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Cycling and athletics lead the way in delivering sporting legacy

Cycling and athletics lead the way in delivering sporting legacy

The number of adults in England who play sport at least three times a week has reached 6.93 million, continuing the positive trend of the past four years.

New research shows Sport England is now 115,000 closer to its legacy target to get one million people playing more sport by 2012/13.

This takes the increase in regular participation to 635,000 since the Olympic and Paralympic bid was won in 2005.

The encouraging picture comes despite a reduction in the overall spend on sport and recreation during this challenging economic period. Sports with a higher cost of participation, such as golf, sailing and snowsport, do however appear to be facing challenges in retaining participants. Other indicators also suggest that many people are opting to do free leisure activities or switching from formal settings to informal participation such as pay & play activities.

Other findings from Active People Survey 3 show that:

  • Individual sports are growing at a faster rate than team sports
  • The number of men playing sport three times a week has risen by 176,000 to 4.203 million
  • Regular participation among non-white adults has increased by 98,800 to 713,800.

The figures cover the first six months of a four-year funding period in which Sport England will invest up to £880 million of Exchequer and National Lottery funding in community sport, with almost half a billion pounds going to 46 sports’ national governing bodies. The sports have been set individual targets to increase participation over the four years, with the latest sport-by-sport figures also published on our website today.

Six sports are already meeting their growth targets for year one, just six months into the funding period. In addition to cycling and athletics, which have delivered a combined increase of over 240,000 weekly participants, the other sports are:

  • Boxing, an increasingly high-profile sport, which is showing increases in participation in both recreational and organised competitive boxing
  • Table tennis, which is showing strong growth among 16- to 34-year-olds and informal participants
  • Canoeing, which appears to have benefited from a larger number of people taking domestic canoeing or kayaking holidays this summer
  • Netball, which is building on the success of the Back to Netball programme by developing more opportunities for people who want to play the game in a more recreational/pay & play setting. 
  • Tennis, which has seen significant increases in participation in the three months since Andy Murray’s strong performance at Wimbledon, is also on course to achieve its year one growth target.

Sport England’s strategy recognises that a number of sports have a particular capacity to grow participation. Four sports have more than one million adults participating once a week - athletics, cycling, football and swimming. Of these, athletics and cycling have each achieved increases of over 112,000 in the past year. Both have benefited from the development of strong grassroots programmes alongside a growing number of mass participation events, low participant costs and a strong and improving performance at elite level which has led to increased profile of the sport.

British Cycling’s Chief Executive, Ian Drake, said: "We are delighted that cycling is proving so popular and we welcome all newcomers to our sport. Our vision to inspire participation in cycling through achieving worldwide success is clearly working as our athletes continue delivering impressive performances and establishing themselves as sporting role models. Equally important to getting more people on their bikes has been the Skyride initiative, launched in partnership with BSkyB and Sport England last summer, which attracted over 100,000 people to mass participation cycling events across Britain.

“With fantastic public and private sector partners on board and the support of Sport England and UK Sport, I am confident we will further widen the appeal of cycling and make our sport a grassroots success story."

Participation in football and swimming has failed to grow in the past year. For football, the picture for women’s participation is better than for the men’s game. We have high expectations for the FA’s major drive to increase adult participation that will begin early next year and continue beyond the World Cup.

Once-a-week participation in swimming remains below last year’s level, at 3.162 million. Significant resource is being invested in working with the ASA to understand and reverse this trend. Specific interventions that give us confidence that the sport can deliver increases include the ASA’s investment in a network of swimming co-ordinators across the country, and a growing focus on the casual swimmer.

Further areas of concern include participation among women and disabled people. The number of adults with a limiting disability doing regular sport has decreased by 42,800 to 386,700 and regular participation among women has fallen by 61,000 to 2.727 million.

Measures taken to tackle this issue include Sport England’s £10 million National Lottery funding round to encourage ‘Active Women’, and our work with the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation to support governing bodies in increasing sporting opportunities for women.

Sport England’s Chair, Richard Lewis, said: “This is an encouraging set of results. It’s clear we’re making progress both in getting the right sporting opportunities in place, and in changing people’s sporting behaviours.

“Six months into a four-year funding period, we’re delighted that sports such as athletics and cycling are already delivering substantial growth. However, the figures clearly show we face challenges on participation among women and disabled people, and Sport England is committed to tackling these, as demonstrated by our allocation of £10m to projects specifically focused on women's sport."

The Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe MP, said: “The trend in sports participation is up – and that is news everyone should welcome. It is great that some key sports are seeing really significant increases, as well as the rises in London and the West Midlands.

“But we all know that there is still a lot of work to be done.‪‪ Governing bodies are getting £480m to help drive up participation in 46 sports. They are accountable for that investment of public money and we expect them to deliver increases. We have provided the money, 2012 the inspiration, and Sport England is now working with the sports to change the whole country’s attitude towards being active. They must – and will – succeed.”