Cracks appear in political consensus on sports participation
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Cracks appear in political consensus on sports participation

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The release of the Active People Survey (ASP) last week has damaged the cross-party support for efforts to get more people into sport.

Shadow sports minister Clive Efford and sports minister Helen Grant clashed at the House of Commons following the publication of the report, which showed that 15.5 million people are playing sport once a week, every week.

The figure marks an increase of more than 1.5m since London won the bid to host the Games and is the first time that a host nation has increased the number of people playing sport off the back of the Games.

The figures also reveal, however, that there has been no overall increase in the number of people playing sport in the 12 months since the 2012 Olympics.

More worryingly, there has been a slight fall in the number of 16 to 25-year-olds playing sport regularly during that time.

There were also falls in participation in many traditional sports, such as football and tennis, with only nine sports of a total of 31 recording increases in the number of regular players.

This is a worry for many national governing bodies (NGB), as the £500m of public funding they receive is directly linked to their performance in increasing participation.

Sport England released the results with a cautionary message that there was "more to do".

The results were seized upon by the Labour Party, with shadow sports minister Efford confronting Conservative sports minister Grant in the House of Commons.

"When the last set of figures was published, the government blamed the weather," he said. "Will they do so again today?"

"The time for excuses has passed. Even more damning, the figures for 16 to 25-year-olds are down by 51,000. There was no better golden legacy left to this government than the one in sport. Just what will the Government do about this terrible situation?"

Responding, Grant said: "More people, including women and people with disabilities, are participating in sport in this country than ever before, which should be celebrated. Of course there is more to do, and we will do it. We are focusing action on 14 to 25-year-olds, who have competing demands on their time."

She also had a warning for the NGBs that had failed to deliver increases in the number of people playing regularly.

"We expect the sports bodies to focus on this (participation). If they do not, there will be consequences. They receive a large amount of public money, and if they cannot produce the goods, we will get other people involved."

Speaking to Sports Management, David Stalker, CEO of ukactive, said: "There are many positives in this data - such as the record participation numbers in six of the nine regions.

"But let's not rest on our laurels as there is still much more to do - the ASP also shows that the majority of adults (52 per cent) still play no sport.

"We need to focus on getting physically inactive people to get active, through any means, as this is a pathway into sport and to developing a physical activity habit for life."

When asked about Grant's warning to NGBs, Stalker added "Sport England is making no secret of the fact that it is looking to a broader range of partners to help NGBs increase levels of participation.

"Partnerships such as those with ukactive on the hugely successful Let's Get Moving programme are already making an impact on inactivity levels, and the new partnership with Sporta on the Make Your Move programme show that there is a broader range of partners that can make an impact.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Sport England in the years ahead."

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The release of the Active People Survey (ASP) last week has damaged the cross-party support for efforts to get more people into sport.
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