Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1999  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/1999   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Culture & Leisure >> Sport: Sporting Australians

Sport: Sporting Australians

The most popular sports for players in Australia in 1997-98 were swimming, aerobics and golf. The most popular sports for spectators were Australian Rules football, horse racing and Rugby League.

Australia has long been regarded as a sporting nation. Its performance compared with other countries in elite sports competitions, such as the Commonwealth and Olympic games, are testimony to the high profile given to sport in Australia's culture. In the most recent Commonwealth Games (Kuala Lumpur, 1998), Australia won the most medals. Australia also ranked among the leading nations in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta (USA), where it finished with the fifth highest number of medals won. Moreover, of the top ten nations, Australia and Cuba won the most medals per head of population (2.3 medals per million people) - followed by Germany (0.8) and France (0.6).1,2

Underpinning these successes are high levels of participation among school children and adults in a wide variety of sporting and physical activities. Because of the health benefits a physically active life-style promotes, this is encouraged for all age groups as a matter of public policy. Most recently, a national framework for participation in physical activity known as Active Australia, was endorsed by the Commonwealth Government in 1996. Active Australia has the aim of encouraging people's active involvement in sport, community recreation, fitness, outdoor recreation and other physical activities.3

Many businesses also contribute to the promotion of sport and the support of elite athletes - 22,700 businesses sponsored sport in 1996-97, injecting more than $280 million into sporting events, clubs, teams and individuals.4 There are economic benefits for these and other businesses and the community at large through a diverse range of commercial activities, including the manufacture and sale of clothing and equipment, attendance at sports events and associated tourism.


Sport and physical activities

This review draws on a number of recent ABS surveys concerned with measuring people's involvement in sporting and physical activities in Australia. As the surveys have had different aims, they were not conducted in a consistent way with respect to the populations included, nor in the way in which activities were defined.
  • Information from the two Involvement in Sport surveys, conducted in March 1993 and March 1997, refers to people aged 15 years and over who were involved in sport on one or more occasions during the 12 months prior to the survey. 'Involvement' in sport was defined to include both playing and non-playing activities in paid and unpaid capacities, excluding spectators. It was also defined to generally include both social and competition involvement. However, participation in some sports (such as swimming, aerobics and billiards) was recorded only when it was undertaken for competitive reasons.
  • Two surveys of Participation in Sport and Physical Activities were undertaken by the ABS in 1996-97 and 1997-98, both as part of the ABS survey known as the Population Survey Monitor. The data relating to 1996-97 refers to participation in sport which was organised by a club, association or school and included additional information for children aged 5-14 years. Information from the 1997-98 survey, on the other hand, was limited to persons aged 18 years of age and over. It defined sport to include both social and organised activities, but excluded running, jogging and walking activities that were not organised by a club or association. For both years, the term 'participant' is defined as a person who physically undertakes the activity, excluding persons involved in a non-playing capacity only.

INVOLVEMENT IN SPORT, 1993 AND 1997

1993
1997


Number
Participation
Number
Participation
Type of Involvement
'000
%
'000
%

Players
3,963.6
29.1
4,115.2
28.5
    Paid
57.0
0.4
142.6
1.0
    Unpaid
3,906.5
28.7
3,972.6
27.5
Non-players(a)
1,419.7
10.4
1,655.9
11.5
    paid(b)
166.1
1.2
203.9
1.4
    unpaid
1,253.6
9.2
1,452.0
10.1
Players and Non-players
4,504.9
33.1
4,669.8
32.4
    paid
213.3
1.6
328.5
2.3
    unpaid
4,291.6
31.6
4,341.3
30.1

(a) Includes players with non-playing involvement.
(b) Refers to those who received some payment for their non-playing involvement only.
(c) Persons who are involved both as players and non-players are counted only once.

Source: Involvement in Sport, Australia, 1997 (cat. no. 6285.0); and unpublished data, 1993 Involvement in Sport Survey.


Involvement in sport
In the 12-month period to the end of March 1997, the Involvement in Sport survey showed that 4.7 million people (32% of all people aged 15 years and over) were involved in playing or organising a sport on at least one occasion. Over 4.1 million people (29%) had played a sport, and 1.7 million (12%) (many of whom were also players) were involved as coaches, referees, administrators or in some other non-playing capacity.

The 1997-98 Survey of Sport and Physical Activities recorded even higher participation rates. This survey included social sports and physical activities, but excluded running, jogging or walking when it was not organised by a club or association. In 1997-98, 48% of persons aged 18 and over had participated, as a player, in a sport or physical activity on at least one occasion over the previous 12 months.

Irrespective of the measure used, participation rates were substantially higher for men than women and for young adults than older people. Using the broader measure of participation from the 1997-98 survey, for instance, participation rates among men declined from 78% for those aged 18-24 to 25% for those aged 65 years and over, while among women they declined from 64% to 19% for the equivalent age groups.

PROPORTIONS OF MEN AND WOMEN PLAYING SPORT, 1993 AND 1997

1993
1997


Men
Women
Men
Women
Age group (years)
%
%
%
%

15-24
55.5
39.4
57.9
40.0
25-34
42.5
28.1
42.7
25.7
35-44
32.3
20.7
32.8
17.6
45-54
25.0
14.8
25.2
14.3
55-64
21.1
14.5
23.2
14.8
65 and over
20.3
12.2
22.2
12.9
Total
35.3
23.1
35.7
21.5

Total playing sport ('000)
2,382.1
1,581.5
2,536.4
1,578.8

Source: Involvement in Sport, Australia, 1997 (cat. no. 6285.0); and unpublished data, 1993 Involvement in Sport Survey.


Recent trends
Over the short period for which comparative figures are available (1993 and 1997), levels of participation in sport as a player remained much the same (about 36% for men and 22% for women, as measured by the Involvement in Sports surveys). However, some small changes are apparent. This was particularly so among women in the 25-34 and 35-44 year age ranges, where their levels of participation in sport fell by about two percentage points. Against this trend, small increases appear to have occurred in participation rates among older men and women.

A notable change, among players in particular, has been the increase in numbers of people being paid for their involvement in sport. In 1997, 142,600 people were paid for playing a sport, compared with 57,000 in 1993. The number of paid players as a proportion of all players (3.5% in 1997) has nonetheless remained quite small. The number of paid non-players also increased, but to a lesser extent - an increase of 37,800 people to a total of 203,900 people in 1997.

Popular sports and physical activities
The level of involvement in particular sports varies greatly by the age of the players, and although most sports are played by both men and women, some, such as cricket and netball, are much more likely to be dominated by one group than another. A feature of children's involvement in sport, apart from having much greater participation than adults, is that they are more likely to play a team sport requiring larger numbers of players. The opportunity that team sports provides for teaching social skills and the convenience of arranging group activities for children, who have comparatively large blocks of free time, are likely to be among the main reasons for the difference.

MAIN ORGANISED SPORTS PLAYED BY CHILDREN(a), 1996-97

Boys
Girls


Players
Players
Sport or activity
'000
Sport or activity
'000

Soccer (outdoor)
208.6
Netball
220.7
Australian Rules football
183.7
Swimming
177.7
Cricket (outdoor)
165.2
Dancing
133.5
Swimming
154.1
Tennis
99.3
Basketball
152.9
Basketball
82.6
Tennis
104.5
Gymnastics
57.5

(a) Children aged 5-14 years.

Source: Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, Australia, 1996-97 (cat. no. 4177.0).


.. played by children
In 1996-97, 61% of children aged 5-14 (1.6 million altogether) had played a sport organised by a club, association or school in the previous 12 months. As with adults, boys (65%) were more likely to have participated than girls (57%). For the large majority of children who had played an organised sport (87%), it had been organised by a club. However, 34% of children involved in an organised sport had participated in a school-organised sport out of school hours.

Taking boys and girls together, the two most popular organised sports among children in 1996-97 were swimming and basketball (331,900 and 235,500 participants) with netball (233,700 participants - dominated by girls) and outdoor soccer (228,800 participants - dominated by boys) following closely behind. The most popular organised sport among boys in 1996-97, with 208,600 participants, was outdoor soccer. Other football codes including Australian Rules and to a lesser extent Rugby League (183,700 and 84,400 participants) were also popular. Cricket (outdoor - 165,200) was the third most popular organised sport played by boys. Dancing and gymnastics ranked among the six most popular organised sports for girls, with 133,500 and 57,500 participants, respectively.

ADULT PARTICIPATION IN MAIN SPORTS AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES(a), 1997-98

Men
Women


Players
Players
Sport or activity
'000
Sport or activity
'000

Golf
873.7
Swimming
896.0
Swimming
732.8
Aerobics/fitness
876.2
Aerobics/fitness
503.0
Tennis
474.2
Fishing
477.2
Netball
285.8
Tennis
463.6
Golf
242.5
Cycling
407.3
Cycling
218.6
Billiards/pool/snooker
242.6
Tenpin bowling
217.3
Cricket (outdoor)
229.4
Fishing
164.3
Surf sports
225.0
Horse riding
154.2
Tenpin bowling
220.7
Billiards/pool/snooker
130.5

(a) Refers to persons aged 18 and over.

Source: Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, Australia, 1997-98 (cat. no. 4177.0).


.. among adults
As with children, swimming was the most popular sporting activity among adults (those aged 18 years and over). In 1997-98, 1.6 million adults (12%) had been for a swim on at least one occasion during the year (84% of whom had been for a swim on more than 6 occasions). Swimming ranked among the most popular sports for all age groups, although aerobics/fitness was equally popular with those aged 18-34 (both 18%), and golf ranked as the most commonly played sport among adults aged 45 years and over with 8%, followed by swimming (7%).

Overall, with 1.4 million participants, aerobics/fitness was the second most popular sporting or physical activity with adults in 1997-98. This was followed by golf (1.1 million participants) and tennis (937,800 participants).

For men, the most popular sports were golf (873,700 participants), swimming (732,800) and aerobics/fitness (503,000). While no single code of football was among the top ten sports and physical activities undertaken by men, a total of 660,900 men played some form of football. Outdoor soccer was the most popular code, with 199,700 participants, followed by Australian Rules with 152,900. Touch football (147,100) was more popular than Rugby League (86,600) and Rugby Union (41,400).

For women, swimming and aerobics/fitness were by far the most popular physical activities, with 896,000 and 876,200 participants respectively. Other popular sports for women were tennis (474,200 participants) and netball (285,800).


Masters sports

Older people who have enjoyed competitive sport at younger ages are often keen to maintain or renew their active involvement by competing with their peers. The Australian Masters' Games is a multi-sports festival for mature-aged people conducted biennially in various locations throughout Australia. Ownership of the Games is held in trust by the Confederation of Australian Sport (CAS). Competition in a variety of sports (51 in Melbourne in 1995 and 39 in Canberra in 1997) is usually offered in five-year age spans, starting at 30 and continuing into the 90s. While the number of participants in Masters' Games has increased substantially over the decade to 1997, average ages have remained fairly constant, indicating an increase in participants over all ages.

The success of the Masters' Games reflects the wider participation in Masters sports by mature-aged people. Growth in the number of sports providing participation was most rapid in the 1980s, when 44 more sports were included on top of the 17 that had started between 1950 and 1979. Reports from many sporting bodies to the CAS indicate that Masters is the fastest growing area in their sport, in terms of numbers of participants.5

AUSTRALIAN MASTERS' GAMES, 1987-1997

Average age

Players
Men
Women
Year held
Venue
no.
years
years

1987
Tasmania
3,695
50
49
1989
Adelaide
7,415
46
45
1991
Brisbane
5,957
. .
. .
1993
Perth
5,759
46
44
1995
Melbourne
10,479
47
44
1997
Canberra
8,811
47
43

Source: Confederation of Australian Sport 1987-1997, Australian Masters Games Final Reports

Time and other costs
Sport and exercise take up time and often cost money. Results from the 1997 ABS Time Use Survey indicate that an average of 21 minutes each day is spent on sport or physical exercise (excluding fishing) by people aged 15 years and over, if all people in this age group are included. If limited to those who participated, however, considerably more time was allocated to these activities - on average, 1hr:14mins each day. According to the 1996-97 Survey of Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, an average of $693 was spent over the year by each participant in organised sport on membership and weekly fees, clothing and equipment, and other related expenses.

PARTICIPATION IN SPORT, BY EMPLOYMENT STATUS(a), 1997-98

Men
Women
Employment status
%
%

Employed
60.4
53.6
    Full-time
60.4
53.9
    Part-time
60.5
53.2
Unemployed
49.6
45.9
Not in the labour force
30.8
29.6
Total
52.6
43.0

(a) Persons aged 18 years and over

Source: Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, Australia, 1997-98 (cat. no. 4177.0).


Employment status of players
While unemployed people may have more time for recreational activities such as sport, it is also likely that they are less able to afford the expense of organised sporting activities. Employed people were more likely to participate in sport (60% for men and 54% for women) than those unemployed (50% and 46% respectively).

Men and women who were not in the labour force were the least likely to play sport, with only 31% and 30% participating, respectively. However, many in this group would have been older, retired people, who are less likely to play sport than younger people.

PARTICIPATION IN SPORT, STATES AND TERRITORIES(a), 1997-98

Men
Women
Persons
State or Territory
%
%
%

New South Wales
50.4
39.3
44.7
Victoria
50.9
44.3
47.5
Queensland
56.0
45.6
50.8
South Australia
50.0
40.4
45.1
Western Australia
55.7
48.1
51.9
Tasmania
57.2
43.9
50.4
Northern Territory(b)
56.5
45.7
51.0
Australian Capital Territory
71.5
55.7
63.6

(a) Persons aged 18 and over.
(b) Figures for the Northern Territory refer to mainly urban areas only.

Source: Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, Australia, 1997-98 (cat. no. 4177.0).


State and Territory differences
Differences in levels of participation in sport and physical activities in different parts of the country are in part affected by the age profiles of those populations, but other factors such as climate and life-style preferences of individuals may also be important. These differences can be observed between the States and Territories. In 1997-98, residents of the ACT (aged 18 and over) recorded the highest participation rate (64%). New South Wales and South Australia, on the other hand, recorded the lowest participation rates (both 45%). The biggest difference between the participation of men and women was in the Australian Capital Territory (72% and 56% respectively).

MAIN REASON FOR DISCONTINUING ORGANISED SPORT(a)(b), 1996-97

Men
Women
Reason
%
%

No time/too busy
30.9
23.7
Injury/health problems
20.7
20.8
Moved away from club
13.9
8.6
Lost interest
10.3
10.2
Too expensive
6.8
10.7
Change in employment
3.8
2.7
Child care problems
0.5
3.5
Other/don't know
13.2
19.7

Total discontinuing sport ('000)
909.0
903.7

(a) Persons aged 18 years and over.
(b) During the previous two years.

Source: Participation in Sport and Physical Activities, Australia, 1996-97 (cat. no. 4177.0).


Reasons for discontinuing sport
People may discontinue one sport and take up another, or they may give up altogether. Also, with increasing age, fewer people engage in physical activities. The most common reason for giving up a sporting activity, among the 1.8 million people who reported having discontinued an organised activity during the two years prior to 1996-97, was lack of time. Men (31%) were more likely to give lack of time as a reason than women (24%). With 228,800 people saying that they had a sports-related injury in 19959, it is not surprising that the presence of injury or health problems was also commonly stated as the reason for discontinuing a sporting activity (21%).

Although women were more likely than men to discontinue an organised sport or physical activity because of child care problems, only a small proportion (3.5%, or 36,600 women altogether) gave this as a reason.

NON-PLAYING INVOLVEMENT IN SPORT(a), 1997

Number
Participation rate
Type of involvement
'000
%

Coach/instructor/teacher
628.3
4.4
Referee/umpire
456.8
3.2
Committee member
605.8
4.2
Administrator
266.5
1.8
Other involvement
569.9
3.9
Total non-playing(b)
1,655.9
11.5

(a) Persons aged 15 years and over.
(b) Figures may not add to total as some people may have more than one type of non-playing involvement.

Source: Involvement in Sport, Australia, 1997 (cat. no. 6285.0).


Non-player involvement in sport
In the 12 months to March 1997, 13% of males and 10% of females aged 15 years and over had been involved in sport as a non-player. The most common type of non-playing involvement was as a coach, instructor or teacher, with 628,300 people (4%) acting in this capacity. Almost as many (605,800, or 4%) were members of a committee.

Only a small minority (10%) were paid for their non-playing involvement, mostly for coaching (41%) or refereeing (31%). Non-playing involvement in sport was most common for persons aged 35-44 years, with a participation rate of 18%. This group includes many parents who are likely to be involved in supporting their children's sporting interests (see Australian Social Trends 1997, Voluntary work).

ATTENDANCE AT SELECTED SPORTING EVENTS, 1995

Persons
Attendance rate
Sporting event
'000
%

Australian Rules football
1,874
13.3
Horse racing
1,701
12.1
Rugby League
1,462
10.4
Cricket
1,166
8.3
Basketball
692
4.9
Harness racing
600
4.3
Soccer
559
4.0
Motor sports
452
3.2
Tennis
432
3.1
Rugby Union
358
2.5
Netball
312
2.2

Source: Sports Attendance, Australia, 1995 (cat. no. 4174.0).


Attendance at sporting events
Australians enjoy watching sporting events. According to a survey conducted by the ABS in November 199710, sporting programmes were the most commonly watched on television after news and current affairs programmes, and were viewed regularly by over half of all Australians aged over 18 (55%). As well as watching sporting events on television, attending sports events (such as club matches and international competitions) is also a popular pastime.

During the 12 months ended March 1995, 6.2 million people, (44% of all people aged 15 and over), had attended a sporting event (excluding junior and school sport). Men (52%) were more likely to have attended than women (37%). For both men and women, attendance rates were highest for the 15-24 age group (63% and 55% respectively) and steadily declined with age. Among men aged 65 and over, the attendance rate was 28%, while for women in this age group it was 15%.

The most popular spectator sport was Australian Rules football, with almost 1.9 million people having attended this sport on at least one occasion during the year. Horse racing (1.7 million), Rugby League (1.5 million) and cricket (1.2 million) were also among the most popular spectator sports.


Sydney 2000 Olympic games

The largest sporting event in the world, involving both the largest numbers of participants and spectators, is the Olympic Games conducted every four years, almost continuously, since 1896. At the 1996 Games (in Atlanta, USA) 8.4 million tickets were sold to spectators6 and 10,744 athletes participated7. Billions of people all over the world viewed the games live through satellite broadcasts to their TVs.

The Sydney Olympic Games will be held between the 15th of September and 1st of October 2000, and the Paralympics between 18th and 29th of October. Up to 10,200 athletes from over 200 countries are expected to participate in these games, and around 5.5 million tickets are available for sale.8


Endnotes

1 Clark, D. 1996, Australian Sports Almanac 1997, Reed Reference, Port Melbourne.

2 Whitaker's Almanack, Information for a Changing World, 129, 130, 131 edns, The Stationery Office Ltd, London.

3 Sport and Recreation Ministers' Council (Australia) 1997, Active Australia: A National Participation Framework, Australian Sports Commission, Canberra.

4 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1999, Business Sponsorship, Australia, 1996-97, cat. no. 4144.0, ABS, Canberra.

5 Confederation of Australian Sport 1992, Play On!, The Report of The Masters Sport Project on Mature Age Sport in Australia, Confederation of Australian Sport, Canberra, and associated materials in possession of the Confederation of Australian Sport.

6 Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games 1997, The Official Report of the Centennial Olympic Games: Planning and Organizing, vol. 1, Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers.

7 International Olympic Committee 1996, Results of the Games of the XXVI Olympiad, The Centennial Games, IOC, Lausanne.

8 Official Sydney Olympic Website www.sydney.olympic.org/games_info/overview/overview.html.com.au

9 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1998, National Health Survey: Injuries, Australia, 1995, cat. no. 4384.0, ABS, Canberra.

10 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1998, Public Attitudes to the Arts, Australia, November 1997, cat. no. 4157.0, ABS, Canberra.



Previous PageNext Page

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.