Individuals who have a positive experience of sport can, and often do, remain within the game throughout their lives. Respect for players, officials and volunteers is the cornerstone of this experience and key to upholding the values of sport.
With this in mind, representatives of the IRFU, FAI and the GAA have pledged to work together on this important topic over the coming year.
To kick things off, during the weekend of October 7 and 8, the three main sporting bodies in Ireland are working together to remind everyone within their games about the values of ‘Respect’ on and off the field.
To do this, each sport has committed this weekend to activities such as fair play awards at adult matches, silent or positive sidelines at youth games, and presentations to the parents and coaches on the positive influence they can bring to the games.
We know that one of the main reasons why adults drop out of sport is that they feel ‘they didn’t belong or didn’t feel welcomed’. Specifically, young players say, ‘it wasn’t fun anymore’.
But when people have a positive experience, they stay involved for longer and often look to give back to the club and so stay involved in their sport way beyond the point at which they finished playing it.
Over 40% of the adult population are participating in sport, with an additional 12% involved in volunteering and over 30% reported as being a member of a club.
This initiative has the chance to impact many people and highlight the important role that sport can play in people’s lives when conducted in a positive manner.
Speaking about the initiative, IRFU Chief Executive Kevin Potts said:
In rugby we are fortunate that there is a long tradition and culture of respect that is rooted in our game. We do not take for granted the pivotal role of match officials and volunteers in helping our sport to run smoothly and it is imperative that these individuals are treated with the utmost respect.
“Weekends such as this are essential in keeping these values thriving in our game and I am pleased we are working with the GAA and FAI to deliver this important message.”
Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael, Larry McCarthy, commented: “Respect has to be at the heart of our games and activities and this applies not only to Gaelic Games, but to everyone who organises or who is involved in sport. All sport organisations need to bring to life their declaration and commitment to respect and display it at every game.
“Last year our clubs and counties responded very well to our campaign to underline the importance of match officials and for more to be done on respecting and valuing their contribution to our games.
“During this year’s inter-county season we promoted a message of respect, tolerance and understanding online. That culture of respect should exist on our sidelines, between our players and volunteers and amongst supporters.
“When people have a positive experience in our sports they enjoy them more, stay involved longer, and look to give back to their sport as a result.
“It is a project that will never have a finish line and needs to be a focus beyond one weekend – but our project coordination with the IRFU and the FAI is important because as sporting associations, we have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to set an example, and I encourage all our units to step up to this call to action.”
FAI CEO Jonathan Hill stated: “Respect for referees is a core principle highlighted in our recent #NoRefNoGame campaign, and respect for each other has to be a core principle running across the whole of the Irish football community.
“We all have a part to play to make sure we act in the right way in all dealings with fellow players, coaches and administrators across the game and accept that as a basic and defining approach to everything we do.
“We’re delighted to partner with the IRFU and the GAA in delivering this coordinated message as we all put the focus on respecting individuals across all elements of our sports.”
For more information on the IRFU Spirit of Rugby programme, please visit irishrugby.ie/spiritofrugby.