In 1999 the Irish Sports Council was established under the Irish Sports Council Act which described the Council's function to develop strategies for increasing participation in recreational sport and to coordinate their implementation by all bodies involed in promoting sport and providing facilities.
In 2000 the Irish Sports Council produced its first statement of strategy, A New Era for Sport 2000 - 2002 within which it defined its mission as "planning, leading and coordinating the sustainable development of sport in Ireland". The document outlined the Council's three key strategies as Participation, Performance and Excellence, each of which are distinguishable by results, numbers and needs.
The strategy proposed the establishment of Local Sports Partnerships to "create a national structure to coordinate and promote the development of sport at local level". The strategy describes the partnerships as critical partners in achieving success in the Participation Strategy with the twin aims of:
- increasing participation in sport by breaking down barriers and increasing both numbers of people participating and the extent of continued participation throughout the life cycle
- ensuring that the resources invested in sport at local level are used to best effect
During the period covered by this strategy, the Irish Sports Council established twelve Local Sports Partnerships.
In 2003 the Irish Sports Council published its second strategic plan, Sport for Life 2003 - 2008 in which it committed to supporting the expansion of the Local Sports Partnership network. In the course of its implementation, a further four partnerships were established. During the course of this strategy the Council conducted a number of participation studies in collaboration with the Economic and Social Research Institute providing baseline data by which measurments can take place over time.
In 2005 the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism commissioned Fitzpatrick Associates, Economic Consultants to undertake a review of the Local Sports Partnership programme. The key recommendations of the Fitzpatrick Report presented to the Department in October 2005 included:
- the programme should be rolled out nationally on a phased basis
- the partnerships to be funded up to 2008, after which a minimum of 50% of the core costs would be provided by local agencies
- the partnerships should be established as subcommittees of County Development Boards, with staff as local authority employees
In 2006 the Irish Sports Council produced its third strategy Building Sport for Life 2006 - 2008. Three new partnerships, including Offaly received designation in 2006 bringing the total to 19. Full national coverage will be achieved early in 2008 based on the recommendations of the Fitzpatrick Report. In the context of the work of Local Sports Partnerships, two of the key targets over the life of the strategy of the Irish Sports Council are:
- to increase adult participation rates by 1.5%
- to increase by 3% the numbers of children taking part in some level of extra curricular sport and extra school sport combined
In 2008 the Partnerships became a national network with 33 operational and covering every area of the country.