Barriers to sport in Wales highlighted by assembly report

Support for table tennis has helped Cade Short become a junior champion

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Sports club membership has hit new highs but concern over barriers to participation for some people has been raised by a Welsh assembly committee.

A record 500,000 were club members in both 2012 and 2013, say governing bodies like Swim Wales which now has 25,000 members, up from 11,500 in 2011.

The Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee says encouragement in sport must start at an early age.

And it calls for help to keep girls interested in sport beyond age 11.

The committee report comes as annual figures released by Welsh sports clubs shows membership on the increase.

Welsh Gymnastics now has almost 10,000 female members - up 65%.

Start Quote

With local authorities feeling the squeeze from budget cuts we believe there is a greater need than ever to ensure access to affordable leisure facilities across Wales”

End Quote Christine Chapman AM Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee

Table Tennis Association of Wales says it has broken through the 3,000 member mark, despite the sport seeing its Olympic funding cut completely by UK Sport in the run up to Rio 2016.

The last two years have seen records set for sports club membership in Wales with 534,000 people in 2012 and 542,000 people in 2013 recorded as members of clubs.

But the committee found barriers obstructing some groups of people from participation.

'Sedentary lifestyle'

It was told that girls were generally very keen to play sports like hockey and netball between ages seven-nine but that they tended to drop out at about age 10-11 due to concerns about body image and lack of availability of preferred activities such as dance.

It also heard evidence from black and minority ethnic groups highlighting problems with discrimination, along with unsuitable equipment and environments for women of certain faiths.

"Warnings of rising childhood obesity rates and increasing cases of diabetes have been very much in the news recently, and the evidence linking these conditions to a more sedentary lifestyle is clear," said Christine Chapman AM, chairman of the committee.

"Changing this attitude requires a cultural shift in the way people choose to live their lives and one of the main ways we can do that is to increase their knowledge and understanding of what options are available to them.

"Another is to ensure that the encouragement and positive experiences of physical activity start early on at school age.

Boys playing football in a gym The last two years have seen records set for sports club membership in Wales

"Therefore, we believe the Welsh government's consideration of whether to make PE a core subject in the Welsh curriculum is crucial.

"We also want to see the Welsh government do more to encourage women and black and minority ethnic communities into sport.

"With local authorities feeling the squeeze from budget cuts we believe there is a greater need than ever to ensure access to affordable leisure facilities across Wales."

The committee made 12 recommendations in its report including asking the Welsh government to work with local authorities to identify opportunities to increase and improve access to leisure facilities.

It also wants to see further research work undertaken to identify ways to encourage girls to participate in sport as they become older.

Prof Laura McAllister from Sport Wales which promotes sport development, said; "Of course there are costs involved around equipment and travel and hire of facilities, but if you look at what it costs to be a member of say Welsh Gymnastics, next to nothing really, under £20.

"Tell me anything else you can get for that value that gives you the kind of benefits that active sport gives you."

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