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Fresh insight into volunteer habits

Latest data from the Active Lives Adult Survey provides comprehensive picture of volunteering in sport and activity for the first time

12th October 2017

Our latest figures show that 6.7 million people – 14.9% of the population in England – have volunteered at least twice in the last year to support sport and physical activity.

One of the most striking features of the latest research, however, is the stark gender gap in those who volunteer.

Active Lives Adult shows that men are much more likely to volunteer in sport and activity. This is in contrast to volunteering in general, where men and women volunteer in equal numbers.

In sport, male volunteers are also more likely to hold positions of influence as coaches, officials and committee members.


Tracey Crouch, sports minister, says: "This fresh insight into volunteering in sport shows that millions of people are playing vital roles up and down the country supporting the grassroots.

"But it also highlights a gender gap that we want to close. I know first-hand the positive impact volunteering can have on a person's life and I want sports to look at what more they can do to encourage women to volunteer."

Key statistics

Some of the key volunteering statistics include:

  • 4 million (60%) of adult (16+) volunteers are male, and 2.7 million (40%) are female – a gender gap of 1.3 million (20%)
  • 1.2 million (74%) of volunteer referees or umpires and 1.7 million (67%) of volunteer coaches or instructors are male
  • People from lower socio-economic backgrounds make up 31% of the population, but only 10% of the volunteers
  • Disabled people make up 21% of the population but only 11% of volunteers.

Phil Smith, our director of sport, says: “The contribution of 6.7 million volunteers in sport is immense. It helps individuals get more active, it benefits local communities, and it can do wonders for the volunteers themselves.

“However, there’s a lot to do to make the experience of volunteering in sport more attractive to women.

There’s a lot to do to make the experience of volunteering in sport more attractive to women

Phil Smith

director of sport, Sport England

“This Girl Can was launched after research showed that a fear of judgement can hold many women back from getting involved in sport and activity. 2.8 million women have told us they have been inspired to get active as a result.

“Now we need to work on attracting more women to volunteering in sport and activity, and we hope that the whole sports sector embraces that challenge.”

Latest insight

The Active Lives Adult Survey, which runs 365 days a year, also asks people over the age of 16 across England about their sport and physical activity habits.

The latest figures show a consistent picture, including:

  • 27.1 million (60.6%) people are active, meaning they do 150 minutes or more activity per week and meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines
  • 11.5 million (25.6%) are inactive, meaning they do less than 30 minutes of activity a week
  • People from lower socio-economic groups are much less likely to be active, which is why we are targeting investment on those groups under our strategy, Building an Active Nation.

Today’s figures represent the first 18 months of data collected by the new survey, so year on year comparisons are not yet available. The first set of comparable data will be available in March 2018.

Update: March 2018

Following the identification of a technical software issue, we’ve revised some of the figures in these results as part of our March 2018 report.

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