Golden Games fails to drag youngsters from the couch

Although participation in the key 16-25 age range has seen no growth

Sport England have threatened to slash funding by a fifth to sports if they fail to meet participation targets. In two weeks the government agency will reveal its level of grass-roots funding for individual sports to cover the next four years, an award accompanied with the condition that if they do not attract more young people the amount could be cut by 20 per cent at the end of each year.

While the London Olympics has helped inspire an eye-catching rise in the overall numbers of people playing sport, particularly among women, there has been no growth in the key 16-25 age range; instead it has seen a decline in percentage terms over the period since London were awarded the Games.

The latest Active People survey conducted by Sport England – and the first since the Olympics and Paralympics – revealed an impressive 750,000 surge in the number of adults doing sport once a week. The most striking increase is in the number of women participating with over half a million more taking part in sport than this time last year. The numbers leapt in particular during and after the Games in London in July and August.

“They are very encouraging,” said Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England, of the overall figures. “This is a big increase – 750,000 in a single year is a significant jump.”

The flat-lining of the figures among young people is an on-going concern, and one that Sport England, which hands out around £240m a year of grass-roots funding, has already put long-term plans in place to combat. It announced a five-year plan in January designed to help address the problem and will attach caveats to monies it hands out later this month, a funding announcement that coincides with UK Sport’s publication of its spending on elite sport for the next four years.

The 2005-6 Active People survey had 55.7 per cent of 16-25 year olds participating in sport; the latest figure is 54 per cent. There is no percentage change since last year despite the Olympics.

“It is really important we don’t assume young people are not interested in sport because more than half of them are,” said Price. “The challenge is to hang on to that 54 per cent and grow it. We haven’t got people going away from sport but we do need to work really hard to drive that figure up.

“For the first time every governing body will have a specific target to grow participation in 16-24 year olds. They will have to have a special programme aimed at that group. We have got a much tougher payments by results regime, a much tougher performance regime. [Sports] will have a really clear target for participation by the end of the year. If they don’t meet it 20 per cent of their funding is at risk.”

Nine sports, both rugby codes, hockey, badminton, basketball, gymnastics, football, netball and tennis, are already running schemes to target drop-off rates but none of them have managed to properly check the decline as yet.

The wider picture is much brighter, and the rise among women in particular is a notable fillip for Sport England and campaigners for women’s sport. “We have been worried about the gender gap for some time,” said Price. “It is still there – we mustn’t run away from that – but the fact that a lot of this growth is from women’s sport, and that it’s so big, half a million extra women playing sport once a week, is encouraging.”

Overall Olympic sports recorded the most notable rises, headed by cycling which has seen an extra 200,000 people climb into the saddle over the last year. Sailing, hockey and swimming have also risen. The influence of short-term factors is apparent in the fall in numbers playing cricket, a decline that is simply put down to the wet English summer of 2012.

“The Olympics is part of picture and it has helped but growing long term participation is about even more than that – it is about keeping it going,” said Price. “We have a great investment here over the next four years. One of the reasons we have that investment is because the country wants a legacy from the Olympics and it our responsibility and the sports’ responsibility to keep working at it and capture those people that have come to sport and hold on to them.”

In total 41 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women over 16 take part in 30 minutes exercise at least once a week. It is a total of 15.5m people. The number who exercise three times a week is 7.4m, an increase of 500,000 over the last four years. The previous government had set a target of getting one million more people to play sport three times a week by 2013. That was dropped by the coalition.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'