Hockey, netball and gymnastics help grow the female participation base
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Hockey, netball and gymnastics help grow the female participation base

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The growth in participation for hockey, netball and gymnastics has boosted the number of women taking part in sport, narrowing the gender gap in the process.

Around 7.21m women now take part in regular physical activity, bringing the number participating closer to their male counter parts (8.76m).

While the growth has coincided with Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, with 250,000 more taking part since it began in 2014, the quango’s latest Active People Survey showed gains for a number of female-skewing sports.

Over the last six months, gymnastics added 13,500 participants to grow its base to 65,100, while hockey increased by 4,500 to 92,700. Netball numbers also surged by 25,400 over that period to 180,200.

Although Sport England chief executive Jennie Price admitted that the former two had benefitted from a Olympic bounce following excellent showings at Rio 2016, she told Sports Management that the governing bodies overseeing the sports had done a “really good job over the last three or four years” to attract and retain participants.

Growing the number of females participating in physical activity has helped to increase the overall participation base to 15.97m – 1.88m more people than when London won the bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2005.

However, Price said there was still work to be done trying to engage with other under-represented demographics, specifically highlighting people from lower socioeconomic groups.

Twenty-six per cent of individuals from this group takes part in regular sport and physical activity, much lower than the 39.5 per cent of “affluent” individuals.

Price suggested that sport needed to look at its offer to shift this figure in a positive trajectory, and pointed to work done by budget gym organisations to attract this demographic.

“ukactive told me that low-cost gyms is the fastest growing part of the market and showing creativity is a good thing,” she said. “They have the flexibility of a 24 hour offer, they don’t look for long-term financial commitments and those are the two biggest things.”

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The growth in participation for hockey, netball and gymnastics has boosted the number of women taking part in sport, narrowing the gender gap in the process.
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Price said sport needed to follow the example of low-cost gyms to entice people from lower socioeconomic demographics
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