Almost 90% of people here believe sport is a good way to break down barriers between Protestant and Catholics.
That was one of the key findings in a Ulster University report commissioned by OFMDFM.
Speaking at the launch Junior Minister, Jennifer McCann said: “I welcome this study which reinforces sport has the power to transcend all differences and unite our community. This report examines the extent, distribution and cause of social exclusion in sport here and provides a useful insight into attitudes and public perceptions.
“Within the report, 84% of people believe sport here is more open and inclusive than ten years ago, however, 52% of people do not engage in sport or physical activity at all. The findings identifies many females, less well-off people, older people, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people and transgender people continue to face barriers to participation in sport and physical activity.
“I commend Ulster University, Professor Hargie, Dr. Somerville and Dr. Mitchell for producing this comprehensive piece of research. Access and participation are key issues which OFMDFM are committed to addressing, as no one should feel excluded or isolated.
“We must all now be proactive and use this study as part of a wider conversation and programme of work to make sport welcoming, inclusive and rewarding for all.”
Commenting at the launch, Ulster University’s Professor Owen Hargie said: “For the first time ever Northern Ireland now has a benchmark for both government and local sporting organisations to chart the evolution of local attitudes to the future of sport.
“Our findings will assist them in better understanding public perceptions and attitudes to cohesion, sharing and integration in Northern Irish society. The results of our research also highlight how sport presents both challenges and opportunities in Northern Ireland’s ongoing path away from the violence and division of the Troubles. This is the beginning of a much wider debate and we look forward to seeing our recommendations shape the future generation of sport.”