Priority Groups

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Focus On

Lower socio-economic groups

Around 12 million adults in England are in a lower socio-economic group, which is defined by a combination of occupational and economic criteria. People's economic status reflects their income from work or investments and property they own. Young people’s economic status is usually determined by their parents' income and wealth. Sport and physical activity should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background. 


Sport England’s Active Lives Survey shows that across sport and physical activity, there is a stubbornly persistent gap in the levels of participation between people from higher and lower socio-economic groups. It’s often difficult to understand why that gap in participation persists, and the reason is not easily identifiable. A complex backdrop of economic and health inequalities magnifies the impact of barriers to getting active felt by all (such as confidence or knowing where to go, to cost, lack of time and appropriate opportunity.) There isn’t one single reason for inactivity among those in lower socio-economic groups, there are many. 

What exactly do we mean by lower socio-economic groups?

Are we defining their income, job classification, or where they live? It’s easy to fall back on ambiguous and misleading terms such as ‘class’, but there’s no simple comparisons between rich and poor, or ‘upper class’, ‘middle class’ and ‘working class’. When we talk about lower socio-economic groups, it’s important to recognise the rich diversity and variety within communities. 

It’s critical to focus on individuals – who are they? What are their lives like? What barriers and challenges to physical activity and football do they face? 

We've listed some extra resources for you to refer to below:

Key Insights

About a third of the UK population is defined as being part of a lower socio-economic group. It’s important to recognise that there is a great deal of variation and complexity within any group or community of this size, so your approach should be  tailored to the people you want to work with. There is a stubbornly persistent gap in levels of participation between individuals from higher and lower socio-economic groups, but that does not mean everyone from lower socio-economic groups is inactive. 

Often this group enjoys many positive lifestyle aspects of which they are very proud, for example close knit communities and networks, which can be hugely beneficial to any project. 

Get to know and understand your audience - they are real people with ideas about their local community. 

Don’t make assumptions about their lives and barriers to being active. Take the time to listen and really understand individuals and their unique circumstances. 

Football has always played an important role in the community – it’s the 4th most popular activity within lower socio-economic groups after walking, going to the gym & swimming.


  • Focus on the positive aspects of their lives and identify areas that can be optimised as part of your project.
  • Take time to understand the community and identify their positive assets. Build a connection with your audience by developing community led interventions – work 'with’, not ‘to’ your audience.
  • Forget preconceptions. Even well-meaning interventions can be perceived as do-gooding, patronising, or preaching if they are not developed in partnership with the community. This is especially the case if those implementing the interventions do not understand the realities of their lives or cultural values.
  • Be aware of unconscious bias which can lead to an unhelpful set of conclusions, many of which are untrue and counterproductive.
  • There may be various barriers to playing football and taking part in other activities, including a lack of time, self-consciousness (e.g. ability and kit), bad weather and public safety.

Lower socio-economic groups face multiple challenges, and considerations should be made in making sport and physical activity attractive, affordable, and accessible. Part of any engagement should be to gain insight into the following areas to address some of the challenges:

ACTIVITY – What and how? Activation may be important to this group. Are there particular activities the community would like to see? Would this be informal or formal? Could other sports or activities make it more attractive to more people? 

COST – How much? How often? What are the kit requirements? Costs of attending sessions or equipment may be a barrier. This should be considered when speaking to the audience and planning where sessions take place. 

LOCATION – Where? This audience is more likely to require a convenient location close to home. Travelling may be a barrier to taking part in activities.  

ACCESSIBILITY – When and how? Activities should take place at times that work for your audiences. For example, shift workers may not be able to take part in activities in the evening, or childcare issues may present challenges.

MOTIVATION – Why? Activities must be as easy and welcoming as possible and available on people’s doorstep. Opportunities to socialise help ensure continued attendance at sessions.

Considerations and potential challenges

  • Think carefully about the location of your facility relative to the audience you wish to engage and try to address the barriers to participation within that location. If the audience feels a sense of belonging at your facility, they’re more likely to participate. Involving local people at an early stage will help build these relationships. Consider public transport options and the physical environment. Accessibility and safety are important considerations. Speak to local group leaders about engaging people who will have to make travel arrangements to get to your venue. Is it realistic to expect people to travel? Could travel support be provided? 
  • Lower socio-economic groups have often been described as ‘hard to reach’, but this is not necessarily true, it may be because the term can be deemed negative by those you are trying to engage with so individuals don't want to identify as part of the group. Also the systems have simply not been in place. Engaging with these audiences may require more effort due to language, cultural, economic barriers or other underlying challenges. Consider an open day, an activity day, or events connecting with local schools.   
  • Social Media is an effective engagement tool. Facebook can be a great way to reach others and is often used by community organisations to interact with their audiences. 
  • Many youth clubs engage young people. You could involve them through a youth forum, which would empower young people to have a voice, feel that they are being listened to and take ownership of the project.
  • Playing sport can feel less important in the face of day-to-day pressures. Organised football teams and formal training sessions may feel unrealistic. How can you adapt your offer to make it more informal, less intimidating, and more inclusive? It’s important to ask people what they would like to do if they had the opportunity. This is your chance to create something people really value and would be interested in attending on their terms.