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More young people playing sport

June 19, 2013

New figures from Sport England show that 15.3 million people are playing sport at least once a week, with good progress among young people. 

The figures – covering the period to mid-April - show that 1.4 million more men and women are playing sport every week than in 2005 when London won the bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and that most of the increase seen around the Games in 2012 has been retained. 

This is also true at a local level with an increase of 1.8% in Cumbria from 32.3% of the adult population playing sport at least once to week to 34.1% as the latest Active People Survey results show. Barrow and South Lakeland’s participation figures show a positive increase in the number of people doing sport with a 6% increase in Barrow and a 5.6% increase in South Lakeland since 2005.

When the figures were last published in December 2012 they showed 750,000 more people playing sport than the previous year. Six months on, despite the coldest March for 50 years, growth of 530,000iii has been maintained. 

Sports such as football, golf and even cycling, one of the strongest performing sports of recent years, have all been affected. British Cycling Chief Executive Ian Drake said: “Our membership continues to feel the benefit of our successes in London 2012 and the ‘Wiggo effect’ with year-on-year growth for May hitting 54%, and the number of events growing strongly. We were expecting a dip in the harshest couple of months, but our own data shows rapid recovery in April and May.” 

The number of young people aged between 16 and 25 playing sport regularly has reached 3.86 million. This is an increase of nearly 63,000 on the previous 12 months, with strong advances in sports such as basketball and swimming. 

Among women, boosts in boxing and netball have helped to drive a year-onyear increase of 89,900iv, further narrowing the gender gap in sport. 

Although there is still an unacceptable gap between the number of disabled people and non-disabled people playing sport, the figures for disabled people have been rising steadily since 2005. The latest figures show an increase of 46,600v over the past year with Paralympic sports like equestrianism and athletics growing in popularity. 

Sport England’s Chair, Nick Bitel, said: “These figures show we’re holding onto the growth achieved over the past 18 months, despite some poor recent weather. There’s a long way to go but it’s particularly encouraging to see the numbers for young people are now moving in the right direction.” 

Minister for Sport and Tourism, Hugh Robertson, said: “We remain absolutely committed to delivering a lasting sports participation legacy from London 2012. The long term trend shows we are on track, with 1.4 million more people playing sport regularly since we won the bid in 2005. I am encouraged to see good underlying trends in the number of young people, women and disabled people playing sport regularly and confident we have the right strategy in place to continue to deliver long term increases in the number of people playing sport.”

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Find more information on Active People Survey 7 results