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11 September 2020

Hallam research reveals four-fold benefit to investing in community sport and physical activity

Every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity generates nearly £4 for England’s economy and society, new research from Sheffield Hallam University reveals

Press contact: Nicky Swire | n.swire@shu.ac.uk

Community sport

Sport England commissioned the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam to calculate the social impact and economic importance of sport and physical activity in England. 

The report, Social and Economic Value of Community Sport and Physical Activity in England, finds that investment creates a return across health and social care; improves wellbeing; builds stronger communities and develops skills in the economy.

Investment in community sport and physical activity plays an important role in boosting the economy and provides an opportunity to help level-up inequalities within communities, with £3.91 generated in value for every £1 spent.

The findings also reveal that community sport and physical activity brings an annual contribution of £85.5 billion to the country (in 2018 prices) through social and economic benefits.

Dr Larissa Davies, research lead and reader in sport management at Sheffield Hallam, said: “It really demonstrates the wider contribution of community sport and physical activity to society, beyond economic value. The research also reveals that sport and physical activity generates significant social value across multiple areas, making it a potentially cost-effective investment for the public sector.”

The social value – including physical and mental health, wellbeing, individual and community development – is estimated at just under £72 billion, with £13 billion in economic value also generated. 

The economic value includes more than 285,000 jobs that employ people within the community sport and physical activity sector.

Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England chief executive, said: “Today more than ever community sport and activity has a vital role to play in offering a solution to some of society’s biggest problems like our health, both mental and physical, helping to make life fairer for everyone, and growing and improving our economy.

“Everyone has a responsibility to keep our nation active. This new research provides evidence that can help local authorities, businesses and the voluntary sector to understand the value of promoting activity, especially as it will play an important part in helping the national to recover from the challenges 2020 has brought.”

The research shows that £42 billion worth of value was created from improved life satisfaction for 24 million participants and 3.9 million volunteers through their involvement in sport and physical activity.

The findings also show how physical activity plays an important role in preventing a number of serious physical and mental health conditions, with the research showing this provided £9.5 billion in value to the economy. Of this amount, £5.2 billion was in healthcare savings, while £1.7 billion was in social care savings.

More than £3.6 billion worth of savings were generated by the prevention of 900,000 cases of diabetes, with a further £3.5 billion of value generated in avoided dementia cases and the related care.

A total of £450 million was saved by preventing 30 million additional GP visits.

A further £20 billion in value came from stronger and safer communities, including:

  • 10,000 fewer crime incidents 
  • The replacement value of work done by sports volunteers (£5.7bn) 
  • Improved levels of social trust, belonging and community engagement (£14.2bn)

The research provides a picture of how community sport and physical activity significantly contributes positively to all five outcomes identified in the government’s sports strategy, Sporting Future.


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Nicky Swire

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