New figures released have revealed a worrying reduction in interest in five of the top seven participation sports, including swimming and football.

Swimming - in participation terms the country’s most popular sport - is down 88,000 to 3,156,300, while football has dropped by 54,700 to 2,090,000.

Golf (87,400), tennis (50,000), bowls (31,000), rugby union (36,100), cricket (32,900) and basketball (34,200) have also suffered.

Funding is provided to Sport England by the National Lottery and the Government before being redistributed.

For the four-year period of 2009 to 2013, they have planned to invest £25.6million into football, £20.88million into swimming and £30.72million into rugby union.

Jennie Price, Sport England’s chief executive, insists it is time for governing bodies to begin demonstrating they have the capacity to increase grassroots involvement.

“We’ve pushed really hard and a number of sports have come up with very good plans - football and cricket for example,” said Price.

“They just need to get on and implement those plans, but the jury’s out on whether national governing bodies can really drive mass participation.

“They have to prove over the next 12 months that they can, otherwise we’ll have to start thinking about reducing the funding.

“It varies according to the sport, but if they’re not showing significant improvement in 12 months, reductions will be on the table.”

The size of swimming and football ensures that their decline has a major impact on the overall growth of grassroots sport.

Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, wants to see tangible results from the injection of public money.

“During the comprehensive spending review we fought hard to get a good settlement for sport, keeping the Whole Sport plans in place,” said Robertson.

“Now it’s vital to see a return from the investment sports get from the public purse.

“We also need sports governing bodies to step up to the plate and deliver.”

Netball has emerged as one of the success stories with participant numbers up by over 26,000, an increase of a fifth in the size of the sport in two years.