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Sports Participation Figures Published

Published: 13th December 2011 13:31

Last week, Sport England published new participation figures which show a continuing strong performance by sports such as running, table tennis and boxing, but decreasing participation in other major sports such as swimming and tennis.

Across the country 6.927 million people are now taking part three times a week, that's 111,800 more than in 2007/08 and 632,000 more than in 2005/6 when the Olympic bid was won. 14.759 million adults are playing sport at least once a week.

Tennis racquets

Of real concern, however, is the fall in the number of young people aged between 16 and 19 playing sport - with drops in this age range in major sports including football, tennis and swimming. Across the rest of the adult population, the number of people playing sport is increasing.

The results also show an increase in participation among disabled people and among men since 2007/8, but a decrease in the number of women playing sport.

Sport England's Chief Executive, Jennie Price, said:

"This is a disappointing set of results. If we are to maintain the current level of public investment in grassroots sport, we need more governing bodies to demonstrate they can increase participation in their sports. We are working in a tough climate, with a third of those playing less sport putting it down to economic factors, but the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year give us a great opportunity to reverse this trend.

"The results also clearly show that we need to work much harder with young people, given the fall in participation among 16- to 19-year-olds.

"I am encouraged to see an increase in the number of disabled people playing sport. But we need to tackle head on the widening gender gap by doing much more to make sport relevant and appealing to women."

Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, said:

"Although not unexpected, these figures are very disappointing. It is for this reason that we have spent the second half of this year working with Sport England and governing bodies on a new strategy with particular emphasis on youth sport, that we will announce in the New Year. This strategy will be based on concrete results in return for Government investment and will ensure we create a real and lasting sports legacy after London's Games."

Among people who are playing less sport than they were, almost a third said this was down to economic factors[vii] such as cost or a lack of time due to work commitments. Government statistics show that the average weekly spend on 'recreation and culture' has dipped from £70.10 in 2005 to £58.10 last year.

The latest 12-month period being published last week, includes November and December 2010 when sports participation - and team sports in particular - was disrupted by particularly bad weather.

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