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Survey highlights gender gap in sports volunteers

More than one million more men than women are taking up voluntary roles in sport and activity, according to a new survey.

Over the past year, 6.7 million people in England have volunteered at least twice to support physical activity, representing nearly 15 per cent of the population.

However, findings published today (12 October) by Sport England, show that men are much more likely to help out, accounting for 60 per cent of volunteers – four million – in contrast with 2.7 million women, a gender gap of 1.3 million.

Other areas of volunteering in England are far more equal in terms of the gender balance.

Speaking at the release of the Active Lives Survey, sports minister Tracey Crouch said: “This fresh insight into volunteering highlights a gender gap that we want to close.

"I know first-hand the positive impact volunteering can have on a person's life and I want sports to look at what more they can do to encourage women to volunteer.”

The findings showed that in sport, male volunteers are also more likely to hold positions of influence as coaches, officials and committee members.

Crouch added that the overall figures were encouraging, showing that “millions of people are playing vital roles up and down the country supporting the grassroots”.

Sport England director of sport Phil Smith described the contribution of volunteers to sport as “immense” but said more must be done to get women involved. “This research tells us that there’s a lot to do to make the experience of volunteering in sport more attractive to women," he said.

“We launched our campaign This Girl Can after research showed that a fear of judgment can hold many women back from getting involved in sport and activity, and 2.8 million women have told us they have been inspired to get active as a result.

“Now we need to work on attracting more women to volunteering in sport and activity and we hope that the whole sports sector embraces that challenge.”

Other key findings include:

• 1.2 million (74%) of volunteer referees or umpires and 1.7 million (67%) of volunteer coaches or instructors are male.

• People from lower socio-economic backgrounds make up 31 per cent of the population, but only 10 per cent of the volunteers.

• Disabled people make up 21 per cent of the population but only 11 per cent of volunteers.

Further survey insights about the nation’s sport and exercise habits will be revealed by Sport England in March 2018.

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