Taking part in sport is something that brings with it an incredible variety of benefits. Improved physical and mental health, developing skills and making new friends are just the start of it. But while 40% of people exercise regularly, just 10.6% participate in sport once a week or more.
To find out why and what would help motivate people to get more involved in sports, Harrod Sport's 'Sportitudes' survey has asked 1,000 people from around the UK to find out what their relationship with sport is currently, and what it would take for them to become more involved in minority sports (those outside the UK's top five sports: football, cricket, rugby, tennis and badminton).
What drives and motivates people to get involved in sports?
Participation at school
For more than two-thirds of adults who play sports (68%), their involvement began through participation at school. 56% also said that if they had been introduced to minority sports at school, they would be much more likely to have taken on that sport rather than something more traditional like football, tennis or rugby.
While participation in any sport is excellent for the student's health and fitness, there is an opportunity to provide more diversity in these early years to encourage those not attracted to the bigger sports to find a discipline that matches their strengths and interests – this is especially true when considering representation and accessibility.
A large majority of those surveyed feel that they would be more encouraged to try sports that are actively working towards greater diversity and inclusivity. Fostering a feeling of welcomeness to new players, regardless of their gender, culture, ability and experiences was one of the most definitive responses on the survey, with 78.8% saying it was important to them.
39% said they enjoyed team sports either more or a lot more than playing or exercising on their own. Combined with the desire for a welcoming environment, the prospect of being part of a team is something many people are looking for when they take up a new sport.
For people around the UK, major sporting events are often highlights of the year, with millions tuning in to watch the Olympics and World Cups and finals. When things go well for the home nations, these events become a huge springboard for participation.
Our survey found that 78% of people felt that home nations having successful competitions – England reaching the EURO 2020 final and Emma Raducanu's US Open success, for example – played an even more important role than the event itself when it comes to inspiring people to take part.
The opportunities for inspiration are broad this year. 2022 is shaping up to be a huge year for sport in the UK, with England hosting the Commonwealth Games, Womens EUROs and the Rugby League World Cup. Not only that, but it is also a FIFA World Cup year, with the first-ever winter tournament kicking off in Qatar in November.
Live coverage and social media visibility
Coverage of live sports continues to evolve beyond pay TV channels. Recently, Channel 4 have agreed free-to-air broadcasts of significant events, including the final Grand Prix of the 2021 season, the 2019 Cricket World Cup final and the 2021 US Open final – bringing these major sporting events to millions who may otherwise have not watched live.
But what about smaller events? While 54% of people think that more people would take up minority sports like hockey or netball, if they had increased television coverage, social media is helping to broaden the reach of sports. Key clips and live discussions, combined with streaming services mean that people can engage as a global community. Sports influencers are having a particular impact on the participation of young people, with 90% of 18–24-year-olds saying they have been encouraged to take up a sport through engaging with this content.
The most common reason given for taking up a sport was to achieve a specific fitness goal (28.2%). For this reason, it is no surprise that the NHS is the most influential organisation when it comes to people's decision to take up a sport or get more regular exercise – even above charities and governing bodies like The FA.
More than half (51%) said their number one priority when choosing a sport to take part in is the physical and mental health benefits they will receive as a result.
Family interest in sports is another significant route into participation. 68% said they would encourage their children to participate in a sport that family members are already involved in.
As with adults, parents believe that the main benefits of playing sports for their children are physical health (25%) and mental health (18%), but enjoyment is an equally important benefit for many (22%).
However, more than a third (34%) said the commitment of taking their children to sports clubs regularly put them off wanting to join, making it harder for children with non-sporty parents to get involved, and making school sports options even more vital for inspiring the next generation.
How Harrod Sport can help
The Ron Harrod Foundation
Harrod Sport has been supporting athletes through the Ron Harrod Foundation for four years, funding young, local talents so they can focus on the competition rather than the financial challenges of getting to events and paying for equipment.
The 2022 winners are all from an athletics background, but the foundation will also continue to support previous winners across Motorsport, Karate and Racketlon.
Athletics continues to be a passion for young athletes, making the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in July 2022 the ideal event to inspire the next generation to be on that stage for the next games in 2026.
As well as supporting the stars of the future, Harrod Sport are proud to be providing posts and equipment for some of the largest football events of 2022 - from the Champions League Final at the Stade de France to the Women's European Championships final at Wembley Stadium and culminating at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar – our goalposts will be there ready to play a part in the biggest sporting moments of the year.
Beyond football, we will also be supplying posts for the Rugby League World Cup in October. This is a particularly special event as the Men's, Women's and wheelchair tournaments are all taking place simultaneously for the first time – an incredible way to reach and inspire fans of all ages!
From children to adults and from grassroots to the biggest competitions in the world, Harrod Sport will continue to play its part in sharing the power of sport at every level, with everyone.