Sports Minister Edwin Poots, MLA, has announced the public consultation of the draft 10-year Strategy for Sport and Physical Recreation in Northern Ireland.
The draft Strategy is the product of two years work undertaken by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in partnership with Sport Northern Ireland, as well as a number of Government bodies.
Speaking to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Minister Poots said: “The announcement of the draft Sports Strategy presents Northern Ireland with a significant opportunity to ensure sport is placed on a clear and sound footing for the future. For the Strategy to be a success, we need to raise the current level of funding for sport over the next 10 years by Â£206million.
“We need a new, long-term vision for sport in Northern Ireland which allows us to maximise the opportunities that exist. Northern Ireland has a rich sporting heritage, one to be extremely proud of. It should be nourished to increase participation in sport and physical recreation and to encourage success on a world stage.
“Both watching and participating in sport can be fun and fulfilling, but it also has the potential to deliver other, more significant benefits. Sport plays a vital role in improving community cohesion, better public health, education and skills, economic growth, social development and attracting tourists to our region.
The Minister continued: “This public consultation comes at an exciting time for sport following the success of London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Games have the potential to motivate and inspire our young people to take up sport, to enhance Northern Ireland’s sporting infrastructure and to develop our athletes. It will also help us to put in place the foundation for a durable sporting and cultural legacy.
“Today, sport in Northern Ireland is facing major challenges and significant difficulties. Evidence suggests that participation rates are amongst the lowest in the UK and falling and that many of our sporting facilities require substantial development and modernisation.
“We cannot allow this situation to continue. If we are to succeed, we need a common goal, a shared vision and an agreed structure in which to take action.”
The Minister continued: “The draft strategy offers 24 specific targets for sport and physical recreation to be achieved over the next 10 years. These are designed to address concerns in relation to participation, performance and places and include the need to improve levels of participation in sport and address under representation amongst certain groups of people; the need to improve Northern Ireland’s performance in international competition; and the question of a major multi-sports stadium for Northern Ireland.
“If the strategy is to be implemented in full, it needs the commitment of all stakeholders including Government, local councils, sports bodies and the private sector. The success of this strategy relies on not only stakeholders’ commitment to implementing it, but also their ability to contribute to it financially.
“I have no doubt that many of the targets will be regarded as challenging. Yet, if achieved, there is the prospect of injecting the much needed rejuvenation into the way we deliver sport and physical recreation in Northern Ireland.”
The Minister continued: “I want to urge as many people as possible to consider this draft strategy carefully and to respond to it. The future of sport in Northern Ireland is at stake and this must concern us all. I therefore look forward to the outcome of the consultation and to receiving comments.
“The outcome of the consultation will help shape the final Strategy which I expect to publish as soon as possible after the consultation is completed.”
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