By Steven Downes in London

February 18 - Sport England, the regional agency that is distributing £880 million of Lottery cash to encourage an additional one million people to take part in sport by 2012, has put out a new tender for an agency to measure exactly how many people are engaging in sport.

The polling contract is estimated to be worth up to £6 million.

Ipsos Mori, one of Britain’s largest polling companies, has been conducting the survey since October 2005, at a cost of more than £9 million.

Elements of the survey’s methodology, and its resultant conclusions, have been criticised recently.

The Active People Survey is billed as Europe’s largest survey of participation in sport and active recreation, claiming to poll 1,000 people for each of the country’s 354 local authorities.

Each respondent is supposed to be surveyed by phone, each for at least 20 minutes.

The deadline for pitches is March 13.

Meanwhile, Sport England today revealed another £10 million spend of National Lottery cash on sport in rural communities.

The projects are varied, and range from a £1.7 million sports centre in Newquay, to a £25,000 Village Hall in Northamptonshire, through to county-wide Village Games, in places such as Derbyshire and Norfolk, receiving a total of £1.2 million towards schemes which are hoped will involve more than 150 villages and their sports teams in competitions ranging from netball, badminton and tug of war over the next three years.

"Crucially, the schemes are coming from local people in the local community saying what they need," Richard Lewis, the chairman of Sport England, said at today’s launch.

There were more than 500 applications to Sport England’s rural communities fund. Independent assessors were used to judge that the projects "will do what the local communities want them to do and will be sustainable", said Lewis.

"Our market research shows that where sports participation in local authorities is low around the country, two-thirds of those local authorities are in rural communities."

Lewis backed schemes such as the Village Games as a means of Sport England hitting its participation targets by 2013.

"I believe there will be more people playing more sport by the end of the Olympics in 2012, and there will be some terrific facilities, delivering a very positive legacy for sport, from the elite end that we’ll see at the Olympics, all the way through to local communities sport that we’re announcing today," Lewis said.

Today’s announcement is the first of a series of "themed" project announcements, as Sport England seeks to deliver what it calls "targeted funding".

The move was welcomed by Ben Bradshaw, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who said: "Those who live in rural areas deserve to have access to high-quality schemes and facilities, and the chance to try out new and more unusual sports, just as much as people in towns and cities."

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January 2010:
 Steven Downes - Why Sport England's figures on sports participation are flawed