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Sport England wants to focus on disabled and less-affluent after This Girl Can boosts female participation

By Matthew Campelli    10 Dec 2015
Sport England CEO Jennie Price said that methods to engage various demographics need to be tailored to that group

Sport England is setting its sights on increased participation among the disabled and individuals from poorer backgrounds after its This Girl Can campaign helped spark a boost in female activity.

The body’s Active People Survey, published today (10 December), revealed that the number of women playing sport and getting active once a week increased by 148,700 to 7.01m in the last six months.

Sport England launched its campaign at the turn of the year, and chief executive Jennie Price said that the insight and research compiled on barriers to sport for women and girls, which helped inform the strategy, could be replicated to get people from the lowest socioeconomic group and the disabled more engaged.

“The figures tell us that when we focus hard on one particular group of the population and think hard about what they like and what they don’t like, and what was really driving their behaviour, we proved we connected,” she told Sports Management.

According to the research, 25.9 per cent of people in the lowest socioeconomic groups played sport once a week compared to the 39.1 per cent of individuals from more affluent groups. 17.2 per cent of disabled people were regularly active, but are still only half as likely to play sport as a non-disabled person.

Price said that while the intention was there to create more “consumer-focused” campaigns, Sport England will have to wait until the government reveals its hand when it delivers its imminent overall sport strategy.

She added: “It’s not about lumping people together of different ethnicities, genders and from different parts of the country. The ways to engage with a 65-year-old and a 16-year-old are going to be completely different. We need to separate them out, get a grip of what the issues are, and not assume it’s all about money.”

The increase in women playing sport contributed to an overall increase of 245,200 people getting active once a week to 15.74m for the 12 months ending on 30 September 2015.

Price said that while she was pleased with the “significant recovery” she was disappointed that there had not been sustained growth.

“It needs to be much better than this,” she said.

In terms of individual sports, swimming continued to lose participants, although its decline of 39,300 year-on-year to 2.51m was substantially less than the 245,000 that walked away from the activity between October 2013 and October 2014.

Price said the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) had a “really hard road ahead”, but added it was intent on turning it around. Football had the largest numerical loss, with 66,600 less participants than the same period last year, although it was still the most popular team sport with 1.82m participants.

Athletics experienced the biggest rise in participation over the 12 months, with 98,700 more over-16s taking part once a week (2.33m overall), while cricket had the largest positive swing for a team sport, with 43,700 more people playing the sport, contributing to an overall figure of 179,900 in the year England won the Ashes.

To read the full report click here.

The number of females over 16 getting active increased by 148,700 / lzf/Shutterstock.com
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