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Sports Accessibility:

How much does it really cost for children in the UK to take part in sport?

Children playing sports

Sport can be a vital part of a child's development, helping to get them fit and active, as well as make friends and build confidence.

Whilst getting active may be beneficial to enrich both our physical health and social lives, there's no denying that kids' sports can be expensive. Sports Direct has crunched the numbers to reveal just how expensive it can be to get your kids involved in sport. The study found that the average first year cost that parents face is £274, including equipment purchases and membership fees.

That's a lot of money at the best of times, let alone in a cost of living crisis. That's why Sports Direct has launched a discount of up to 70% across a selection of core sporting equipment for children, helping parents to cut down on the cost of their children participating in the sports they love. Sports Direct also partnered with Ellie Austin-Williams, founder of This Girl Talks Money, who has shared her tips about how parents can accommodate sports and extracurricular activities for their kids into their budget.

So, how much does it really cost to get your child involved in a new sport? To find out, Sports Direct analysed the average cost of membership, training or participation fees of popular sports, and combined this with the cost of equipment from the Sports Direct website. From football goals and rugby boots, to kids' golf clubs and tennis rackets, there's a large selection available.


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First Year Cost
Annual membership or fee cost
Total Cost

How much do kids sports cost?

If you're a parent of one of the 86% of 5-15 year olds who participate in sport or physical activity, you might be wondering which sports are the cheapest, or most expensive, to participate in.

With a total start-up cost of £419, cricket is the most expensive sport for kids to get involved in. Parents will need to purchase products such as cricket bats and protective pads, meaning that the sport has the most expensive equipment cost of £269, and membership fees of £150.

In second place, with a total cost of £385, is skiing. The winter sport has the most expensive participation fees, at £200, and purchasing the required clothing, protective equipment and accessories costs £185, although this does not include the skis themselves.

Golf ranks as the third most expensive sport, and unsurprisingly holds a high equipment cost of £224, and a total cost of £374. Meanwhile two of the UK's most popular sports, rugby and football, rank fourth and fifth, costing £338 and £334 respectively.

In positive news for parents, at the opposite end of the scale, the cheapest sport for children also happens to be the most popular sport for 5-10 year olds, swimming. The activity costs an average of £131, followed by netball, at £154.

Which areas of the UK have the best access to sports?

The research also examined access to sports clubs and facilities around the UK, to reveal the cities with the best and worst access to sport in the country.

Select one of points on the map to see more information on each city's ranking.

The Cities with the best access to sports clubs

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Map of the UK
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Which areas of the UK have the best access to sports?

With 110 sports clubs, and 44 clubs per 100,000 people, Wolverhampton is the city best served by sporting facilities. Bradford comes in second place, with 42 clubs per 100,000, followed by Belfast, with 36.

Residents of the UK's biggest cities may find themselves with the most limited access to sports clubs. Despite having the most sports clubs in total (238), London residents have the lowest access to facilities in the country, with only 3 per 100,000 people.

Manchester ranked as the second bottom city, offering 229 clubs in total, which equates to just 8 per 100,000 Mancunians. Hull had the lowest number of clubs in total, with only 31 in the city, or 10 per 100,000.

Children playing sports

Ellie Austin-Williams

financial expert, founder of This Girl Talks Money, and author of Money Talks

How can parents fit sports for their children into their budget?

For many parents, the cost of living crisis means that money is tight, and it's increasingly difficult to balance the budget to fit extra curricular activities for their kids, like sports, alongside life's essentials.

To help parents with their financial concerns, Sports Direct has partnered with financial expert, Ellie Austin-Williams, founder of This Girl Talks Money, and author of Money Talks, to share some lesser known financial tips.

  • Consider sports which require minimal equipment and where children can practice alone, such as football or basketball. All you need to get started is a ball and a small bit of space or a wall!
  • Check out local leisure and sports centres run by local authorities or councils. These typically offer classes at more accessible prices than private facilities.
  • Head to your local council website to find out whether they have low cost sports activities on offer for local children, such as £1 kids swimming sessions for example.
  • Some sports clubs offer bursaries or financial assistance to help children play sports on reduced or no fees, so it can be worth researching clubs in your area, or asking about assistance.
  • Explore local facilities such as basketball courts that are free to use and provide a community hub.

Get up to 70% off selected products

One of the most expensive aspects of sports participation is the cost of equipment. Our research found that parents need to spend an average of £146 on equipment to get their child started in a sport, and whilst many of these purchases are one offs, other items, like trainers and clothing, will need to be repurchased frequently as the child grows.

To help cut down on this cost, Sports Direct has launched a discount scheme of up to 70% across a range of its core sports equipment products. The product range covers a wide selection of essential sports equipment that parents will need to purchase if their child wants to participate in their chosen sport.

The discount will run indefinitely, as Sports Direct is committed to helping parents tackle the cost of kids' sporting equipment.

Get your discount here T&Cs from Sports Direct if applicable

Snapshot Methodology

Data was taken from multiple sources including Yell, Sports Direct internal data and sports clubs across England to find the sport which is the most expensive to play for children, and also the cities which are the least accessible for children based on the number within each city

Data Point
Data Description
Data Source/s
Equipment Cost
The average cost of equipment for each sport
Sports Direct internal data
Membership Cost
The average cost of membership for each sport
Sports club data across the UK (surveys included the FA, Basketball England, Badminton England and more)
Number of Sports Clubs
The number of sports clubs in each city
Number of Sports Clubs Per 100k People
Calculated to per capita (per 100k people just shows the data better)
Number of sports clubs in each city, calculated to how many there are per 100,000 people within each city