Policy transition: public sector sport for development in Northern Ireland

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Globally, governments are implementing public sector reform to address declining budgets and public trust to improve programme efficiency and effectiveness. Sport has become ever more relevant with regards local, national and international social policy as part of an enhanced role for the third sector in tackling a plethora of societal issues. This article attempts to explore, the success (or otherwise) of sport for development (SfD) programmes transitioning positive outcomes from a micro and meso level to the macro level in Northern Ireland. Three management models (Outcomes-based accountability, Organisational capacity and Resource dependency theory) are used to establish the level of efficiency and effectiveness of SfD programmes in Northern Ireland, based on semi-structured interviews with a range of policy and delivery stakeholders. This article identifies potential areas of conflict at the intersection between policy and practice which limit the translation of successful project outcomes. The ambiguity of purpose combined with the absence of a population level evaluation model and financial reliance perpetuates task-based projects at the expense of sectoral outcomes. In turn, individuals are faced with a ridged multi-agency offering without a multi-agency approach. This article recommends a government-wide indicator for sport and physical activity linked to an overarching sport-related strategy, which clearly defines language, purpose and responsibilities across the public sector. One which builds on existing structures to support transition (individual and organisational) across the three identified interlinking phases of sport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-228
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • sports policy
  • sport for development
  • Northern Ireland
  • Capacity
  • outcomes based accountability
  • Sports policy
  • capacity


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