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The sport industry – driven by couch potatoes or moving people?

Opinion from ISCA President Mogens Kirkeby 


The sport sector is the driving force for the industry around it. Or is it the other way around – is the sport industry the driving force of the sport sector? That depends fully on which part of the sport industry demand side we are directing our attention to: The demand from the couch potatoes or the demand created by moving people?


It is recognised that the sport sector is generating economic activity as well as many jobs. A good estimate is that 2-3% of the gross value added to the overall economy comes from the sport sector, and the industries operating within the sport sector are showing significant growth potential. Purely seen from an economic growth perspective it does not matter which part of the sport sector the demand comes from. But from a sports political position it matters!


Very encouragingly, but surprisingly for many, a recent English report* showed that almost 59% of the total economic activity in the sport sector comes from sport participation – from moving people. And “only” 27% comes from sedentary sport entertainment – that is, sitting on the couch watching sport on the TV or on spectator seats at the stadiums.


Stimulating the sport sector and its industry’s growth potential is possible and it makes sense. But stimulating participation in sport, and thereby creating a bigger demand from more moving people, makes even more sense.


It would see an even greater demand for memberships, fitness centre subscriptions, informal physical activity classes or groups, sports clothing for the purpose of being active rather than being a supporter, and courses for instructors who want to inspire others to move. That would be stimulating smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. So what are we waiting for!



* Sport England. (2013). Economy value of sport in England. Available online here