60 per cent of sports volunteers are male, says new study

Sport England has published the latest data from its Active Lives Survey, which shows a worrying disparity in gender equality in volunteering.

Active Lives supposedly shows evidence that men are more likely to volunteer in sport and activity, in contrast to volunteering in general, where men and women volunteer in equal numbers. In sport, male volunteers are also more likely to hold positions of influence such as coaches, officials and committee members.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch commented: “This fresh insight into volunteering in sport shows that millions of people are playing vital roles up and down the country supporting the grassroots. But it also highlights a gender gap that we want to close. I know first-hand the positive impact volunteering can have on a person’s life and I want sports to look at what more they can do to encourage women to volunteer.”

Some of the key volunteering statistics include:

  • 4.0 million – 60 per cent – of adult volunteers are male, and 2.7 million – 40 per cent – are female – a gender gap of 1.3 million – 20 per cent.
  • 1.2 million – 74 per cent – of volunteer referees or umpires and 1.7 million – 67 per cent – of volunteer coaches or instructors are male
  • People from lower socio-economic backgrounds make up 31 per cent of the population, but only ten per cent of the volunteers. Disabled people make up 21 per cent of the population but only 11 per cent of volunteers.

The Active Lives survey, which runs 365 days a year, also asks people over 16 across England about their sport and physical activity habits. The figures published represent the first 18 months of data collected by the new survey, so year on year comparisons are not yet available. The first set of comparable data will be available in March 2018.

The figures show a consistent picture, with 27.1 million – 60.6 per cent – people being active, meaning they do 150 minutes or more activity per week. 11.5 million – 25.6 per cent – are inactive, meaning they do less than 30 minutes of activity a week. The Active Lives survey also shows that people from lower socio-economic groups are much less likely to be active, which is why Sport England will be targeting investment on those groups under its new strategy, Towards an Active Nation.

Sport England’s director of sport Phil Smith concluded: “The contribution of the 6.7 million volunteers to sport is immense. It helps individuals get more active, benefits local communities, and it can do wonders for the volunteers themselves. They are often the inspiration behind the activity. However, this research also tells us that there’s a lot to do to make the experience of volunteering in sport more attractive to women, as there’s a big gender gap.”

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