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MASS PARTICIPATION


KATH HUDSON, JOURNALIST, SPORTS MANAGEMENT


MASSMARKETING


Running through rivers in winter, swimming in cold lakes, clifftop marathons… Surely there isn’t a market for that? Oh, but there is. We look at the growth of mass participation sporting events


I


t’s a particularly cold weekend in England and I’m watching my husband take part in the eight mile “The Scrooge” off road race at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, along with


hundreds of other competitors. He was prepared for hills, mud and uneven terrain. What he wasn’t expecting was to wade through icy cold, chest deep rivers. The blow is softened by the camaraderie of the competitors, encouragement from spectators and the good natured race officials – wearing Scrooge outfits of top hat and tails – giving a helping hand on the slippery river banks.


At the end, the competitors gather on


straw bales in the barn to discuss the race over a pasty and a complimentary pint of Cornish lager. Unlike other sporting events, where the rivalry is intense, mass participation events tend to be relaxed and friendly; after all, the pressure to get placed is removed when there are hundreds or thousands of people taking part. An increasing number of mass participation sporting events are springing up around the country. They range from one mile fun runs to 100 mile ultra trails, from open water swimming in iconic locations and Sky Rides to Ride London


– an annual event which gets 70,000 people cycling for an entire weekend.


Many of the mass participation events offer “mini events” to encourage families to take part 54


OLYMPIC LEGACY London 2012 inspired many people to get more active. Figures suggest that it’s the more easily accessible, individual sports which people are opting for, rather than team sports, which often have more regimented training and match times. Over the last 10 years there has been a 4.65 per cent increase in people running and jogging. Figures from the Active People survey show that sports participation has gone up since 2005, however it is really recreational cycling and running, especially mass running, which is pushing up the figures. In contrast, many team sports which are organised by national governing bodies are declining in popularity. According to Steve Wood, an independent coach who specialises in behavioural change, mass participation sports suit our lifestyle. “Many people don’t want to participate in structured, organised club activities any more,” he says. “They don’t have the time. They want to be self determined. Mass participation sport is so successful because it gives people a goal to aim for – they go, do it and come away. Lots of sports are too exclusive because there’s only a limited number of places on the team, whereas mass participation


sportsmanagement.co.uk issue 2 2015 © Cybertrek 2015


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