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Amateur sport and football, major players in French society

While we are going through a difficult health situation, amateur sport occupies an important place in our daily life.

For a year now, amateur sport has seemed completely invisible. When the Government announces its measures in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, amateur sport is (almost) never mentioned. During his last speech, Prime Minister Jean Castex spoke about ski lifts or private sports halls… but not a word about amateur clubs. O makes a point on the report of Institute of Youth and Popular Education (INJEP).

In 2018, 113 sports federations approved by the Ministry of Sports were listed. These then bring together 16.4 million licensees. A large part of the French practice a sport, more or less regularly. Thus, more than two-thirds of the population, aged 15 and over, say they have played sport at least once a year, whether within an association or independently.

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, an increase in the number of licenses issued by accredited Federations has been observed. An increase of 19% between 2000 and 2018, while at the same time the French population increased by 11%. Amateur sport is a mores that has entered our minds and is becoming more and more established over time. Today, there is a sports license for four inhabitants

Among the most popular sports activities, football occupies an important place. The French Football Federation is the one with the largest number of licensees in its ranks. Also in 2018, the FFF represented 12.5% ​​of licenses issued among the 113 federations listed. A number of practitioners which amounted to 2,108,811 footballers. A first place occupied with a large lead over its first pursuer, tennis, which has 986,000 licensees. A little further on, we can find other team sports such as handball, with 528,000 licensees or basketball, 525,000 licensees.

A first place explained in particular by the fact that football is a sport appreciated and practiced in large numbers by the younger part of the population. Thus, among the 6.6 million licensees aged 15 or less (40% of all licensees), 820,634 young athletes find themselves on the green rectangle. In second position, we still find tennis with 407,606 licensees, which therefore does not even represent 50% of the total number of licensees of the same age group in football.

We can make the same observation when it comes to the category of 15 – 29 years old, where we have 686,624 members of the FFF, far ahead of horse riding (198,427 members) and handball (185,738) that complete the podium. Should this be taken as the fact that football is considered to be the most popular amateur sport?

When it comes to talking about gender parity in football, the count is a little worse. Indeed, the proportion of female graduates within the FFF represents only 8%. We can therefore observe that football is still a sport mainly practiced and supervised by men. There is therefore still room for improvement for football. In fact, at the same time, we can notice that in other team sports, such as handball and basketball, the share of female license holders is over 30%.

However, one should not pass a judgment which would consist in saying that football is a world of “machos” today, for example. Indeed, this observation can be explained by the fact that there was possibly a delay at this level but also by the fact that it is the sport which has the most licensees. Thus, knowing that women’s licenses represent 38% of the 16.4 million licenses, all federations combined, it is not illogical that the proportion of women in football is less substantial with a greater number of total practitioners.

All these figures show that amateur sport is an integral part of our daily life today and that we attach more and more importance to it. If the youngest say they practice a sporting activity for pleasure and amusement, the seniors themselves put forward health and relaxation as the main reason.

We can notice that there is an “aging” of the sports population in France. In fact, among athletes aged 4 to 44, the number of licensees fell by 6.8% between 2016 and 2018. Over the same period, an increase of licensees aged 45 and over by 3.3% is noted.

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