Australia’s most popular sport: Landmark study

Australians just love this sport.

Australians just love this sport. Photo: Getty

Football is comfortably the most popular club sport in Australia, boasting more than one million players across the country, a new survey has revealed.

The Australian Sports Commission’s landmark AusPlay report was unveiled on Thursday, examining a range of issues from what sports people play, how often they are active, their motivation for getting fit and how much Australians spend on being active.

The data is comprised of answers from more than 20,000 adults and 4000 children and is the first report of its ilk since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) pulled the plug on sport data two years ago.

Football was streets ahead of its nearest rival, with 1.086 million players – based on population estimate – involved at club level in Australia.

Golf (685,732) was second, followed by Australian rules football (635,627) and netball (625,721) while cricket was sixth and rugby union did not feature at all.

Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop welcomed the verdict and said: “It’s official. We are No.1.

“Football is Australia’s most popular club-based participation sport for adults and children because it is the most inclusive and accessible.

“Everyone is welcome in football, regardless of gender, age, ability or background.”

Gallop said football’s worldwide popularity gave his sport an advantage some others could not match.


“Football is also the biggest global sport with the world’s highest-profile players and competitions and the planet’s biggest event, the FIFA World Cup,” he added.

“The combination of local accessibility and global interest is attracting more and more Australians.”

Not all positive

Rather alarmingly, the report states that just two per cent of children are ‘active’ each day outside of school hours.

Federal Minister for Sport Sussan Ley said on Thursday it was imperative that parents ensured their children were exercising or involved in sport when not at school.

“These results show we all need to be encouraging our children to get more active more often, so they enjoy the health and social benefits that come with an active lifestyle,” she said.

“It is vital we increase the rate of physical activity in our children.”

The numbers follow the release of a damning ‘grade’ given to Australia’s current state of physical activity in children.

The Active Healthy Kids Australia report stated we deserved a grade of D-minus and had some of the least active children in the world.

Children between five and 17 are encouraged to exercise for one hour each day.

The AusPlay report also said that organised sports participation dropped significantly in teenage years for men and women.


Cricket has tinkered with formats to attract new players and fans. Photo: Getty

The Australian Sports Commission’s Paul Fairweather told the ABC those figures showed sports needed to adapt.

“Once kids hit those teenage years they drop off … they’re really in the middle of an education, they have a lot of social things happening in their life, they’re discovering boys and girls for the first time,” he said.

“I think what that means is that sport has to be more flexible and maybe offer shorter versions of the games. A lot of sports are doing that.

“Sports need to evolve their games and the way they perform if they are to remain strong and we get more Australians being active.”

The numbers are more encouraging for adults, with 59 per cent of people aged above 15 exercising at least three times a week outside of school.

Other key findings

swimming pool

Swimming is the most popular activity for children. Photo: Getty

Of Australia’s estimated population of 24.29 million, 17 million who are aged 15 or over did a form of sport or physical activity in the last 12 months.

A whopping $10.7 billion was forked out on fees for sport or exercise in the last 12 months across Australia.

The report also found that instead of competition or social benefits, Australians found their physical health and fitness gave them more motivation to play sport or exercise.

It also stated that swimming is the most popular activity for kids when they are not at school.

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