By sport

People engage in different sports in different ways

Examine the popularity of different sports and how people engage with them – whether through organised competitions, club membership, or tuition  by clicking on the tabs below.

Which sport?

Swimming is England’s most popular sport, followed by athletics, cycling and football.

top five sports infographic

Swimming, athletics, cycling, and football are amongst the most popular sports in the period between October 2015 and September 2016:

  • Over 2.5 million people were swimming once a week in 2015/16, making it the top sport by a significant margin
  • The number of people taking part in athletics weekly has risen from 1.4 million in 2005-06 to almost 2.2 million today
  • The number of weekly cyclists is 2 million, while football is part of the weekly routine for over 1.8 million people.

Other sports becoming more popular since 2005/6– though from a lower base – include boxing, mountaineering, netball and table tennis.


How do people take part?

Sports clubs

Club membership is most common in rugby union, cricket and hockey. Over half of those who take part in these sports belong to clubs.

Relatively few people are club members in sports such as athletics (6.1%), swimming (3.9%) and cycling (2.8%).

Club membership has remained fairly static in most sports since 2007/8.


Nearly 9 in 10 of all those taking part in taekwondo have had tuition in their sport.

Since 2007/8, tuition rates have fallen in badminton, basketball, boxing and football. Tuition in tennis, swimming and cycling have increased in that time.


Just over half of those who play netball are involved in competition. Cyclists are less likely to compete, but the number of competitive cyclists has increased by 78,400 since 2007/8.

A number of sports have seen changes in competition rates since 2007/8. 

club membership infographic