The figures published by Sport England today reveal that 15.3 million people are playing sport once a week, every week. That is 1.4 million more than in 2005 when London won the bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games and indicates that most of the increase seen following the Games in 2012 has been retained.
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 530,000 has been maintained.
Sports such as football, golf and even cycling, one of the strongest performing sports of recent years, have all been affected. “Our membership continues to feel the benefit of the ‘Wiggo effect’ with year-on-year growth for May hitting 54 per cent, and the number of events growing strongly,” said Ian Drake, Chief Executive of British Cycling. “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.
There are also more women playing sport, with netball still continuing to attract high numbers of female players. Nicola Adams’ success in the ring also appears to have an inspirational effect, with record numbers of women donning gloves. These have helped to drive a year-on-year increase of 89,900, 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 46,600 over the past year with Paralympic sports like equestrianism and athletics growing in popularity.
“These figures show we’re holding onto the growth achieved over the past 18 months, despite some poor recent weather,” said Nick Bitel, Chair of Sport England. “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.”