Activity campaigns, sportswear in the fashion pages, sports celebs, wearable tech…..we love lots of things about sport it seems, except taking part. The numbers who do have a go regularly are down, again. Stats from Sport England’s Active People survey (covering change during the six month period from Oct 2014 to March 2015) show that 15.5 million people did some kind of sport once a week, every week – 222,000 fewer than six months ago. Though 2.5 million people swim weekly, the nation’s favourite sport is down 144,200 in six months.
The discussion, if there is one, will be peppered with the usual one-liners: “it’s the schools’ fault” “it’s the sell off of playing fields” “it’s too expensive” “it’s ’cause England never wins”….
But it’s a complex picture for activity campaigners, even more so for politicians with short term mindsets (however much they loved the ‘legacy’ word).Cycling and running retain their participation levels – pointing to a continued interest in ‘self-starting’ and ‘individual’ activity. Yet gym and keep fit activity is down for the first time. And team sports, like rugby, are holding their levels.
Strong work is being done to try to address the gap in female and male participation, which will take time. National Governing Bodies are looking outward to see where there are links between supporting sport and taking part. And some understand the difference between using sports stars to garner coverage for campaigns, as opposed to assuming that all children or adults at different ages and stages are inspired to participate by a superhuman.
What is clear is that the Government, through Sport England, will be increasingly open to new ideas, new companies and organisations which make strong, evidence-based cases to increase activity in specific areas or among certain groups. The traditional sports bodies will be vigilant about the limited funding pot, after all they need to look after their sport at all levels. But if you’re a grassroots campaigner with bright, new ideas for Community Interest Companies or similar that help get the nation moving – now is your time.