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Growing Community Sportand Physical Activity in Northern Ireland 

17th July 2019
The Riverside Theatre,
Ulster University, Coleraine


Strategies, policies, experiences, real stories and successes to be told, lessons to be learnt, ideas and experiences to be shared.



8.45 – 9.15 Registration – Tea/Coffee


9.15 – 9.30 Welcome and setting the scene


Professor Karise Hutchinson is a Professor of Leadership at Ulster University and Provost of the Coleraine campus

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Professor Karise Hutchinson joined Ulster University in 2004 and was awarded a PhD in SME international management in 2006


Chair, Svend Elkjaer, Founder/Director, Sports Marketing Network

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Svend is founder and director of the Sports Marketing Network, a leading consultancy and information provider with community sport and physical activity.Being described as ‘a positive disruptor’ Svend has worked across the UK and Denmark with all types of providers and funders helping them to become vibrant, visible and viable


9.30 – 10.00 It’s all about change in community sport and physical activity

 Svend Elkjaer, Founder and Director, Sports Marketing Network

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 The world of sport is no different from the world of technology or commerce where the rate of change is increasing all the time. Governing bodies and clubs must not only have the appetite for change but must also implement these changes and adaptations or they will struggle to exist. The competition for young people’s time and money has never been greater, and sport is under increasing pressure not only from other past-times such as social media, TV and E-games but more importantly, from inactivity!

The social aspect needs to get greater emphasis and innovative thought needs to be applied to sports in order to develop simpler entry-points, a faster endorphin hit, greater engagement and to drive the mental health, leadership, teamwork and communication qualities that derive from playing any sport. 

10.00 – 10.30 Sport NI as an ambitious catalyst for sporting growth and success

Antoinette McKeown, Chief Executive, Sport Northern Ireland 

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Antoinette McKeown is leading Sport NI into the next corporate plan period with a particular focus on developing a strong sporting system in Northern Ireland. The organisation is currently consulting widely with sports organisations to put in place mechanisms and cultures that will foster sustained sporting participation and eventual medal success.

This work will require a broad and ambitious take on how Northern Ireland can perform on the world stage. Whether it is in terms of levels of sporting participation, tackling inequality through sport or pushing for world class facility development, Antoinette intends to lead Sport NI as an ambitious catalyst for sporting growth and success beyond 2019.





10.30 – 11.00 How a person-centred and insight led approach is changing sport in Wales

Tom Overton, Head of Community Sport, Sport Wales

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In June 2019, Sport Wales launched their new Strategy – to enable Sport in Wales to thrive – this was in response to the Vision for Sport in Wales. The strategy recognises that the world we live in is constantly evolving and for sport to stay relevant for people in Wales we need to keep pace with the changes and adapt our approach. We need to innovate and be bold. We need to break down real and perceived barriers so that sport and leading an active life is a choice for everyone. We all need to challenge ourselves to think and behave differently. We will align our collective resources and identify opportunities to strengthen partnerships. Through a person-centred and insight led approach, we will prioritise our resources to grow capability, capacity and confidence in the following areas; foundations, participation, progression, performance and success.

11.00 – 11.15 Tea/Coffee


11.15 – 11.35 Exploring the ‘Serious Smiles’ approach to gymnastics development through effective partnership working

Pippa Davis, Director, GymFun

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 The GymFun partnership programme is unique in the UK. It is a gymnastics specific model for club and coach development which involves the support and cooperation of club, governing body and a HEI institution (Ulster University). This presentation will explore and share the ideas and thinking behind the development of the highly successful and very popular GymFun programme at Ulster University. The focus of the programme (workforce development) will be outlined and we will demonstrate how this has led to successful club development and sustained growth both within the community setting and beyond. We will also expand on our belief that all children’s sport experiences should be truly inclusive and contribute to the development of their physical literacy and movement confidence as a foundation for future sporting participation. Our model has demonstrated that high-quality youth sport does not need to be aligned to competitive sport and indeed a professional evidence-based, child-centred, non-competitive approach is very achievable in community settings and very much in demand.

We will examine the role club values and ethos play in the retention of children in sport and can lead to a happier, more sustained and positive experiences for all children, without compromising levels of mastery and performance.

The presentation will examine how other sports or other gymnastics clubs may be able to adapt or even replicate the model to help achieve their objectives.

11.35 – 12.05 How sport can become a force for good

Diarmaid Marsden, Head of Community Development, Ulster GAA

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Sport has the ability to effect change across many sectors of the community. Ulster GAA is at the forefront of using sport to break down barriers, unite people and become a force for good. Over the last 15 years Ulster GAA has been engaged in community outreach and developed key partnerships to deliver on this. There is a perception that the Gaelic Athletic Association is “only” for the catholic, nationalist sections of the community. Ulster GAA has been leading out on outreach initiatives, in conjunction with Ulster Rugby and the Irish FA, to use sport to bring people together with a common focus. Ulster GAA encourages all clubs to be open and welcoming to people from all sections of the community and that Gaelic Games are available for anyone to play irrespective of their background. Initiatives like the “Game of Three Halves”, “The Cuchulainn Cup” and “Club – Sport for Peace Days” are some examples where Ulster GAA works with other organisations to use sport to become a force for good. We will examine some of these initiatives and the impact they have had at a local level.

12.05 – 12.35 How Move More is getting people living with cancer active

Diarmaid McAuley, Macmillan Programme Manager, Northern Ireland

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The story of cancer is changing… there are 65,000 people living with cancer in Northern Ireland today, and 1 in every 2 of us will face cancer at some point in our lifetime. Developed by Macmillan Cancer Support, and delivered in partnership with district councils, leisure organisations and health and social care trusts, Move More Northern Ireland is a physical activity service for people living with cancer in communities throughout Northern Ireland. Move More NI was developed in response to a recent and growing body of evidence which highlights that physical activity can reduce the consequences of cancer and its treatments, prevent co-morbidities, and reduce the likelihood of cancer spreading and returning. Having provided support for over 2,000 people in NI, Move More NI was recognised as the 2018 Sport NI SportMaker Project of the Year and received the ‘Coaching for an Active Lifestyle’ Award at the 2018 UK Coaching Awards.

12.35 – 12.55 Growing participation through innovative community tennis

Paul Logan, Paul Logan Tennis Coaching

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Paul Logan Tennis Coaching is breaking the mould as how sport can be developed and delivered. Paul was instrumental in setting up Causeway Community Tennis Club, a registered charity, to ensure tennis was available to everyone in the Community.

Paul will be interviewed by the Chair.  

12.55 – 13.15 Crusaders FC – how football clubs can become more than clubs


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Even during their well-publicised financial problems Crusaders FC always kept their focus on being a club based in the centre of their community; being ‘More than a club’, as their strapline says. That community engagement was also instrumental in securing the financial backing and also funding for their improved facilities, which are now being used by a wide range of community groups and businesses. This helps secure income for the club and provides a platform for their great educational and community work.

This presentation will cover how sport can play a bigger role in people’s lives and engage with their communities.

13.15 -13.45 Lunch – departure for British Open