The UK sports participation market has enjoyed a positive last 12 months in headline terms, with the playing number gains achieved around the Olympics of 2012 being sustained through 2013 and 2014, and consumer expenditure rising as a result.

However, longer-term participation trends on a sport-by-sport basis are largely flat, many governing bodies are struggling to respond to changing player preferences and lifestyles and forthcoming cuts in local authority spending present a real threat to the depth and quality of future facility provision.

This report assesses the factors underlying current and recent trends in sports participation in the UK, examines consumers’ attitudes towards sport and identifies ways in which governing bodies, facility providers and sports brands and sponsors can help grow playing numbers in the short and medium term.


Mintel’s definition of ‘participation sports’ is based on that set out by Sport England, which states that “the purpose of the activity must be sporting and not a means to another purpose” and that it “must have an established structure, defined by rules, and where appropriate, organised national or international competition”.

Mintel’s interpretation of the second element of this extends to the inclusion of athletic activities undertaken for fitness rather than competitive purposes, such as aerobics and/or weight training in a gym, and which are therefore less formally structured in terms of their rules and organisation, but which still have an accepted means of or basis for participation.

For the purposes of this report, Mintel’s definition of ‘sport’ includes all activities listed below, which have been grouped under four key typologies for the purposes of discussion throughout the report:

Individual/keep-fit sports

  • Swimming

  • Cycling

  • Jogging

  • Weight training/gym

  • Aerobics/fitness classes

  • Yoga/Pilates

  • Athletics/running.

Team/competitive sports

  • Football

  • Golf

  • Cricket

  • Basketball

  • Rugby (union/league)

  • Volleyball

  • Hockey.

Racquet sports

  • Tennis

  • Badminton

  • Table tennis

  • Squash.

Outdoor/alternative sports

  • Hiking/rambling

  • Fishing

  • Climbing

  • Skiing/snowboarding

  • Watersports (e.g. windsurfing, canoeing)

  • Martial arts (e.g. karate, kung fu)

  • Action sports (e.g. BMX, skateboarding)

  • Fencing.

This report assesses the UK market, with a particular focus on England in some parts, given the nature of the data available.

Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland.


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