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Football participation continues to rise in England

Thursday 29 Jan 2015
The number of people playing football in England is on the rise

The number of people playing football in England is on the rise with nearly one in five adults - 8.2 million people - now participating in the national game in some form.

It is the second year in succession to see an increase. 

Independent research conducted on behalf of The FA also reveals that youth and disability football showed a surge in popularity in 2014. 

Last year saw a 14 per cent increase in the number of FA-affiliated disability teams, while various FA-led initiatives to boost youth and female participation led to a 100,000 boost in participation across 14-25 year olds. 

Football Participation Continues to Grow
  • Second year to see increase
  • 100,00 boost in participation
  • 15,000 rise in disability participation
  • Average number of players in squads has grown from 18 to 24
  • 14% increase on 2014 levels

The findings are supported by the latest data from the Sport England Active People Survey (APS), released on Thursday, which shows an across-the-board increase in football participation over the past 12 months. including a 15,000 rise in disability participation in 2014. 

The APS highlights that football remains far and away the largest participation sport in the country. 

The FA’s Customer Insight data backs up the findings of the APS and delves more deeply into the habits of the modern grassroots footballer. It is formed from responses to 1,000 interviews conducted every month. 

The FA’s Director of National Game and Women’s Football Kelly Simmons 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.” 

The research highlights the changing shape of grassroots football. Over the past five seasons in traditional eleven-a-side football, the number of adult male teams playing affiliated football has dropped. 

But the average number of players in squads has grown from 18 players to 24 players, supporting the argument that people are still playing, 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.”

If you would like to get involved in the game, find out about clubs and opportunities in your area right here.

By FA Staff