The Active People Survey 8 results show that the number of people over 16 playing sport once a week has risen to over 15.6 million.
The Active People Survey is the largest ever survey of sport and activity in Europe and was launched in 2005 to continuously measure the number of people taking part in sport in England.
The latest figures show that in the last six months 180,000 more people are now regularly taking part in sport – 1.7 million more than in 2005 when London won the bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Active People Survey shows that the largest growth in participation has come from young people (16-25 year olds) with a record 3.9 million now playing sport regularly.
Sport England’s Chief Executive was positive about the latest figures.
“These figures are really encouraging, with more people than ever before now playing sport regularly. It’s good to see growth in the number of young people playing sport, especially girls, but there is much more to do, including closing the unacceptable gap in participation between young men and young women. This will be an important focus for Sport England over the next 12 months.”
Andy Reed, Chair of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, was encouranged by the increase in participation but feels that it is just one way to measure the effectiveness of national governing bodies (NGBs).
“These figures are a positive sign of the valuable work that NGBs have been doing over the past nine years.
“Focusing on one measure every six months to measure the success of grassroots sport is useful but it doesn’t get to the heart of what NGBs should be doing – making a direct impact on improving people’s health, wellbeing and happiness through long-term activity over a sustained period of time.
“It undersells the work that NGBs do and also leaves them vulnerable to fluctuations in participation rates due to things like bad weather and reliance on local authorities providing access to quality facilities all year round.
“NGBs and sports clubs have a unique and valuable role beyond participation numbers alone, which we need to get across to government and all political parties in the run-up to the 2015 general election.
“The overarching case for investment into sport and physical activity is generally understood and supported, at least in principle, by all of the main political parties. But the specific role of NGBs is sometimes less well understood. We’d like to see the debate start to shift away from focusing purely on participation.”