Social value of sport

From education to community safety, sport has a positive social impact

The Culture and Sport Evidence (CASE) programme, led by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, has studied published evidence on the varied benefits of sport.

Key findings include:

  • Young people’s participation in sport improves their numeracy scores by 8% on average above non-participants.
  • Underachieving young people who take part in sport see a 29% increase in numeracy skills and a 12 to 16% rise in other transferable skills.
  • Returns on investment in sports programmes for at-risk youth are estimated at £7.35 of social benefit for every £1 spent – through financial savings to police, the criminal justice system and the community.

Crime reduction and community safety

Sport programmes aimed at youths at risk of criminal behaviour can enhance self-esteem and reduce reoffending, studies have found.

Some research indicates sport is most effective in this field as part of wider development programmes.

Read a case study about the Kickz football programme which has helped reduce youth crime in North London. 

Education and lifelong learning

Several studies suggest a positive link between taking part in sport and academic achievement. This has been shown to be especially true in programmes that combine sport with specialist out-of-school education programmes.

However, there is still disagreement about the nature of the cause and effect between taking part in sports and educational attainment.

Social capacity and cohesion

Sports programmes have the potential to strengthen social networks and community identity, according to several international studies.

Relevant research includes a study of the potential role of large-scale sports events in social regeneration. The authors cite examples from the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Recent research in all the above areas is reviewed by Sport England’s Value of Sport Monitor. Read a summary of the evidence available for each area or review the details of studies on the topic.