By David Owen

sirc-banner logoJanuary 12 - The London Olympics will help the UK sports market to grow by nearly two per cent in 2012, in spite of fears that the wider economy could be pushed closer to recession, according to a new report.

Continuing a trend apparent for two decades, the annual sport expenditure trends essay released by the Sports Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University, predicts that the UK's £20.7 billion ($31.8 billion/€24.9 billion) sporting economy will keep outperforming the economy as a whole.

Growth, however, will not be evenly spread among different sports segments, with clothing and gambling expected to expand relatively rapidly, while sports-related publications are likely to see revenue fall.

"Over the last 20 years the sport industry has continued to take a greater and greater share of national economic activity," said SIRC's Professor Chris Gratton.

"The hosting of the 2012 Olympics will only accelerate this long-term trend."

Taking a three-year view, SIRC predicts that the sports clothing industry will be the biggest winner, rising 15 per cent to account for £5 billion ($7.7 billion/€6 billion) of the overall market in 2015.

The sports gambling industry should expand by nearly six per cent over the same time-frame to £3.2 billion ($4.9 billion/€3.9 billion).

Investment in the health and fitness sector is expected to supplement the Olympic effect as a driver of long-term economic growth, with that industry expanding by two per cent this year, buoyed by investment in small towns which currently have limited provision.

Fitness classes
In a finding that will be music to the ears of Sport England, meanwhile, SIRC thinks that a rise in community-based investment in fitness clubs is likely to trigger an increase in participation.

It also expects spectator sports to record a rise in attendance this year, following record attendances at Ascot, Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix during 2011.

On a more sombre note, the revenue fall at sports-related publications is put at around 5 per cent, which would make this sector the biggest loser in Britain's sporting economy.

In the words of SIRC co-head Professor Simon Shibli: "The sport industry continues to be resilient, outstripping the economy as a whole during boom times and contracting less during leaner times."

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