According to the latest Irish Sports Monitor (here), and the 2011 version, Ireland has one of the highest participation rates in the world. The Irish Sports Monitor is research commissioned by the Irish Sports Council. One would imagine that research titled Keeping Them in the Game would devote at least half of its focus to why Irish participation rates are amongst the highest in the world. Of course, one has to look at what can be improved upon but surely one would expect an explanation of what is contributing to such outstanding results. Imagine reading books called Why Barcelona don't win more titles or Why Jack Nicklaus has only 18 majors, or The Problems with Kilkenny Hurling!
Not once in the Executive Summary does Keeping Them in the Game mention that Ireland has one of the highest participation rates in the world. It seems strange that the Irish Sports Council would not ask on this fact being put in the report. It seems strange that the ESRI researchers would not provide the reader with this important piece of information.
Imagine how different the radio discussions and the public debate would be if it was acknowledged that Ireland had one of the highest participation rates in the world.
While we wait for the Irish Sports Council to commission work on why Irish participation rates are so high, we should not dismiss the research that seeks to explain why it is not even better. I'd bet Barcelona and Kilkenny are identifying what they perceive are weaknesses in their games. In this respect Keeping Them in the Game is well worth reading (keeping in mind the context). There is important information in it for Irish sports policymakers and individual sporting organisations. There is so much interesting material that it is not possible to summarise it in one post. I propose to highlight some of the issues raised in a number of future postings.