this report is one in which Irish society is placing less focus on short-term economic gain and is taking a more holistic view on quality of life. This is clearly benefitting sport through increased active and social participation”
The Irish Sports Monitor (ISM) is a survey of participation in sport and physical exercise in Ireland, which began in 2007 and continued throughout 2008 and 2009. There was a gap in 2010 when there was a competitive process to agree the provider of the ISM to the Council.  Based on regular interviews with adults aged 16 and over, the ISM is primarily designed to track levels of participation in sport and recreational exercise, both for the population as a whole and various subpopulations of interest. To achieve sufficient accuracy, it employs large annual samples: 8,749 in 2011, 9,781 in 2009; 6,829 in 2008; 9,767 in 2007.

You can view the full report here