The scale of the sport and its contribution to the UK economy

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L&R Unit 3 – Ms Young

Task 1 – The scale of the sport and its contribution to the UK economy


Sport and physical activity has been part of society for thousands of years. Now sport is not only a past time but a big business. The industry in the UK accounts for 1.6% of the economy, and in 1998 was worth over £11 billion in consumer spending. The main break down of this is:

  • Participation – includes admissions to things like

      Leisure centres, club membership, hire charges

  • Sports clothing
  • Sports footwear
  • Equipment
  • Spectating

There is hardly an athletic contest anywhere in the world that does not attract an audience. This means there is a demand for the particular type of entertainment offered. Where there is a demand, ways will be found by enterprising individuals and organizations to exploit it as a source of income. 


This is practically true with football due to the phenomenal scale of the sport. A clue to the scale is the shear number of people that participate in football; this is around seven million across the country, with over 5million children included in that figure. The grassroots set up is well established with 40,000 clubs, 45,000 pitches, 2,000 leagues

Its easy to get involved. Football is Britain’s most popular team sport shown in table 1.1 and 1.2., for participation. If these figures included speciation Football would definitely top the table. The consumer type of interest in football creates jobs; there are around 6,000 people directly employed by football, and thousand more which related jobs.

Professional clubs employ:

  • Managers
  • Coaches
  • Players
  • Board Directors
  • Grounds men
  • Physiotherapists
  • Psychologists

For premiership clubs, crowds for matches can exceed 60,000. So on match days there will also be stewards and security guards. The crowd also provide a market for refreshments, programmes and other souvenirs which creates more jobs. The commercial side of football secures millions of pounds in retail, for example sales of replica kits in the UK alones is thought to be around £200 million. But this is also an example of the exploitation of the ‘beautiful game’, as prices are marked up 200% on production costs.



Hockey has a completely different story to tell. There is no real commercial aspect to the game. The vast majority of the people who follow hockey are hockey players themselves and their main interest in the sport is participation. This means very few spectators, so its financial suicide to charge for entrance to match, the only time its possible to sell tickets is for international matches. But there’s no money made from these, ticket sales just cover costs. In football the spectators don’t just provide revenue from tickets sales but produce a multiplier effect on the whole industry; generating money and creating jobs.

The few jobs that are available in the sport are jobs in organisation, the NGB; ‘England Hockey’ employs about 20 full time workers there opposite body in football ‘The FA’ have more than 100 employees; regional development officers, directors, media officers.

Information on hockey employment was scare and this lead me to believe there is little opportunity. One area where there is a few employees is the sale of equipment, as the majority of players tend to buy from specialist boutiques for the main reason general sports stores hockey range is small and in some cases non-excitant.

Sports shops are business, and they can see that even if they did stock a wide range of hockey products it would not make the money that for example footballs and football shirts would. This is down to depreciating participation numbers as shown by the tables on table 1.1 there are many more sports young people and adults prefer to spend there time. This creates a vicious circle because as less people take up and continue playing the sport, participation and equipment cost rise putting of more people.    

Table 1.1 Out of School frequent participation by all young people

Table 1.2 Most popular sports amongst Men 2002

Table 1.2 Most popular sports amongst women 2002

Task 2 – Organisation and Funding at Grassroots level

There are many similarities in terms of the game, between football and hockey. So this has some effect on the organisation of both. They are both team invasion games, with eleven players, the same kind of layout with the goals and many of the ideas and tactics run parallel. Grassroots incorporates school and club level. Grassroots football in the UK is the responsibility of 43 county ‘football associations’ (county FA’s). These are independent bodies which affiliate to the FA, the national governing body (NGB). The county FA’s look after the game at local level; their key roles are to organise local leagues, register teams, players and to arrange match officials.

These county FA’s are very alike the county partnerships in hockey. But their main focus is the development of the game rather than the competitive side of things. The local leagues in hockey are generally run on a volunteer basis by hockey enthusiasts.

Just looking in the surrounding area there are a large number of football teams; including men’s, women’s and junior leagues. With many recreational, grass areas which have pitch markings and goal posts; it’s not hard to find a place to play football. Hockey on the other hand is now played almost exclusively on astrotruf there are significantly fewer astrotruf pitch and therefore venues for hockey than grass football pitches. This is perhaps one reason football originally became popular; the fact that fundamentally all you need to play is a ball makes it a very accessible sport which is basically safe and needs little supervision. Its hard to establish whether the reason there are more facilities to play football because it’s very popular or whether it’s popular because it’s freely available. But there is definitely a huge difference in provision for both sports.

Funding is a major issue in any organised activity especially sport. We’ve now established the hockey is not participated in on the scale that football is, this is a very important factor when in comes to financial support wherever it’s coming from.

Money that is channelled in the grassroots set up mainly comes via schemes or grants. As you’d expect the trend follows that there are more initiatives and groups for football. They are in place to aid the development of youngsters as they are the new generation. It is important for the sport that they get involved and enthusiastic about the game, to preserve its status as the UK’s most popular team sport. Another aim of grassroots schemes is generate interest at club level and nurture talented players which in turn will benefit the national team. Success like this could encourage participation and rise awareness in the public eye; this would be extremely beneficial for a sport like hockey.

One example of this is the football foundation. It is the UK largest sports charity investing £53 million into communities supporting grassroots football (over £390 million since it was established). The money has been used to modernised facilities and build on local leagues, schools and provide revenue to increase/support participation in football. The funds for the foundation are split between the DCMS (Department for culture, media and sport)
which is a department of central government and the national lottery distributed by Sport England. The government have said they will be spending £62 million in the development of football over a period of four years via the football foundation. Hockey does not have an organisation such as the football foundation. Instead hockey has hugely benefited from the ‘Active Sports’ programme. Sport England is a sport council which is linked to the government via DCMS. Their main aim is to make England a successful sporting nation, making sport accessible to everyone. Making it another huge source of funding for all sports at all levels. National lottery (NL) is a major part of this investment. The pie chart shows Football is assigned a large chunk of the NL money, with hockey coming under the other section, and only granted a tiny proportion of that.

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Sport Aid is another national sporting group which focuses on high performance sport. They provide grants for talented individuals to help with costs of training, travel or equipment; they range from £250-500. Every year Sport Aid support 2500 youngsters and have made £20million available. There are no figures to tell us the proportion of successful grant applications for each sport, but the scheme has definitely helped both hockey and football players.

NGB’s are ...

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