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Cost of sport prohibitive for disadvantaged young people

By Matthew Campelli    08 Dec 2015
LSE recommends investment in 'solo' sport such as jogging and running / London School of Economics

Young people living in poverty are being priced out of sport participation, with the cost of leisure centres and sports facilities “too high”, according to a recent report by the London School of Economics (LSE).

The research, prepared by LSE Housing and Communities Research Team in association with charity StreetGames, interviewed 135 people in five of the most deprived areas of the country - East Ham, Newham; Burngreave, Sheffield; Lache, Chester; St Pauls, Bristol; Gurnos, Merthyr Tydfil - about how their living conditions affected their sporting participation.

According to the study, young people above the school age (18+) in poor parts of the country cannot afford to use the facilities due to “poor work opportunities” and “extremely low incomes”.

Using gyms and playing team sports were also highlighted as areas of interest by the study’s participants, but fees for memberships and kits were the biggest barrier for involvement.

More than 60 of the participants were people between the ages of 14-25, while parents, teachers, youth leaders, local councillors and leisure organisers made up the rest of the sample.

A further barrier to participation highlighted by the report was the lack of supervision in parks, open spaces and streets, with parents fearful of letting their children use the spaces. Despite offering sport and activities for free, youth clubs also made parents nervous to the prospect of their children being exposed to “bad examples and negative influences”.

The need for more informal sports, which involve participants of lower ability more effectively, was also flagged, while the period immediately after leaving school was highlighted as a “cliff edge” for sport participation. The research suggested adolescents tend to prefer drinking, smoking and taking drugs together in these areas.

LSE’s report, which aims to “shape government policy”, detailed some recommendations to increase participation in deprived areas, including the organisation of informal activities and the close supervision of parks, streets and clubs.

Specific activities for girls and less rigid team sports for boys were recommended, as well as the need to invest in “solo” sports - jogging, cycling, swimming, skateboarding and walking.

Government-backed area-based programmes to improve overall areas - including jobs, crime, education, housing, environment, social and community conditions - should be “urgently reinstated”.

Finally, schools should “open up their facilities more widely” after hours to deliver more comprehensive sporting activities.

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