Building recreational running in 2017 and beyond


Athletics and running has seen increased participation levels over the past four years. As we look ahead to 2017, England Athletics is committed to providing the support and opportunities needed for on-going growth.

England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones commented, “It has been tremendous to have seen the growth of the sport over the past four years. We know that this has been the result of the hard work and expertise of many people.  Our sport is blessed with volunteers who make such huge provision through their local clubs and a wide range of people and organisations providing opportunities and support for a diverse range of people to take part in athletics and running.  However, we are not complacent and have already produced a new strategic plan that shows how we plan to support the sport as we move forwards into 2017.

“We know that there are challenges that lie ahead, for example, in changes to the way that the sport is funded. But we also have some great opportunities, such as the London 2017 IAAF and IPC World Championships.

“While the overall trend has been upwards, seeing any signs that this growth may be plateauing means we always need to be working to build the long term future of the sport and ensure that it can continue to develop and thrive.  The sport has great potential to inspire people to become involved in athletics and running for the first time whether as a participant, coach, official or in one of the many other rewarding and vital roles that ensure the sport remains accessible and enjoyable for people.”

In April 2017 England Athletics will move into a new period following the delivery plan that has been in place for 2013-17. That period has seen strong indications of growth across the sport. In the affiliation year for 2012-13 (which included the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games) the total number of athletes registered was 132,171. The figure for 2016-17 already stands at over 152,000, which is above last year’s record number, with more than three months to go.

England Athletics Head of Participation Matt Birkett commented, “Since England Athletics entered into partnership with Sport England 8 years ago, athletics and running has seen unprecedented growth and this has been the result of the work of many people across the sport.  The newly released Sport England Active People survey has shown the number of people aged 16+ taking part in athletics and running for 30 minutes once a week now stands at 2.22million compared to 2.03million for the same period in 2011-2012. The current figure is 2.34million when 14-16 year olds are included.

“The same period has also shown an increase in the number of disabled people aged 16+ involved in athletics and running from 109,600 in 2011-12 to 118,900.

“A vast proportion of the growth we have seen over the last four years is a result of this increase in female participation. The number of women running once a week has nearly doubled over the last 10 years and increased by 25% over the last four years. The proportion of female members of England Athletics has shifted from 42% in 2008 to 48% now. We have also seen great success from the This Girl Can Run campaign, where nearly 30,000 women have been influenced to run more regularly.

“We are disappointed that the latest Active People figures show a plateauing of the growth in athletics and running, and we will be working to understand this. Figures such as athlete registrations and our activity tracker which looks at wider participation trends in the sport indicate that demand and involvement in the sport remain strong and we will work with partners to ensure that this is reflected in on-going growth across all measures of participation.

“We will also be looking at the new Sport England ‘Active Lives’* measurements which will be available in the future and how these can help us to understand and grow the sport.”
*In future Sport England will use a new way of measuring sport and activity across England called ‘Active Lives’. As well as using a larger sample to produce figures the new approach will also look to provide a better understanding of an individual’s participation in sport and activity over a 12-month period rather than a snapshot of the last 28 days.

Click here to find out more about England Athletics’ Strategic Plan

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