The idea of an Olympic legacy after London 2012 has been cast into doubt in England with latest figures showing that 50,000 fewer people were participating in sport than was the case 12 months ago.
These figures contrast with the most recent sports participation figures published by the Irish Sports Council which indicated a rise in participation from 2011 to the first six months of 2013 from 44.5% of the population to 47%.
The English figures are based upon those over the age of 16 who have engaged in sporting activity of moderate intensity for 30 minutes at least once a week. They are important in a number of ways not least because of the relationship between performance metrics and the release of central funds.
Tennis and Soccer now have question marks over whether as much as 20% of their combined £47.4 Million public funding over 2013-2017 could now be withheld after both saw falls in the numbers participating.
Tennis lost over £500,000 earlier this year after a drop in numbers and the same is likely again after a fall from 423,000 to 406,000 between April and October this year. The drop occurred despite Andy Murray becoming the first British winner of the Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon in 70 years this summer.
Soccer participation has also fallen by 100,000 to a figure of 1.83 million and is now behind swimming, athletics and cycling as the nations most popular participation sport.
A move towards individual rather than team sport is notable in the figures which show that the number of those who participated in competitive sport and those who had received formal coaching had both actually declined since 2006.
21% of English people are members of a sports club, considerably less than the 37% equivalent number in Ireland and while the breakdown between male and female, young and old are broadly similar the base level of numbers participating is markedly lower in England than it is here.