Athletics second ‘most popular’ sport in England

While athletics remains at No.2 behind swimming, new figures show a decrease in the number of athletes competing

Posted on December 12, 2013 by
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Start blocks (Mark Shearman)

Athletics has consolidated its position as the No.2 sporting activity behind swimming in England, according to the latest Active People Survey (APS) from Sport England.

The results of the survey follow the news that England Athletics aims to make athletics, including running, the single most popular individual sport by 2017 with 500,000 new weekly participants through the project “A Nation That Runs”.

Released on Thursday, the APS survey results show that over 2 million people take part in some form of athletics at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes or more at least once a week. This is compared to 2.9 million for swimming but, although still some way behind the sport at the top, athletics is closing the gap. However, critics of the survey claim that 30 minutes per week does not constitute participation to a meaningful degree and cannot be classed as “sport”.

If the drop between 2008 and 2012 in those hitting the pool is repeated up until 2017 then athletics could well take over the top spot. The number of people taking part in athletics has risen from 1.4 million in 2005-06.

However, at the more serious end of the spectrum, according to the survey just 4.42% of the 2 million people taking part in athletics are in clubs. The figures show that there has been a decline in tuition rates and the number of competitive athletes since 2007-8 when 5.05% were in clubs.

The most recent results show the number of athletes competing dropping below 20% for the first time since 2007-8 to 18.01%.

A Sport England APS factsheet can be found here.

» See the December 19 issue of AW for more on the survey results

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