Trends & Features

Study reveals fall in young people and women playing sport

Sport England’s latest participation figures have been described as disappointing after they revealed a significant drop in the number of young people aged between 16-19 playing sport.

The amount of women playing sport has also fallen since the last study.

Among people who are playing less sport, almost a third said it was due to economic factors 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.

However, the latest 12-month period includes November and December 2010, when sports participation – and team sports in particular – was disrupted by particularly bad weather.

On the bright side, participation in running, table tennis and boxing has increased, while the results also show an increase in participation among disabled people and men since 2007/08.

Across the country 6.927 million people play sport three times a week, 111,800 more than in 2007/08 and 632,000 more than in 2005/06 when the Olympic bid was won.

14.759 million adults are playing sport at least once a week.

“If we are to maintain the current level of public investment in grass roots sport, we need more governing bodies to demonstrate they can increase participation in their sports,” says Jennie Price, Sport England’s chief executive.

“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 16-19-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, adds: “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.”

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