Sport England’s annual “Active People Survey” revealed a severe drop in participation in what historically has been England’s most popular sport – swimming – with a massive 245,000 fewer people swimming weekly over the time period of October 2013 and October 2014.
According to the report, Sport England’s Chief Executive, Jennie Price, says she is specifically very concerned about swimming’s falling participation numbers. In Price’s words, “If swimming’s figures had been flat, we’d be looking at an overall increase in participation. I am encouraged by the fact that the current leadership at the ASA, and the wider swimming industry, now recognise there’s an issue and want to work together to fix it. It needs to get on with it.”
The yearly survey measures the number of people playing a sport across England, for at least 30 minutes once a week. Overall results showed that 125,100 where people did sport of any sort for at least 30 minutes once a week during the same timeframe. However, team sports saw an increase in numbers with the past 12 months, led by football, cricket, netball, and rugby. Athletics, canoeing, mountaineering, taekwondo and fencing.
“Swimming has lagged behind running and the gym in terms of offering an attractive, modern experience to people who want to play sport and exercise. That has to change and to change quickly”, continues Price.
The BBC reports that the Amateur Swimming Association of England must wait until March to be told if its funding will be affected by these results. ASA head Edward Lord said, “There is clearly a major issue here and we will be putting all our resources into finding out both the cause of the participation numbers and in identifying how we can move quickly with our partners to reverse that decline.” (BBC)
Three sports will receive longer-term investment as a reward for their steady progress over the term of the study – lawn tennis, table tennis, and fencing now have guaranteed funding until March 2017.
Additional survey results point to a noticeable drop in disabled people playing sport regularly, with a total of 1.58 million now taking part; 121,700 fewer than before. Price comments, “This decrease is equally concerning, especially given last year’s record level in the number of disabled people playing sport. I am determined to address this, which is why we’re now working with a much wider range of organisation from the disability sector to ensure that sport is a practical and attractive option for disabled people.”
More details on the survey results can be found here.