CHAPTER 2: SPORTING PARTICIPATION |
What was promised?
109. The 2010 Legacy Action Plan promised "to
increase grass roots participation, particularly by young peopleand
to encourage the whole population to be more physically active".
110. In its 2007 report, London 2012 Olympic
Games and Paralympic Games: funding and legacy, the Commons
Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee concluded that "no
host country has yet been able to demonstrate a direct benefit
from the Olympic Games in the form of a lasting increase in participation".
Systematic reviews of literature both academic and policy-related,
further demonstrate this point.
The challenge therefore is a lofty one.
Why does it matter?
111. The public policy case for increasing sports
participation is compelling: the cost of obesity to the UK taxpayer
has been estimated at £20 billion per year, and we have had
convincing evidence of the wider lifelong benefits which playing
sport as part of an active lifestyle can have. The Sport and Recreation
Alliance's Game of Life report in 2012 highlights the positive
impact which participation in sport can have on physical and mental
health, education and employment, reducing antisocial behaviour
and crime and enhancing social cohesion. The Chair of the SRA,
Andy Reed, told us that participation can "add probably one
to one and a half grades to an individual for those most likely
to be excluded from school. I have some rugby programmes that
demonstrate that you can reduce the levels of absenteeism."
What is the evidence of an immediate
112. The overwhelming majority of evidence we
received related to sports participation in England, rather than
in the other Home Nations, and our conclusions in this and subsequent
Chapters are therefore more geared to England than to other parts
of the UK.
113. Sport England, the body responsible for
sporting participation in England, told us that "the early
signs are promising", with 1.4 million more people playing
sport than was the case in 2005 at the point when the bid was
"Analysis of overall participation levels
since 2005 shows a steady upward trend. The initial figure of
13.9 million people (34.2% of the population) for the period October
2005/6 had increased to record levels by October 2011/12, when
it reached 15.5 million (36.0%)1.6 million more people
playing sport. The period between October 2010/11 and October
2011/12 saw a significant increase of 753,600 people, with the
majority of that growth (578,500) driven by women. The most recent
figures, released in June 2013, showed that most, but not all,
of that growth has been sustained. The current level of 15.3 million
means that 533,000 of the 753,600 gained have been retained. While
it was disappointing to see the slight dip in figures, it was
not unexpected due the exceptionally cold weather in January and
March. There is confidence among many sports that figures are
already showing signs of recovery, suggesting that the dip in
figures is temporary, and the longer term upward trend will continue."
114. Sport Wales delivered a similarly positive
assessment, reporting "increases in swimming club membership
of around 30%, similar increases of around 20% to 30% in boxing,
and hockey organisations are suggesting a 40% increase in their
membership" since the Games.
Sportscotland told us that, in the year of the Games, "our
national statistics on participation increased for the first time
in a long time. That increase has been maintained this year and
the frequency of existing participants has shown an increase."
115. Some individual sports have particularly
outstanding records in boosting participation around the Games.
Ian Drake, CEO of British Cycling described the Games as
"transformational for British Cycling and
also cycling in Britain, in terms of the public perception and
interest in our sport, and participation levels across competition,
recreation and utility cycling. There are almost 2 million people
now riding on a regular basis. We saw our membership increase
from 24,000 in 2009 to 76,000 at present, and we are growing at
a rate of 54%, year on year. The transformation did not just happen
around the four weeks of the Olympics and Paralympics. We set
our plan out prior to the Games to have a four-year plan to ensure
that we delivered a legacy, working with Sport England, UK Sport
and, critically, our commercial partner in Sky to get a million
more people cycling before the opening ceremony of the Games,
and ensure that our elite successes delivered more than the medals
themselves. We achieved all the goals we set out in the run-up
to the Games, and that gave us the growth and momentum to continue
to accelerate our legacy since 2012, and put our sport in a fantastic
position, as we build and look to Rio and beyond."
116. The English Football Association by contrast
claimed to have no evidence of increases in participation in the
male population though it pointed to improvements in attendances
and media coverage of the women's game, and referenced the projects
it had launched to foster increases in participation in competitive
women's football, though these were largely at the elite level.
117. The quality of provision in small local
clubs is key to the take up of sport at grassroots level. The
headline figures from the Sport and Recreation Alliance's most
recent survey of clubs suggest there are real difficulties here
in upgrading their existing facilities. Under half of clubs surveyed
were optimistic about training and developing their coaches and
volunteers and only 31% felt they had sufficient coaching resource
to meet the demands of their members over the next two years.
More positively the number of volunteers at the average club had
risen by 20% from 2011 numbers. As Lord Coe told us, "A lot
of clubs are reporting people turning up there and wanting to
help." But he also added that "Sometimes the clubs are
not always in a position to know exactly what to do with them,
and there will need to be work going forward to make sure that
we capture that."
118. Even a year on from the Games, it seems
that many sports clubs do not feel equipped to meet increases
in demand from new members. We believe that this patchy infrastructure
at grassroots level is a symptom of three factors. The first factor
is the level of funding for sports clubs. The second is a lack
of coordination between the grassroots level sports organisations
and the organisations responsible for high performance sport,
which is considered in more detail in Chapter Three below. The
third factor is related: the lack of a clear legacy plan for capturing
the enthusiasm of the Games within all sports.
119. The lack of a clear plan and of more effective
coordination between grassroots and high performance sport has
hindered the efforts to foster a step change in sports participation
in the immediate wake of the Games. The 2012 Games still have
a real resonance with the people of the country, so this opportunity
is not necessarily lost, but it will evaporate in the coming years
if unaddressed. Moving forward, we are aware of a number of major
events in the coming decade, particularly the Commonwealth Games
in Glasgow in 2014. These events will present similar, albeit
smaller, opportunities to generate the short term results which
London 2012 seems not to have achieved. Some sports are well equipped
to meet these challenges, but the unevenness of sports' preparedness
at grassroots level suggests to us that central coordination is
120. We call on the Government urgently to
coordinate the work of producing action plans for individual sports,
involving the relevant clubs, governing bodies and the Home Nations
sports councils. These plans are necessary to stimulate enthusiasm
and capture participants for future major events, identifying
where possible gaps between likely supply and demand. (Recommendation
121. The plans would focus on capturing a participation
legacy and could be tailored to specific sports and specific events,
complementing the Whole Sport Plans which are discussed below
in paragraph 144 and 145. This work would be helped if our later
recommendations, on leadership within Government and on the integration
of schools and communities are accepted. In the medium term, the
issue should be considered as part of the ongoing debate about
the roles of Sports Councils in the Home Nations and UK Sport,
which is discussed in the same Chapter Four.
How reliable are the surveys'
122. Sport England's data come from its Active
People Survey (APS), which measures the level of regular participation
in sport by members of the general public over the age of 16.
A number of those giving evidence pointed to limitations of the
APS methodology, including the size of local samples, the method
of data collection, and the lack of reference to those under 16
which constituted a priority target group. David Brooker of DCMS
told us that the Department had reviewed the relationship between
APS and its own Taking Part Survey (TPS), which gathers
data on adults and childrens' participation in sport and leisure
activities, with a view to establishing how the data generated
might be improved.
123. DCMS described the actions to improve the
quality of the data as follows:
"Active People is a 161,000 sample size
telephone survey but is in the process of modernising to include
on-line, face to face and mobile telephone methods of collection.
DCMS and Sport England consulted during 2012
on proposed changes to the way we measure sport in Active People
(APS) and Taking Part (TP) to
· Address quality/coverage concerns
· Create a single measure for sport
· Assess the potential to bring the surveys
Over 200 people responded, comprising Local Authorities,
sport governing bodies, County Sport Partnerships, central government
departments, academics and charities.
The main findings from the consultation were:
(% in brackets shows percentage of respondents who considered
this essential or important)
· Support for the proposal of having a single
measure for sport (70%);
· Strong demand for continued provision
of sport specific results (71%), used for NGB performance management
and Local Authority estimates for sport (88%);
· Support for lowering the age range of
APS to 14+ (87%);
· Concern that we retain consistency and
continuity with previous APS results, to enable stakeholders to
see trends over time (76%);
· High interest in using new and mixed methods
to survey people, to reduce our reliance on landline interviews
(38%), to have more face to face (34%) and to explore digital
data collection (75%);
· Preference for six monthly sport result
(46%) and results in same or similar format as currently (37%),
supported by tools (78%);
· Need to continue to measure the Olympic
effect (59%) and to provide cross cultural analysis (29%) through
Sport England are implementing online and mobile
phone pilots to allow them to consider producing a fully mixed-mode
survey. Their work has been informed by technical advice from
the Methodology Advisory Service and the Government Statistical
Service Methodological Advisory Committee within the Office of
National Statistics and the survey contractors TNS BMRB.
Using this advice and the findings from the consultation,
DCMS will to continue to ask sport participation questions in
Taking Part Survey, but on behalf of Sport England. This means
that sport participation data will not be analysed and reported
on by DCMS or in the Taking Part publications. This approach allows
for the inclusion of face-to-face data within Active People over
time, so that Active People can become a fully mixed-mode survey.
In the shorter term the data will be used to validate the landline
124. The methodology used for the Active People
Survey and the Taking Part Survey has clear limitations. We welcome
the recognition by the Government that it needs to be improved,
bearing in mind the need to ensure that future surveys will need
to produce statistics which are comparable to what is already
125. We urge DCMS and Sport England jointly
to develop a better and more up-to-date methodology, taking full
account of tools such as mobile devices and social media, to capture
better the activity levels of younger people, particularly those
under 16 years old. (Recommendation 2)
126. The legacy aspiration was for a step
change in participation, with the inspiration of the Games leading
to much greater participation by the general public. Looking at
the data as they stand, it too soon to say whether the slight
post-Games rise in activity will be sustained, or whether the
slight fall overall earlier this year was more than a seasonal
blip. Whatever the position, the evidence does not support a surge
in participation in the immediate wake of the Games across the
population as a whole. For those sports with the best records,
such as cycling, it is equally hard to say that the growth in
participation is solely or even largely down to the Games, such
has been the sustained success of British cyclists at previous
Games and recent Tours de France. London 2012 will nevertheless
have played an important role in the cumulative effect,
although we have not been able to quantify it.
127. The longer term picture from 2005 is
positive but a long term sustained legacy in participation will
need real commitment to infrastructure, social as well as physical.
This will need schools and local authorities to be as much a part
of the picture as Sport England's approach to funding. This
is discussed in Chapter Four below.
Inclusivity in participation
128. Sport England's evidence cited data relating
to the impact on participation for a range of historically under-represented
and high priority groups, and on policies aimed at increasing
participation in such groups.
129. One such group is young people aged between
16-25, where the longer term trends show a decline in participation
in sport of 1.6% from 2005/06. The more recent snapshot was more
positive, with the number of people playing sport regularly in
this demographic increasing by nearly 63,000 over the past 12
months to 3.86 million, with particular increases in basketball
and swimming. Sport England run a number of programmes to target
this 16-25 year olds, such as "Sportivate, Satellite Clubs,
Active Colleges and Active Universities." Sport England "estimate
that around 60% of the £493 million being invested in NGBs
will be spent on initiatives targeting young people."
130. Sport England's data also suggested that
the historic gender gap was narrowing between the number of men
and women playing sport regularly, down from 2.2 million in 2010/11
to 1.7 million last year. Sport England attributed this in part
to high profile women athletes in specific sports, most notably
with "the Nicola Adams effect" which "has seen
women's boxing participation up 15,500 over last 18 months, and
up more than 50% since a year ago." Although the gap in participation
rates is evidently narrowing, women remain 9% behind the figure
of men who participate regularly. Sport England is investing money
in a variety of schemes to address this gap.
It should be noted that Sport England's data includes activities
such as Boxercise and other non-competitive forms of boxing.
131. Richard Caborn of the Amateur Boxing Association
of England argued that, should a legacy be created from the inspiring
performance of athletes such as Nicola Adams, investment in clubs
would be needed with a view to
"changing conditions for women boxers: to
start putting showers in, and that is very expensive to boxing
clubs who are running on very meagre means. It is very difficult
to cater for that. So if we really wanted to expand boxing at
the grassroots, at the club level, we do need investment into
that infrastructure, and coaching as well."
132. A further issue of concern was the gender
balance on the boards of sports national governing bodies, a number
of those governing bodies from whom we took evidence reported
disappointingly low numbers of women members. Maria Miller told
us that "it is of paramount importance that those governance
bodies, like any governance body, are reflective of society, and
a great deal of progress has been made. I think there is only
now one governing body that does not have any women on it".
As a follow-up to this exchange, Lord Moynihan, a member of the
Committee, asked the Government which Governing Bodies of Sport,
currently in receipt of lottery or Government funding, have achieved
the target of at least 25% of women on their boards. The Minister's
reply cited the most recent annual audit by the Women's Sport
and Fitness Foundation,
which found that "nearly half" of governing bodies in
receipt of government or lottery funding met that target and said
that the Government expected all such funded governing bodies
to meet the target "by 2017".
133. Mrs Miller also acknowledged that "we
still have a huge way to go in representing people from ethnic
Sport England's participation figures for ethnic minority groups
"generally show that they are well represented", with
36.7% playing sport regularly, compared to the general population
rate of 35.2%. Within this overall positive picture, some groups
are under-represented, "in particular African, Caribbean
and Asian girls, of which just under 26% play sport once a week."
134. There remains a significant socio-economic
gap, with "only 26.6% of people from lower socio-economic
groups participate compared with 41.3% from managerial and professional
We received evidence from StreetGames, a charity promoting 'doorstep
sport' targeted at encouraging disadvantaged young people to take
up sport. The scheme is having some evident success from modest
beginnings seven years ago:
"our network has expanded from start-up
to over 250 local projects, attracted over 230,000 participants
and generated over 2.4 million attendances at doorstep sport sessions.
Circa 85% of our participants live in the 20% most deprived wards.
The projects in the network are locally owned, locally controlled
and enjoy an enviable reach into disadvantaged communities."
135. Stonewall, representing gay, lesbian and
bisexual individuals and groups, argued that London 2012 had done
little to address the barriers associated with sexual orientation
and access to sport participation. It conducted research in 2012
which found that "one in three gay and bisexual boys and
one in seven lesbian and bisexual girls experience homophobic
bullying during sport. This has a negative impact on how they
perceive team sports, with two thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual
pupils saying they don't like playing them." The study reported
a significant rise in the negative response to the question on
antipathy to playing games, up from half of respondents to the
equivalent study in 2007. Stonewall conclude that "measures
introduced to promote sports participation amongst young people
in the run up to the Games, including the School Games, have failed
to reach lesbian, gay and bisexual young people."
136. The gap in participation between previously
under-represented groups and the general population does appear
to be narrowing, albeit slowly. The narrowing of the gap is to
be welcomed, but it will only be sustained if the right sort of
investment is put into developing the facilities in sports clubs
to ensure that they are more inclusive environments than in the
past, for example by ensuring that adequate separate shower and
changing facilities are provided or by installing floodlights
so that existing facilities can be used over a longer period of
time by a wider number of people. As significantly as the physical
infrastructure at grassroots level, a change of culture and board
composition of governing bodies of sports should be a key driver
in broadening the base of people who participate in sport, at
the same time appropriately reflecting the participants' views.
137. Within the above general conclusion, the
issue of inclusivity for people with disabilities deserves particular
attention. Sport England told us that the number of disabled people
participating in sport once a week was currently 1.7 million,
an increase of 353,000 since 2005/06, although we noted that the
participation of people with disabilities was only 18.2%, which
was half that for non-disabled people.
138. The British Paralympic Association shared
this positive assessment and cited research by Channel 4 and the
English Federation for Disability Sport that showed that "70%
of disabled people agree that the London 2012 Paralympic Games
was inspirational for them" and that "8 out of 10 disabled
people are considering taking up sport following the Games".
139. Charles Reed of the English Federation of
Disability Sport praised Sport England's role in adapting its
funding after the games so that sports "governing bodies
have now been specifically targeted with increases in the number
of disabled people who are taking part in their sport."
Sport England confirmed that 42 of its 46 funded sports had committed
to such targets, compared to only 11 in the previous funding round.
140. However the Sport and Recreation Alliance
highlighted remaining concerns, arguing that there was "still
a challenge to make a real difference to the numbers of disabled
people who are playing sport, and to overcome some of the practical
barriers that exist."
Two thirds of the respondents to an SRA survey in October 2012
"they did not have suitably trained staff
to cater for disabled participants, whilst 3 in 5 lacked the appropriate
equipment. The same survey showed 89% of clubs reporting no change
in the number of disabled people joining, with 86% noting no change
in the number of enquiries from disabled people and 96% reporting
no change in the number of disabled people volunteering in their
The SRA's October 2013 Sports Clubs survey
revealed that only 35% of clubs had access to appropriate equipment
for disabled people.
141. The Association for Physical Exercise praised
the increased profile of sports such as boccia and goal ball in
the wake of the Games but argued that not enough children with
disabilities were taking part at present.
The latter issue is considered in more depth in the following
142. The Committee was conscious in considering
participation that, above all, sports should be inclusive. In
the context of disability sport, this means that all sports, beyond
those which are also Paralympic sports, need to be accessible.
As well as the Paralympics, the sports and participants which
are included in other events, such as the Special Olympics and
the Deaflympics, need to be embraced as part of the picture.
143. The Paralympic Games seem to have provided
tangible inspiration for people with disabilities. There are however
still real barriers to increasing their access to participating
in sport. These barriers include, but are not limited to, the
lack of adequate coaches and facilities in clubs. Although Sport
England appear to have used the 2012 Games to make progress in
getting the majority of the sports it funds to sign up to improvements,
this does not appear so far to be filtering down to grassroots
level. At a year's distance from the Games it is possible to diagnose
this problem, but not to ascertain whether sufficient steps are
being taken to improve the position.
144. At present 46 governing bodies of sports
are rewarded with lottery funding from Sport England for the production
of Whole Sports Plans, which focus on those aged from 14-25. These
plans are for four year periods and are updated annually. They
contain agreed targets for rises in participation to be measured
by TPS, including inclusivity targets. Alongside the framework
of new event legacy action plans coordinated by Government which
we have proposed (see paragraph 120), national governing bodies'
Whole Sport Plans would provide a good way to track the trend
of the performance of national governing bodies in boosting participation,
including to previously underrepresented parts of society, an
in helping clubs to develop better facilities.
145. We call on Sport England to make Whole
Sports Plans publicly available, so that the debate on progress
on growing participation in each sport can be informed. We invite
the Government to report to Parliament each year on whether these
Plans demonstrate the hoped-for continuing progress. (Recommendation
Did the Paralympics change the
perception of disability?
146. The Government's sixth legacy aim, "to
develop the opportunities and choices for disabled people"
runs wider than sport. In the sporting context, there was consensus
from our witnesses that the Paralympic Games had a real impact
on the impact of disabled sport. The Secretary of State for Culture,
Media and Sport, Maria Miller told us that the Games had "a
powerful effect" on perceptions.
The British Paralympic Association and others praised Channel
4's extensive coverage of the Paralympics and gave more detailed
evidence of changing attitudes:
"According to LOCOG and BBC Comm/Res research:
· 91% of viewers said the coverage of the
games had demonstrated what disabled people can achieve, that
disabled athletes are as talented as non-disabled athletes.
· 68% of people said that it had a favourable
impact on their perceptions of disability sport.
· Approximately 75% of Britons feel more
positive about the role of disabled people in society following
the Paralympic Games.
· 2 out of 3 London 2012 research respondents
agreed that the Games will lead to a 'greater acceptance of disabled
147. Improved attitudes to disabilities within
their sports were also evidenced by British Swimming, the Amateur
Swimming Association and English Handball.
148. Baroness Grey-Thompson agreed that public
attitudes to athletes with disabilities had improved and that
the Games had done much to "change was that people understood
what it took to be a Paralympian, which was great, and there has
been a very positive view of Paralympians, which is amazing."
However she felt that there was a downside to the growing awareness
of Paralympians, who were "a very different group of people
to the rest of the disabled population", and that it might
foster expectations that all disabled people were capable of similar
performance. She also cited the most recent disability hate crime
statistics, which she described as "the worst they have ever
been in 10 years of reporting."
149. Possible recommendation: The wider claims
for the Paralympics having caused a sea change in broad public
perceptions of those with disabilities seem to us to be unproven.
There is however strong evidence of the effect which the Games,
Team GB's success, and the media coverage have had on broader
public perceptions of disability sport. This in itself is important
and can have a real benefit in the longer term. Given their importance,
and potential fragility, we call on the Government actively to
monitor public perceptions of disability and to continue to promote
150. The impact of the media coverage in the
UK perhaps only highlights the opportunity lost in the USA, where
NBC did not broadcast the 2012 Paralympics live. We welcome
the recent announcement by the same network that it will broadcast
events from the next winter Paralympic Games in Sochi live.
3 Culture, Media and Sport Committee, London 2012
Olympic Games and Paralympic Games: funding and legacy (2nd
Report, Session 2006-07, HC 69-I). Back
See McCartney, G., Thomas, S., Thomson, H., Scott, J., Hamilton,
V., Hanlon, P., Morrison, D. S. Bond, L. (2010). 'The health and
socioeconomic impacts of major multi-sport events: systematic
review' (1978-2008). British Medical Journal, 340. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c2369;
and Weed, M., Coren, E., & Fiore, J. (2009). A Systematic
Review of the Evidence Base for Developing a Physical Activity
and Health Legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics
Games. London: Department of Health. Back
Q 182 Back
Sport England. Back
Q 393 Back
Q 396 Back
Q 93 Back
Football Association. Back
Q 71 Back
The Government and the Mayor of London. Back
Sport England. Back
Ibid. Sport England also told us that it was investing
"£1.7 million in the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation
(WSFF) to provide expertise in the best ways to engage women and
young girls, and has made significant investment in sport popular
amongst women, such as netball (£25.3m), running (£22m),
equestrianism (£6m), swimming (£20m) and tennis (£17.4m).
A new initiative launched in May saw Bury chosen as the location
of a pilot where a large number of projects designed specifically
to get more women playing sport are being delivered and closely
monitored and evaluated to provide a blueprint for other places
in England to replicate in future." Back
Q 79 Back
Q 457 Back
Available at http://www.wsff.org.uk/resources/trophy-women-2013 Back
Q 457 Back
Sport England. Back
Sport England. Back
Q 109 Back
Sport and Recreation Alliance. Back
Available at http://www.sportandrecreation.org.uk/policy/SSC Back
Association for Physical Exercise. Back
Q 485 Back
British Paralympic Association. Back
Q 132 Back