Sport NI representatives were in Parliament Buildings on Thursday to brief the Committee for Communities on the organisation and its work for sport.

Reflecting after the meeting, Richard Archibald, Interim CEO Sport NI said:
“We were very pleased to provide a briefing to members of the Committee for Communities on the work of Sport NI. It was a positive and constructive engagement where we acknowledged recent challenges and took the opportunity to highlight our work in developing sport.”

The Committee expressed a particular interest in grassroots sport, and representatives from Sport NI highlighted how in 2023/24, its £8m National Lottery funded Sports System Investment programme had driven club membership to 433,000 people, bringing the ambitious 2027-28 target of half a million club members within reach.

“We were encouraged by the members’ obvious passion and interest for sport, something we all share. A wide range of issues were discussed including provision in areas of high social deprivation, women in sport, volunteerism, disability sport, capital investment and the Commonwealth Games.”

Lifestyles and sporting habits are changing, and the delegation informed the Committee about how as well as providing significant support to the largest and more established sports organisations, in 2023/24 Sport NI invested in ParkRun for the first time and also expanded its reach by investing in six new governing bodies of sport: American Football, British Powerlifting, Kickboxing Ireland, Irish Olympic Handball Association, Irish Squash and Irish Surfing.

Richard Archibald said,

“The Committee raised some of the challenges we’ve faced in recent years, and we were happy to update on progress to date in addressing these and further plans in place to improve performance. In particular, this year we have worked hard to maximise the resources invested in sport and were able to inform the Committee that our budgetary performance in FY2023-24 was markedly improved. We look forward to continued engagement with the Committee and other political representatives as we maintain our focus on delivering the best possible outcomes for sport.”

Notes to Editors
Sport NI briefed Committee members on the highlights of its work and some of the challenges it has been facing and the work undertaken to address these. Further details are below:

  • In 2023/24, Sport NI invested more money into more sports than ever before thanks to its £8m National Lottery funded Sports System Investment programme. The programme encompasses 37 Sports Governing Bodies, over 3,000 clubs with over 433,000 members, over 40,000 coaches and over 5,000 officials.
  • Sport NI set the ambitious target of 500,000 club members by 2027/28. With 433,000 already involved this reflects an increase of 47% from the base figure in 2017/18 of 295,000. Membership of Women and Girls has increased from 114,000 in 2017/18 to 159,000 in 2023/24 and shows positive progress towards equal representation.
  • Sport NI is also committed to supporting our athletes to perform on the World Stage, representing Northern Ireland, Ireland or Great Britain & Northern Ireland and creating Medal Moments and acting as role models to inspire others to engage in Sport and Physical Activity.
  • High performers across a wide range of sports achieved a record haul of medals for Team NI in Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 with more Women and Girls and Para-Athletes participating than ever before.
  • Our teams at the Sport NI Sports Institute are focussed on helping NI athletes qualify for the Paris Olympic Games & Paralympic Games this year with 46 athletes eligible for selection for a qualified spot, and 31 more still in contention, as well as building the talent pipeline for future games in Los Angeles (2028) and Brisbane (2032).
  • In order to improve financial management at Sport NI a Board sub-group was set up to work with an interim management team. This group identified a number of areas of concern and is taking steps to address these through agreed programmes of work. The interim management team has successfully re-established financial controls in the organisation and has been delivering timely and accurate financial information to the Board. This enhanced support and focus has ensured that the budget for 2023/24 was spent in line with the Business Plan and enabled the organisation to report a provisional outturn variance for 2023/24 within 1% of annual DEL budget.