By Nick Butler

Swimming appears a sport particularly badly affected, the latest Sport England figures have indicated ©Getty ImagesLevels of sports participation in England have taken a severe dip two years after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, figures released today have indicated. 

The results of the Sport England Active People Survey - which come on the same day it was announced that three sporting governing bodies will now enjoy two-years of investment following good progress - show a significant drop in levels, with swimming hardest hit. 

In the 12 month period ending in October 2014, 125,100 fewer people did some kind of sport once a week for 30 minutes - bringing the overall number down from 15.7 million to 15.6 million.

In swimming, viewed as the country's most popular sport with over 2.6 million people taking part weekly, there has been a much bigger drop of 245,000 in the last 12 months.

This comes despite a strong year for British swimming at an elite level, with Great Britain finishing top of the medals table at the European Championships in Berlin, with 11 gold, eight silver and eight bronze, while England also performed well at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"I am disappointed with these figures, and I'm very concerned about the drop in swimming, which dominates the overall picture," said Sport England's chief executive, Jennie Price.

"If swimming's figures had been flat, we'd be looking at an overall increase in participation.

"I am encouraged by the fact that the current leadership at the ASA [Amateur Swimming Association], and the wider swimming industry, now recognise there's an issue and want to work together to fix it.

"It needs to get on with it.

"Swimming has lagged behind running and the gym in terms of offering an attractive, modern experience to people who want to play sport and exercise, that has to change and to change quickly."

Taekwondo, following the gold medal winning exploits of Jade Jones at London 2012, is one sport on the rise ©Getty ImagesTaekwondo, following the gold medal winning exploits of Jade Jones at London 2012, is one sport on the rise ©Getty Images

But today's figures also show many other sports that have enjoyed increased participation levels, including athletics, canoeing, fencing, mountaineering and taekwondo.

Reversing earlier trends, team sports also saw an increase in numbers playing in the last 12 months, with football, cricket, netball and rugby union all recording growth.

More young people are also participating regularly, with 4.72 million people aged between 14 and 25, totalling 57.6 per cent of the age group, playing sport once a week, representing an increase of 55,900 in the last 12 months.

But there is little change in the gender balance between male and female participation, with 1.75 million fewer women than men active, and fewer than 121,700 fewer disabled people playing sport regularly, with 1.58 million now taking part.

"This decrease is equally concerning, especially given last year's record level in the number of disabled people playing sport," said Price.

"I am determined to address this, which is why we're now working with a much wider range of organisation from the disability sector to ensure that sport is a practical and attractive option for disabled people."

Meanwhile, it has also been announced that the three sports placed on one-year restricted funding by Sport England following concerns over their abilities to lead and influence their sports, have demonstrated good progress and therefore secured a longer-term investment.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), Table Tennis England and British Fencing will each now be offered a two-year investment award to support them up to March 2017 - the end of Sport England's current grassroots sport investment cycle.

All three have demonstrated improvements in their leadership, with each recruiting a new chief executive and other leading officials, with the LTA's improved approach towards disability tennis one factor highlighted.

A final decision on the Amateur Swimming Association and Basketball England will be taken in March, a statement today added.

But Britain's Minister for Sport and Equalities, Helen Grant, has warned that governing bodies will continue to be made to justify their funding.

Sports Minister Helen Grant has warned that governing bodies must do more to deserve their funding ©Getty ImagesSports Minister Helen Grant has warned that governing bodies must do more to deserve their funding ©Getty Images

"There are 1.6 million more people playing sport regularly now than when we won the right to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2005 and I am encouraged that the number of 16 to 25-year-olds participating is on the rise - proof that our youth sport strategy is working," she said.

"But I am very concerned by the overall dip in participation over the last 12 months.

"Sports governing bodies have long argued that they can bring new people to their sport and funding should go via them but some are simply not delivering and it's not good enough.

"I expect Sport England to take tough decisions and redirect funds from governing bodies that are failing to projects and organisations that will deliver.

"Sports governing bodies should be left in no doubt that public funding to them is a privilege not a right."

Click here for more details on the latest Active People Survey results

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