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Disabled people playing more sport as London 2012 Games approach

The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) was pleased to learn the number of disabled people who are playing sport every week has increased[iv]. Compared with Active People Survey 1, the number of adults with an impairment or illness playing sport every week has increased from 1.32 million to 1.66 million.

For the first time, the number of people in England playing sport every week has topped 15 million. Figures released on Friday by Sport England show that 15.28 million people[i] aged 16 and over are playing sport at least once a week, 500,000 more than six months ago and 1.3 million more than in 2005/6 when London won the Olympic bid. Twenty-one sports[ii] have shown a positive trend over the past six months, with particularly strong growth in the Olympic sports of cycling, football, athletics[iii] and hockey.

The EFDS is the national sports body for disabled people in England. As the strategic lead organisation, EFDS champions opportunities for disabled people to enjoy sport, supporting the sport and physical activity sectors to be more inclusive. EFDS’s principal aim is to increase participation in sport and physical activity for disabled people. Working with partners, including Sport England and National Governing Bodies of sport, EFDS aim to give disabled people a more positive and memorable experience.

As a registered charity, EFDS represents a variety of sport and disability bodies as part of the governance- including the national disability sports organisations (NDSOs). EFDS has an important influencing role alongside advocating sport and physical activity for disabled people. 

On hearing the results on the survey, Barry Horne, EFDS Chief Executive, said: “EFDS welcomes the recent Active People Survey figures, which show a significant increase in participation for disabled people. Pleasingly, the priority sports we have been working with for the last year (football, swimming, tennis, cycling and athletics) have all shown growth. This is particularly noticeable in tennis where participation among disabled people has increased by 15 per cent. We hope our support will continue to improve participation for disabled people with all impairments- moving towards our vision for equality in sport and physical activity”.

He continued, “When the full data sets are made available, EFDS will be able to analyse more thoroughly the trends and behaviours relevant to disabled people, their impairments and activity in the sports”.

Sport England’s Chief Executive, Jennie Price, said: “This is a strong set of results, with all of the key measures showing participation in sport is increasing. As we approach the London Games some of our key sports such as cycling and hockey are already beginning to feel the Olympic effect. I am particularly pleased that there has also been a sharp increase in the number of disabled people who are playing sport every week.”

Overall, the growth in sports participation continues to be driven by those aged 26 and over. Although the results for the 16-25 age group are more positive than they were six months ago, there is still a long-term downward trend that Sport England is tackling through the new Youth Sport strategy announced in January.


Notes to Editors

Sarah Marl, Marketing and Communications Manager 07764 291671

For more information on EFDS please visit our website: 

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Further details on the survey can be found on the Sport England website.

  • Overall sports participation is measured by the number of people playing sport at least once a week. Previously, participation was measured by the number of people playing sport at least three times a week. The number of people playing sport three times a week has risen by 350,000 in the past six months to 7.3 million.
  • Sport England is investing in 46 sports between 2009 and 2013. Of these, 32 are large enough to be measured in terms of once-a-week participation.
  • The latest 12-month period being published today includes data that replaces figures for the winter of 2010 when sports participation was disrupted by particularly bad weather.
  • Sport England is focused on helping people and communities across the country create a sporting habit for life. For more information please contact the press office: Peter Dickinson on 020 7273 1800 or Amy Wright on 020 7273 1593.


[iv] Compared with APS1, the number of adults with a limiting disability/illness playing sport every week, has increased from 1.32 million to 1.66 million.

[i]Based on telephone interviews with 163,000 adults (aged 16 and over) living in England between April 2011 and April 2012 for the Active People Survey 6 (APS6), which was carried out by TNS-BMRB on behalf of Sport England. APS6 figures are based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) population data for mid-2011. Comparisons are with APS5 and APS1.

[ii] 32 sports are large enough to be measured in terms of once-a-week participation. Of these 21 show a positive trend compared to APS5.

[iii] Athletics includes running.