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Community leisure facilities worth £3.3bn to society – new report

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Leisure centres are a place for communities to come together through sport and physical activity
– Tracey Crouch, minister for sport and civil society

A landmark study of the wider social value of public leisure facilities in Britain has shown they contribute more than £3.3bn (US$4.3bn, €3.7bn) a year to health, wellbeing, education and reducing crime.

Physical Activity: A Social Solution draws on data from more than 1.8 million members and casual users across 651 facilities over the past two years, to explore the impact of leisure centres and specific activities such as football, swimming and group workouts.

Activity insight platform the DataHub used a ‘Social Value Calculator’, developed by the Social Issues Research Centre with the DCMS and Sport England, to determine the overall social value generated by the UK’s 2,709 public leisure facilities.

A breakdown of the overall value showed the sector is worth £2.4bn to subjective wellbeing, £715m (US$937m, €808m) to health, £123m (US$161m €139m), to education and £2.4m (US$3.2m, €2.7m) to reducing crime.

Examining the social value of specific sports, the report also found that:

Swimming provided £229m (US$300, €259m) in social value in 2017, the most of all activities, which was closely followed by fitness (£202m, US$265m, €228m).

Football has by far the largest social impact on education and crime proportionately, providing the greatest social value per person in both categories – £45 (US$59, €51) and £0.92 (US$0.21, €1.04) respectively.

Golf and group workouts have the largest social impact per person on health and wellbeing – golf showed £95 (US$124, €107) in health and £311 (US$407, €352) in wellbeing; group workouts showed £95 (US$124, €107) and £321 (US$421, €363).

Researchers, commissioned by ukactive, found that full members generate greater social value (on average £431, US$564, €487) than casual users who pay at each visit (£424, $556, €479), and that each core member who visits more than four times a month generates more than £1,000 (US$1,310, €1,131) more in social value an infrequent member.

Group Workouts – encompassing group fitness classes such as spinning – provided the highest social value per person at £431 (US$565, €487).

The report also showed that the overall social value generated by the 651 sites has increased by £49m (US$64m, €55m) over the past year.

“These findings highlight that the impact of the physical activity sector stretches far beyond the traditional parameters of sport and fitness – with public leisure alone delivering £3.3bn in wider social benefits,” said ukactive CEO Steven Ward.

“This report highlights that leisure centres remain at the very heart of local communities, of significant value to wider society. Local decision-makers should, therefore, continue to prioritise physical activity in future plans.”

Minister for sport and civil society Tracey Crouch added: “Leisure centres are a place for communities to come together through sport and physical activity. This report highlights their value and shows how they provide important benefits – not just for health and mental well-being of individuals – but for society overall.”

To download the full report click here.

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A landmark study of the wider social value of public leisure facilities in Britain has shown they contribute more than £3.3bn (US$4.3bn, €3.7bn) to health, wellbeing, education and reducing crime.
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Football was shown to have the largest social impact on education and crime proportionately

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