Clarification of responses by Dr Larissa Davies to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Oral evidence: Sport in our communities, HC 869 on Tuesday 1st December 2020.


I would like to provide two points of clarification regarding the evidence I provided to the DCMS Committee, relating to the decline in participation rates and the potential impact on the social and economic value of sport and physical activity.  

  1. Participation rates

The Sport England figures that I used to illustrate the decline in participation were taken from two different data sources (Active Lives Survey / Savanta ComRes Tracker), which are not directly comparable.  Both data sets have shown a significant decline in activity as a result of the pandemic, but not as great as I suggested during the oral evidence session.

The Active Lives Survey is Sport England’s main tool for tracking activity levels.  Active Lives collects detailed information about the specific activities in which people have taken part in the past 28 days and the frequency, duration and intensity of that participation. The Active Lives Survey data measures ‘Active’ as meeting the CMO guidelines of at least 150+ minutes a week of moderate (intensity) equivalent activity per week.  Prior to lockdown, the Active Lives survey for the period November 2018-November 2019 revealed that ‘Active’ participation in England was at record levels[1] (63.3%).  The most recent Active Lives Survey data survey report (published in October 2020)[2], which presents data for the period mid-May 2019 to Mid-May 2020 reported that lockdown led to unprecedented decreases in activity levels. Compared to the same two-month period 12 months earlier, we saw 3.0 million (-7.1%) fewer active adults and 3.4m (+7.4%) more inactive adults. 

The Savanta ComRes Tracker was started by Sport England in April 2020 to inform how sport and physical activity are changing over the pandemic.  It measures the number of occasions when adults were active in the previous week and uses smaller samples than the Active Lives Survey.  ‘Active’ is defined as 30 minutes of activity on five or more days per week.  The most recent results of the Savanta ComRes Tracker (October 23-26) show 24% of adults were doing physical activity on 5 or more occasions a week[3]. This is down from the 33% recorded during the first wave of the tracker (April 3-6). This indicates that activity levels fell between April 2020 and October 2020.

  1. Social and economic impact

Our model of social and economic value for community sport and physical activity in England[4], which values the sector at £85.5 billion, is largely driven by the number of adults participating, as measured by the Active Lives Survey data. If the lower levels of participation seen since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic are sustained over a longer period of time, then it is likely that there will be a proportionate reduction in the social and economic value of the sector. 

It is not possible to be precise about the monetary value of this loss until we have comparable annual participation data from the Sport England Active Lives Survey to input into the model.  However, if the 7% decline in participation recorded in the latest Active Lives Survey is not reversed, the scale of loss is more likely to be in the region of £6 billion.  The estimated figure of £40-50 billion suggested during the session was surmised from much higher reductions in overall participation and therefore overstates the potential effect.

Dr Larissa Davies

4th December 2020

[1]Sport England (2020) Active Lives Adult Survey November 2018/2019 report.  April 2020.

[2]Sport England (2020) Active Lives Adult Survey May 2019/20. October 2020


[4] Sport England (2020) Summary: Social and Economic value of community sport and physical activity in England