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Youth participation in 'major sports' falls

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Latest participation figures from Sport England have uncovered a decrease in the number of 16- to 19-year olds taking part in "major sports" such as football, tennis and swimming.

Concerns have also been raised over a decline in participation among women, although there has been an overall increase in the number of adults playing sport at least once a week.

The research is based on telephone interviews with 166,000 adults aged 16 and over living in England between October 2010 and October 2011, which were carried out by TNS-BRMB.

For those who were not playing sport as often as they were, nearly a third said it was due to a lack of time through work commitments or economic factors such as cost.

Despite what have been labelled "disappointing" figures, there has been an overall growth in adult participation during the period, while more disabled people are also playing sport.

Speaking to Leisure Opportunities, Sport England chief executive Jennie Price said: "The results also clearly show that we need to work much harder with young people, given the fall in participation among 16- to 19-year-olds.

"I am encouraged to see an increase in the number of disabled people playing sport. But we need to tackle head on the widening gender gap by doing much more to make sport relevant and appealing to women."

Price also defended the approach to give NGB's contol of funding to raise participation in their given sport.

"I still think that is the right approach. If we can get NGBs driving participation then it would be the most robust, sustainable, long-term solution we can have because NGBs sit at the heart of their sports.

"They are the organisations with the strongest vested interest in growing the numbers, so if we can make this system work, it will produce the best income.

"Obviously, if there are individual sports who, after every possible help and support who simply can not - or aren't interested - in delivering the numbers then we have to reassess the targets and withdraw funding. And we've already done that to some of the biggest, most influential sports."

Sport minister Hugh Robertson added: "We have spent the second half of this year working with Sport England and governing bodies on a new strategy with particular emphasis on youth sport, that we will announce in the New Year.

"This strategy will be based on concrete results in return for government investment and will ensure we create a real and lasting sports legacy after London's Games."

The publication of the figures comes after it was revealed that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had received a £312,188 cut in funding after missing participation targets.

According to the national governing body, participation had grown by 5 per cent over the past year. However, it has recognised it will not achieve an increase set out in Sport England's 2009-13 investment.

ECB chief executive David Collier said: "We feel that the outcome with Sport England is fair given current adult participation levels, the current state of the economy and the fact that cricket has invested more than £50m in community facilities during the last few months."

Details: www.sportengland.org

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Latest participation figures from Sport England have uncovered a decrease in the number of 16- to 19-year olds taking part in "major sports" such as football, tennis and swimming.
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