Grassroots participation on the rise in England

Sport England and FA figures show increase in the number of people playing the national game

Winning headerThe number of people playing football in England is on the increase, according to new figures published by Sport England and the Football Association.

Sport England, the body that distributes government funding to grassroots sport, reports that 1.9 million adults play football once a week - an incease of 3.3 percent on 12 months ago.

At the same time, the FA have announced that 8.2m adults - nearly one in five - now participate in the national game in some form, while 2014 saw a surge in popularity for both youth and disability football.

The results of Sport England's latest Active People Survey (APS) reverse a worrying decline in participation for the FA that saw them lose £1.6m of Sport England funding in March 2014.

This latest APS has been welcomed by football's governing body, who have supplemented Sport England's figures with data from independent research carried out on their behalf.

The FA reports a 100,000 participation increase across 14-25 year olds - driven by initiatives to boost youth and female participation - along with a 14 percent increase in the number of FA-affiliated disability teams.

The FA's Kelly Simmons, Director of National Game and Women’s Football, said: “We are delighted with the progress that is being made and are particularly pleased to see a significant and encouraging growth in mini-soccer and youth football, which has followed our radical overhaul in our approach.

"Less formalised small-side matches, on smaller pitches, have focused on fun and skill development which has clearly proved increasingly popular with children setting out in the game.”

Whilst the latest APS still demonstrates a sharp decline (6%) in the number of adults playing football once a week compared to 2005, the FA argues that their Customer Insight data - formed from responses to 1,000 interviews conducted every month - delves more deeply into the habits of the modern grassroots footballer and highlights the changing shape of today's amateur game.

The FA reports that, over the past five seasons, the number of adult male teams playing affiliated 11-a-side football has dropped but the average squad size has increased from 18 players to 24 players, suggesting that more people are playing the game but less often.

“Despite the encouraging results across the board, we are never complacent," added Simmons.

"We recognise that we are not immune from a trend across all team sports which has seen lifestyle change impacting on numbers playing.

“The consumer has an array of choices, but we are investing a great deal of time looking into the changing nature of grassroots and £40 million a year in ensuring that we continue to reflect the needs of the modern grassroots in terms of playing opportunities and facilities.”


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