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Final whistle

Funding for sports should be tied to commitment to stopping abuse, says Oireachtas committee

The committee’s chair said there is “no place for abusive or discriminatory behaviour in sport”.

FUNDING FOR SPORTS should require organisations to provide evidence of anti-discrimination and anti-abuse policies, an Oireachtas Committee has recommended.

The Oireachtas Committee on Sport, which has examined the issue of abuse in sports over multiple hearings, has published a series of recommendations aimed at targeting the problem.

One of the recommendations is that all sports funding and grants administered for or by the Department of Sport requires funded entities to provide evidence of the adoption of anti-discriminatory and anti-abuse policies.

The committee’s chair, Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth, said in a statement that there is “no place for abusive or discriminatory behaviour in sport” and that all types of abuse must be denounced.

“Since the cancellation of several hundred sporting matches in November 2021 on foot of excessive abuse, the Committee has heard evidence of unconscionable actions on and off the field of play,” Smyth said.

“The reputational impact for sport is one crucial issue, but, on yet a more urgent level, the physical and mental well-being of all sportspeople is at stake,” she said. 

TDs and senators on the committee concluded that current policy initiatives do not go far enough to safeguard everyone’s participation in sport.

The politicians are calling for the appointment of a centralised Sporting Ombudsman who would promote duty of care issues and the establishment of a working group to implement a Code of Conduct across sports.

They also want to see research into the impact of abuse in Irish sport.

“Crucially, we call on sporting organisations to provide a more appropriate suite of supports for victims of abuse,” Smyth said.

The committee recommends that the Sports Action Plan 2021-2023 be expanded to explicitly include a series of anti-discriminatory and anti-abusive actions. 

It is advising the Department of Sport to engage with Sport Ireland on developing guidance for national governing bodies and local sports partnerships to implement appropriate social media policies. 

The department should also work with Sport Ireland to develop campaigns that promote the value of officiating, the need for officials, and the need for respecting everyone involved in sport at all levels, the committee concludes.

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