Sport England warn that both football and tennis could have funding reduced following drops in participation levels

Sport England will hold meetings with both the Football Association and the Lawn Tennis Association in order to address the alarming decline

Football and tennis have been warned that part of their public funding is at risk after both sports suffered big drops in participation in England.

Sport England, the body which distributes Lottery money to boost sport at grassroots level, says tennis has failed to capitalise on Andy Murray's success at Wimbledon while football has dropped behind swimming, athletics/running and cycling in terms of numbers of people taking part.

Overall, however, there has been an increase since April in the number of people playing sport once a week, bouncing back after a slump earlier this year caused in part by the coldest March for 50 years. The total number of people in England participating in sport each week stands at 15.5 million, up 206,000 from April.

Sport England say the figures mean the original boost from the London 2012 Olympics has been maintained.

Sport England will hold meetings with the governing bodies of football and tennis - the Football Association and Lawn Tennis Association - and will make a decision in January as to whether up to 20 per cent of their funding will be suspended. Football's 2013-17 funding award was £30million.

Football's participation numbers are down to 1.83 million, a drop of 100,000 since April, and more than four per cent down on the 2005 figure. Tennis, which has earlier this year had a £530,000 funding cut imposed, could lose more of its £17.4million four-year award after participation fell from 423,400 in April to 406,000.

Sport England chief executive Jenni Price told Press Association Sport: "We are very disappointed by football's results and the FA really need to grasp this.

"There is now to be a discussion with the FA and our board, but we operate a payment for results scheme so football are definitely in the at-risk zone.

"The FA has the power to do an enormous amount of good for grassroots football as they have a lot of sponsorship, a lot of power and connections, but they need to focus and work much more effectively. They have to think big in their participation programmes."

The overall drop in young people playing sport is almost completely down to the fall in numbers playing football and netball, added Price.

Tennis has been a cause for concern for some time, and there was a small rise in the summer following Murray's Wimbledon success but this was not sustained.

Price added: "The tennis results are also disappointing. As fantastic as Andy Murray's victory at Wimbledon was, that gives them a platform and a great profile.

"They did a lot in August and September and had a bit of a lift from that but it was not sustained. They need a really good delivery system outside the clubs such as on the park courts and they will be getting that message very loud and clear from us.

"I should say they started to engage in the participation agenda and are genuinely focused on it now - and we couldn't have said that in the past."

Success stories in sport include cycling, which has overtaken football, with just over two million people taking part once a week.

Swimming has halted its downturn with a 50,000 increase on April's figures to 2.93 million, while athletics/running is up 63,000 to 2.01 million.

Rugby league has also seen a rise in numbers - Sport England believe due to switching to become a summer sport.

Nick Humby, the chief operating officer of the Lawn Tennis Association, said he welcomed Sport England's belief that the sport was now focused on boosting participation.

Humby told Press Association Sport: "We are of course hugely disappointed that the October 2012/13 numbers have gone down but we take encouragement from the peak between July and September exceeding that of the Olympic and Paralympics last year.

"That was partly due to Andy Murray, partly to the extraordinary weather, and partly to the stuff we are now doing out and about around Britain.

"We have been working very closely with Sport England to convert that into more people playing tennis."

Humby said there were signs of encouragement with the number of people playing monthly holding up, as has the number of women and young people aged under 16 playing the sport.

The LTA will also have a new chief executive, Mike Downey who is coming from Canadian tennis, starting in January.

FA general secretary Alex Horne said reversing the drop was a "top priority".

Horne said: "These are clearly disappointing numbers. Understanding and reversing the fall in participation is an immediate and top priority and we are working exhaustively with Sport England and our other partners to ensure the right plans and programmes are in place to achieve this.

"Notwithstanding the impact of external factors such as the weather and the economic pressures on local authority playing facilities; what is clear is that the nature of football participation is changing and that our players increasingly want football on their terms; less formal, less frequent, more flexible.

"Through our own research we are confident that we have the right programmes in place to ensure that we can meet these needs and to grow and sustain the regularity of the football they play."

Horne added the figures showed positive results among 14- and 15-year-olds.

PA

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