Ireland Communities and society, Culture, sport and tourism

Cork City Council’s ‘Sports on the Green’ reduces barriers to physical activity participation


Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

Continuing our series on winners of the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards 2021 is Cork City Council, who takes us through their community-based health intervention aimed at reducing key barriers to physical activity participation. Their successful initiative ‘Sports on the Green’ won them the award for Health and Wellbeing.

What is Sports on the Green?

Sports on the Green is a community-based health intervention aimed at reducing key barriers to physical activity participation – most notably time, cost and a lack of transport or equipment.

Although initially designed in response to Covid-19 Restrictions; it has proven to be an extremely effective way of encouraging physical activity participation locally and is something we hope to continue post-Covid-19.

Rather than asking participants to travel to an external location, Sports on the Green brings physical activity to them. It is typically located on the green area of housing estates, requiring no transport or time constraints on parents to drop/ collect from a different venue. Sessions are run free of charge and all equipment is provided. Reducing these barriers has made the programme easily accessible to those in our target groups and has opened the doors to young people who may not typically engage in sports.

Our Sports on the Green Summer Series brought activities to 42 housing estates across the city this July and August. Taking place over a six-week block, these locations took part in a three-day ‘summer camp’ style programme which exposed them to a range of new activities free of charge. All 42 of these locations were held in areas of social deprivation which were recommended by our Community Section based on need. A number of sessions focused on key target groups such as teenage girls, members of the Travelling community, members of the Roma community, those living in Direct Provision and young people who are experiencing homelessness.

Recruitment of Participants

Recruiting participants required close interdepartmental working with our Community Section. We worked with them on a regular basis to identify ‘Community Leaders’ who would take on the recruitment process locally. These ‘Community Leaders’ were responsible for identifying a suitable green area in their locality, identifying participants, gathering registration and consent forms and were present on the day of the programme to assist with registration. This progress empowered local communities to run something in their own area and encouraged community spirit during Covid-19 restrictions. Many communities came together to organise their own tea and coffee stations for parents and water for the children taking part. It has also encouraged the development of resident’s associations in some areas and promoted Placemaking.

Key Partners

Cork City Councils Sports Development Officer designed and coordinated this programme with collaboration from Cork ETB, Cork Sports Partnership, Munster Rugby, Athletics Ireland and the FAI. This programme has allowed us to develop and strengthen relationships with a number of key stakeholders locally such as Cork Community Gardai, TUSLA, Travellers Visibility Group, Cork City Partnership, Foroige, Youth Work Ireland, Edel House, Good Sheppard Services, and Cricket Ireland.


We decided to work with NGB’s such as Munster Rugby, Athletics Ireland and the FAI, who provided professional and experienced coaches. This allowed us to ensure that sessions were of a high quality and gave participants a positive sporting experience. Where possible, a club link was developed whereby coaches from a local club assisted with the sessions and made participants aware of training sessions locally. This was particularly important as it offered young people a face they knew on the first day, should they continue and join a club.

Participants were provided with a goody bag which included equipment such as a football and a rugby ball. A booklet was also provided which included skills, drills, tips and tricks from each of the three sports and allowed them to continue to practise the skills they learned during the session, at home. QR Codes linked participants towards a video series online with demonstrations and ideas.

Information was provided at the back of the booklet on the local clubs in their area, along with contact details for each club. Information on local Parks, MUGAS and Outdoor Gyms was also included.

Future of Sports on the Green

The Sports on the Green Summer Series 2021 brought a three-day, summer camp-style programme to 42 housing estates across the city (126 individual sessions). These sessions spanned all electoral wards of the city and were targeted in areas of social deprivation. While numbers were limited due to Covid-19 Restrictions, there were still over 550 young people who took part.

Running a programme in such a large number of areas across a six-week block required a huge amount of organising and logistics. Despite this, demand from both local stakeholders and local communities is continuing to grow and there are endless possibilities of groups, locations, and sports that we could run this programme for. To aid with this expansion, and due to the growing success of the programme, we have secured funding to take on an Assistant Sports Development Officer for the summer months who will focus a large portion of their time on Sports on the Green in 2022.

From a council’s perspective, Sports on the Green has allowed us to build stronger relationships with the local community and respond to some of their needs in a positive way. It has been equally beneficial for some of our partner organisations such as the Community Gardai, as it allows them to build trust with young people in their community and show them that they are approachable and there to help.

For more information on this programme please contact Cork City Council’s Sports Development Officer, Laura Coady, at [email protected]


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