Sport England
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New drive to boost number of women playing sport

Sport England yesterday announced a £10 million National Lottery funding round to encourage ‘Active Women’ – in a drive to get more women from disadvantaged communities, and women caring for children, playing sport.

The announcement is being supported by Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) and Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis.

At present, one in eight women regularly play sport in England 1. Whilst this has increased significantly since 2005/2006 2, women's participation still trails behind that of their male counterparts, with one in five men active 3 and the gender gap increasing 4. Sport England figures also show that women from disadvantaged communities play even less sport, with just one in ten taking part regularly.5

There are a number of challenges facing women wanting to take part in sport. Time constraints, childcare, transport, cost, friends to go with and self confidence can all represent barriers to women’s participation.6

The ‘Active Women’ fund is the second of Sport England's competitive themed rounds aimed at addressing some of biggest challenges to grassroots participation. It will help achieve our 2012 Olympic legacy goal of getting a million more people playing regular sport and our focus on building a world leading community sport system.

Sport England is calling on a wide range of community groups and sectors to make applications, including those who have not previously considered applying for funding. Schools, local councils and national governing bodies are just some of the organisations behind existing projects which have successfully engaged women. Examples include getting mums off the sidelines and back onto the netball court, forming local and social running networks and offering fun taster sessions in team sports.

Jennie Price, Sport England Chief Executive, said:

“Taking up sport, and finding an activity you really enjoy, is something that everyone should have the opportunity to do. We know that women can face particular barriers to taking part in sport, and it is important we invest resources into understanding how best to overturn those. That’s why this themed round is all about encouraging innovative projects and ideas to come forward and help us make sport fun and accessible for women across the country.”

Denise Lewis, mum of three and Olympic gold medallist, said:

“As a mum, I know how difficult it can be to prioritise yourself and find that personal time to play sport and be active. This campaign will offer women the opportunity to take those first steps towards making a change in their lives.”

Gerry Sutcliffe, Minister for Sport, said:

“Getting more women and girls to play sport is top of my agenda so it’s fantastic that Sport England has committed £10 million to making sure this happens. Our sportswomen have had a bumper year and I hope the successes of stars like Jessica Ennis and the England women’s cricket team will inspire more women across the country to make that important first step. There is a sport out there for everyone and this investment will help clubs reach out to women who haven’t found theirs yet.”

The launch of ‘Active Women’ coincides with the announcement that Sport England is investing £1.4 million of government funding in the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF). WSFF’s work includes helping sports governing bodies, in which Sport England is investing £480 million to deliver more sporting opportunities, to shape and deliver sport so that it meets the individual needs of women and therefore increases participation.

Sue Tibballs, CEO of the WSFF, said: “From juggling a busy schedule to managing a tight budget, taking part in sport can seem like a distant possibility for women. We know however that when shaped with women in mind, projects can play a huge part in making sport more accessible and indeed attractive. We hope this £10 million pot will open up many more opportunities for women to take part and discover the benefits of being active.”

Notes to Editors

Details of the Active Women fund, including the prospectus, how to apply and frequently asked questions, are available on Sport England’s funding website: The closing date for applications is 3 February 2010.

‘Disadvantaged communities’ are defined, using the Communities and Local Government classification, as the 20% most deprived ‘lower super output areas’ in the country. A list is available on its website.

Sport England invests National Lottery and Exchequer funding in organisations and projects that will grow and sustain participation in grassroots sport and create opportunities for people to excel at their chosen sport.

Sport England is committed to creating a world-leading community sport system, and has set specific and measurable targets to achieve by 2012/13:

  • One million people doing more sport
  • A 25% reduction in the number of 16- to 18-year-olds who drop out of at least five key sports
  • Improved talent development systems in at least 25 sports
  • A measurable increase in people’s satisfaction with their experience of sport
  • A major contribution to the delivery of the five hour sports offer for children and young people.


  1. 2.74 million women (12.8%) play sport three times a week. Source: Sport England Active People Survey July 08 – July 09
  2. Increase of 170,000 between Oct 05 – Oct 06 and July 08 – July 09
  3. 4.16 million men (20.4%) play sport three times a week. Source: Sport England Active People Survey July 08 – July 09
  4. Men’s regular participation has increased by 430,000 compared to 170,000 for women. Source: Sport England Active People Survey Oct 05 – Oct 06 and July 08 - July 09
  5. 714,100 women (9.1%) living in disadvantaged communities play sport three times a week. Source: Sport England Active People Survey July 08 – July 09

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