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Sporting legacy: more people than ever playing sport every week

Figures released today by Sport England show that 15.5 million people[i] aged 16 and over are playing sport at least once a week. That’s 750,000 more than a year ago and 1.57 million more than when London won the Olympic and Paralympic bid.

The strongest growth has been among women, with an increase of more than half a million in the past year helping to cut the gender gap in sport[ii].

The number of people taking part has risen sharply in the period since the London 2012 Games got underway[iii], with strong increases in Olympic sports such as cycling and sailing.

Participation by disabled people has been rising steadily since 2005,[iv] but still lags far behind that for non-disabled people[v]. Sport England this week announced a £10.2 million National Lottery investment to tackle this challenge.

Sport England’s Chief Executive, Jennie Price, said:

“We set the bar high in this survey, measuring only the people who play sport once a week, every week. These results show we are on the right track. I’m particularly pleased that many more women are taking up sports from netball and cycling to running. Sport needs to work even harder to attract and keep young people. So the investment in individual sports we will be announcing before Christmas will be strongly focused on getting more 16- to 25-year-olds playing sport.”

Minister for Sport and Tourism, Hugh Robertson, said:

“One of the key legacy ambitions from London 2012 was to get more people playing sport –something that no other host city has managed to do. These are excellent figures and show that we are making good progress.”

Two thirds of the sports measured by the Active People Survey[vi] have shown a positive trend over the past year with athletics[vii], judo, hockey, netball and swimming among those growing in popularity. Cricket was among the grassroots sports that suffered during the wettest summer for a century.

Young people aged between 16 and 25 are the most active in our society[viii], but increasing participation among this age group remains tough and this is the priority for Sport England’s five-year strategy announced in January.

Notes to Editors

By every measure, sports participation in England is growing. As well as the increase in people playing once a week described above, the number of people playing sport three times a week has risen by 500,000 over the past year to 7.4 million and by 1.1 million since the Olympic bid was won in 2005/6. For more details, go to

For more information please contact the press office: Peter Dickinson on 020 7273 1800; Amy Wright on 0207 273 1593 or Natasha Quinn on 020 7273 1889.


[i]Based on telephone interviews with 163,000 people aged 16 and over living in England between October 15 2011 and October 14 2012 for the Active People Survey 6 (APS6), which  was carried out by TNS-BMRB on behalf of Sport England. APS6 figures show average weekly participation based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) population data for mid-2011. Comparisons are with APS5 (2010/11) and APS1 (2005/6).

[ii] On average, 6.87 million women are playing sport at least once a week compared to 6.3 million last year. 8.64 million men are playing sport regularly compared to 8.46 million last year.  

[iii] For the three-month period from 14 July to 14 October 2012, the average number of people playing sport at least once a week was 16.3 million, compared to 15.7 million for the same period in 2011 (NB: sports participation is always higher in the summer than the overall figure).

[iv] The number of disabled people playing sport has risen from 1.32 million in 2005/6 (APS1) to 1.68 million. The latest result is 65,000 higher than last year.

[v] On average, 18.3% (1.68 million) of disabled people are playing sport at least once a week, compared to 39.4% of non-disabled people.

[vi] 32 sports are large enough to be measured in terms of once-a-week participation. Of these, 19 show a positive trend compared to APS5.

[vii] Figures for athletics include running.

[viii] 54% of 16- to 25-year-olds are playing sport at least once a week, 0.1% up on a year ago, compared to 32.4% of those aged 26 and above.