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How volunteers are the backbone of the sport and physical activity sector

News   •   Jun 05, 2019 14:48 BST

The week of June 1-7 is annually National Volunteering Week, a chance to celebrate and say thank you to the millions of volunteers for the contributions they make across the UK.

Volunteers have always played a vital role in the physical activity and sport sector with huge swathes of community sport reliant on the commitment and dedication of people giving their time voluntarily.

This makes it critical that physical activity and sport organisations support and grow their volunteer network in order to enable them to reach wider audiences and get more people active.

Sport England’s most recent Active Lives survey analyses the number of adults who are volunteering every year.

The criteria for being counted as a volunteer required a person to have volunteered at least twice in the last 12 months and to have taken part in a volunteering role to support of physical activity or sport.

The data from 2017/18 shows 6.2m adults (14%) volunteered across England in the last year, a figure slightly down on last year (6.6m). Providing transport and coaching were recorded as the most common forms of volunteering.

The number of people refereeing, umpiring or officiating saw the largest decrease in volunteering. But by contrast, there was an increase in those stewarding or marshalling.

In London, the figure is slightly lower than the national average with only 10.7% of the population volunteering in the last year - a figure which has remained consistent over the last 3 surveys.

When you break down the demographics in London, it highlights that men are more likely to volunteer than women as they comprise 59% of all volunteers. Those within the age ranges of 16-24 and 45-54 are also the most frequent volunteers.


London Sport’s commitment to volunteering sees every member of staff given five volunteer days to help support the physical activity and sport sector in London. We spoke to some of our team on how they’ve used their volunteer days in recent months.

Katie Light, House of Sport

“I used my volunteer days to help out at the European Championships back in August. My role was specifically in Sports Development and giving local people the opportunity to get active and try a new sport.

"I loved seeing these people, young and old, having a go at something they’d never tried before - and loving it. We had many young people come back over the days to give the sports another go, and saw their smiles and confidence grow each time.

"Volunteering at events like this is where you truly see the impact of the work we do day in, day out. There’s also something in selflessly giving up your time for others that makes the experience that much more rewarding. You don’t have to be there, you don’t need to be there, but you want to be there. And it’s making a difference.”

David Reader, Relationship Manager

"Most of the volunteering days I have used at whilst being at London Sport have been to officiate at swimming galas, including the Croydon primary schools galas. 

"These events are extremely reliant on volunteers, many of whom are not qualified, so my services are always welcome and hopefully help the children who are often competing for the first time, have an amazing day.

"My most recent day volunteering was at the iconic London Aquatics Centre, officiating in the Bath and Otter Cup Finals which attracted school relay teams from all over the UK. This was a great experience for me as an official and I hope I helped make it an unforgettable experience for those who took part. 

"I have already been asked to pencil in the date for 2020.”

Alisha Michaels, Insight

“Back in November I got the opportunity to Volunteer at the Vitality Netball International Series at the England vs Uganda match held at the Copper Box Arena.

"It was incredible to witness the England girls in action following their victory in the Commonwealth Games earlier that year.

"As a volunteer I got the opportunity to co-ordinate some of the earlier sessions where several England players lead a netball training session with local schools in the area.

"It was such a great opportunity to be able to see future generations being inspired to get involved in the sport and made the volunteering experience very rewarding.”

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