Screen teens switch off sport

Article date: 2 June 2009

  • Aviva UKA Academy launches after shock figures reveal teenagers’ participation in sport at new low

Global insurer Aviva is transforming its multi-million pound grassroots sport programme after new research revealed that teenagers spend over 20 times longer in front of a television or computer screen than they do playing sport.

The startling collapse in sporting participation among 12 to 16 year olds was uncovered by Aviva, formerly Norwich Union, following the results of an in-depth survey of families across Great Britain.

Aviva, sponsor of UK Athletics, report that:

  • Teens are spending just two hours playing sport per week compared to 45 hours in front of TV or computer1
  • Two thirds of Britain’s teens are not receiving any encouragement from their parents to play sport2
  • Girls are abandoning sport at an even greater rate, dropping from their fourth rated activity in 2005 to seventh favourite in 2008

With government statistics warning that by 2050 some 90% of today’s children will be overweight3, 25% will be classed as "obese" and one in six categorised as "chronically obese", this decline in sports participation threatens to have enormous implications for British society.

In a bit to combat this trend, Aviva and UK Athletics (UKA) have today teamed up with Olympic 400m gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu to unveil a whole new approach to grassroots sport – the Aviva UKA Academy - designed to provide opportunities for every child in the UK to get active.

Aviva’s report also unearthed parents are not assuming responsibility and guiding their children into physical activities, but instead allowing computers and television to increasingly dominate their daily lives.

Aviva UKA Academy ambassador, Christine Ohuruogu says: “The first steps to me winning Olympic and World gold medals were taken as a youngster when I tried out different sports. Just having a go at a few different things helped me discover my ability as an athlete. The encouragement I got both at home and the inspiration I received from my school PE teacher ended up changing my life. Of course playing computer games can be fun, but nothing replaces the lessons you learn and the sense of achievement you get by playing sport with friends.”

As the team behind UKA for over a decade, Aviva is one of the biggest investors in grassroots sport in the UK, with a third of its investment in the sport going into the Aviva UKA Academy.  Aviva's investment to date has helped over seven million children participate in athletics, and by 2012 the company will have invested a total of £20.5m, providing opportunities for every single child in the UK to get involved.

With six different schemes, new indoor and outdoor competition and awards structures, the Aviva UKA Academy aims to engage and attract children to the sport, regardless of age, level or ability. The programme ranges from teacher training tools to inter schools competitions, disability sport recruitment and after school and summer holiday programmes.

Niels de Vos, chief executive, UK Athletics added: “Since athletics was dropped from the school curriculum we have relied heavily on the support of Aviva to drive athletics in schools and provide children with the opportunity to take part in the number one Olympic sport. The Aviva UKA Academy will help us to continue developing talented athletes, increase participation and create a legacy for the sport up to and beyond 2012.”

Mark Hodges, chief executive, Aviva UK Life, comments: "We’re extremely proud of the impact that our investment in athletics has had at all levels of the sport over the past decade. This week saw us complete our journey from Norwich Union to our global customer brand Aviva. While our name may have changed, our commitment to UK Athletics and the health and well-being of the next generation remains as strong as ever. Our unparalleled support will ensure that the Aviva UKA Academy provides every child in the UK the opportunity to participate in athletics and reap the many benefits of being active - as well as hopefully unearthing some future champions along the way.”

For more information on the Aviva UKA Academy please visit 


Media contacts:

Stephanie Burke 
0207 413 3084 / 07866 899 075

Ben Goldhagen 
0207 413 3127 / 0784 102 7002

Penny Brogan 
07800 692 037

Notes to editors:

About the research
Report commissioned by Aviva and conducted by ICM in May 2009 with 1000 children aged 8-16. Additional research conducted by ICM in 18 December – 6 January 09 with 300 parents with children aged 8-16

1 Teenagers refers to 12-16 year olds questioned

2 65.3% of teenagers aged 12-16 said their parents do not tell them to play sports

3 Foresight Report published in 2007, the Government's "think tank" on science and technology issues.

About the Aviva UKA Academy
The Aviva UKA Academy is home to six distinct grassroots schemes each designed to provide children, teachers and parents with a fresh look at the sport of athletics. From unearthing disability talent to providing teachers will the right coaching tools, the Academy provides a 3600 / 365 day approach to the development of grassroots athletics.

Aviva Elevating Athletics – Giving teachers the tools they need…

  • This scheme provides a first-class resource pack along with focused workshops, aimed at assisting teachers and coaches in the planning of fun, engaging and relevant sessions for kids of all abilities. These emphasise how athletics is the base for all sporting movement – developing the athleticism required to run, jump or throw.

Aviva Awards - Recognising personal bests…

  • An individual awards programme used by schools and clubs to recognise and reward personal development in athletics.

Aviva StarTrack – Helping to develop your skills…

  • This programme provides year-round coaching and training opportunities after school, during holiday periods and at weekends to help children hone their skills.

Aviva Sportshall – A first taste of athletics competition…

  • This series of events introduces children to the competitive element of athletics and the real variety that it has to offer through a series of local, regional and national events.

Aviva Home Countries School Championships - Showcasing tomorrow’s champions…

  • The Grand Prix event  of the Schools Sports calendar,  providing the most talented young athletes with the chance to earn a National “Vest” for the very first time.

Aviva Parallel Success – Unearthing talent with a chance of Paralympic glory…

  • Designed to encourage disabled people to look at the different events on offer and to try the sport for the first time. The aim is to uncover talented athletes that the sport can support to pursue the sport, giving them a chance for glory.

About Aviva
Aviva has been the team behind UK Athletics since 1999 and is committed to developing the sport at every level from the playground to the podium.

This year we’ll have put on six world class athletics events on home soil and supported the Aviva GB & NI Team as they prepare for major championships. Through the Aviva UKA Academy it is anticipated that by 2012, we’ll have given every child in the UK the opportunity to get involved in athletics.

Aviva is the world’s fifth largest* insurance group, serving 50 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

We are the largest insurance services provider in the UK and one of the leading providers of life and pension products in Europe.

The Aviva media centre at includes images, company and product information and a news release archive.

For more information on our athletics sponsorship visit

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