Methodology of measuring participation

We have recently consulted with users and other interested parties on future arrangements for the measurement of sports participation

The consultation was open for eight weeks and closed at midnight on 14 October 2015.


Sport England is an insight-led organisation tasked with getting more people active. To create the right conditions for this, we need a broad and deep understanding of how people engage with sport.

The Active People Survey - which has been in existence since 2005/06 - has been central to measuring sports participation. During this time the survey design has remained largely unchanged. The random digit dial (RDD) design has been an effective mechanism to measure a wide range of sports and provide local authority level data.

However, with a new strategy and changes in technology it was appropriate for us to consider new and alternative approaches as we look to ensure the right arrangements are in place for the next 5-15 years. 


In total, 346 responses to the consultation were received, with the vast majority (98%) supportive of change.

There was agreement amongst respondents that, whilst the Active People Survey has been valuable in providing a consistent approach to measuring participation over the past ten years, a new methodology is required in order to reflect changes in technology and communication. 

A new survey

A mixed-mode self-completion design involving online (including smart phone) and paper methods has been chosen as the new survey methodology:

  • Participation will be tracked at a population level by demographic group, geography and activity
  • The overall sample size will be 198,250 people each year. The minimum annual sample size for each English local authority will be 500, with additional boosting in some local areas

The new survey is called Active Lives and fieldwork began in November 2015. The Active People Survey continuing to run alongside until 30th September 2016.

For more information about the consultation findings, please see the report below.