Background Little is known about why people with a long-standing illness/disability are less likely to participate in sport than others. This study aimed to identify for the first time sport participation levels and their correlates among Northern Ireland (NI) adults who report a long-standing illness/disability. Method Using data collected in the Continuous Household Survey, an annual survey of a random sample of the NI population, during 2007–2011, we examined responses for the total sample, those with a long-term illness/disability and those with no long-term health issues. We conducted univariate binary regression analysis for the whole sample and for those with a long-standing illness or disability, using sport participation as the dependent variable, and then carried significant variables into a multivariate analysis. Results The sample included 13 683 adults; 3550 (26%) reported a long-term illness or disability. Multivariate analysis showed that, for the total sample and for those with a long-standing illness or disability, sport participation correlated positively with being male, aged <56 years, having a household car/van, health being ‘fairly good’/‘good’ in the previous year, doing work and living in an urban location. Also, for those with a long-standing illness or disability, being single and less socioeconomically deprived correlated positively with sport participation. Conclusions The findings suggest that more focused efforts may promote sport participation for people with a long-standing illness or disability who are female, older, not working, living rurally, married/cohabiting, socioeconomically deprived and report having had poor health in the past year. Our findings should inform public health policy and help in developing initiatives to support sport participation and reduce health inequalities.