The Northern Ireland Sports Forum attended the launch by DCAL Minister Nelson McCausland MLA of ‘Sport Matters’ – the Northern Ireland Strategy for Sport and Physical Recreation 2009 – 2019.

The launch also marked the first meeting of the Sport Matters Monitoring Group chaired by Sports Minister McCausland and in attendance were senior representatives from Sport NI, the Northern Ireland Sports Forum, NI Environment Agency and Senior officials from DCAL, DHSSPS, DE, DSD as well as a District Council Chief Executives.

Chairman of the Northern Ireland Sports Forum Ken Nixon commented, “I was delighted to represent the Forum at the first meeting of the monitoring group and to sit down with a wide range of interested parties particularly representatives from various Government Departments. For a long time the Forum has been pressing for effective joined up Government and it was good to be sitting at the table for the first time with key departmental officials.

At the meeting I also had the opportunity to highlight the crucial role of volunteers in the delivery of the Sporting and Physical Activity Agenda.

Sport NI will be taking the lead in setting up three key ‘Sport Matters’ Implementation Groups under the general headings of Participation; Performance and Places and the Sports Forum and its membership will be keen to play their part as they did in the preparation of the Strategy.

There will of course be an implementation cost to government who are clearly committed to the Strategy and it is worth repeating in light of public spending cuts the final paragraph of the document that sums up the challenge”.

“There will undoubtedly be those who will question the affordability of this Strategy; £780m is a substantial investment by any definition. However, with declining participation rates, rising obesity levels, falling elite performance standards and increased public expectation the question must be asked: can we afford not to act?” [pg 39]

Speaking at the launch of the Strategy, which was developed by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in partnership with Sport Northern Ireland, Minister McCausland said, “Sport is an integral part of Northern Ireland’s culture and identity. It is important to all sections of our community. It also has the potential to make a significant contribution to personal development, education, health, the economy and the development of communities.

“However, Northern Ireland sport today faces major challenges and significant difficulties particularly in terms of participation, high performance and the quantity and quality of existing infrastructure. There needs to be a new long term vision and direction for sport, so that we secure all the potential benefits it offers society and the individual. Sport Matters offers that vision and that direction.”

The Minister added that he was committed to providing the leadership needed to deliver on the targets and commitments within Sport Matters. He said: “I want not simply to preserve our sporting culture, but to cultivate it and strengthen it now and for the future. In short, I want Northern Ireland to realise the vision of Sport Matters – a culture of lifelong enjoyment and success in sport.”

Dominic Walsh, Chair of Sport Northern Ireland added, “While the Strategy outlines many of the arguments as to why sport is so important, we also look to the broader value and see that sport provides us with inspirational and invaluable moments.

This is particularly relevant with the approach of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the World Police and Fire Games 2013 being hosted here in Northern Ireland, and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. All of the events are bringing sport right to our doorstep.

“I particularly endorse the increased prominence given to our sporting volunteers and, thanks to their dedication, our experience of sport and physical recreation is greatly enriched. Overall, the Strategy will enable sport to modernise our systems and structures for continued effective delivery and enjoyment by all.”

To view the Sports Matters Strategy for Sport and Physical Recreation 2009 – 2019 please click the link in the downloads box.

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