Every year, the World Flying Disc Federation takes stock of the world ultimate community via an annual census, which is filled out by all member federations. Analyzing this census can give us a good idea of where ultimate is now and where it’s likely to head in the future.
The 2012 census results were released earlier this week and can be found on pages 96-100 of the WFDF Congress 2013 Briefing Book.
First, let’s look at the big guns: which countries have the most officially registered players?
- United States – 44,521 players
- Canada – 33,067
- Australia – 5,200
- Japan – 3,195
- Great Britain – 2,978
- Germany – 2,511
- France – 2,382
- Austria – 2,157
- Norway – 1,154 (editor’s note: the numbers for Norway represent all disc sports, ultimate being only a fraction of this number)
- Netherlands – 1,018
Using this data, we can accurately make statements about the popularity of ultimate in each country comparing against population figures. In which countries is one most likely to stumble into an ultimate player walking down the street?
- Canada – 33.4 million / 33067 = 1 in 1012 play ultimate
- Iceland – 319 thousand / 280 = 1 in 1139
- Austria – 8.4 million /2157 = 1 in 3901
- Norway – 5.1 million / 1154 = 1 in 4387
- Australia – 23.1 million / 5200 = 1 in 4440
- Singapore – 5.2 million / 1000 = 1 in 5312
Now, what about gender equity? Although no countries can claim a perfect 50/50 ratio, a few are pretty close:
- Panama – 49.2% female as a proportion of all players
- Latvia – 44.1%
- Denmark – 42.2%
- Canada – 41%
- Singapore – 40%
- Brazil – 40%
- Czech Republic – 39.8%
- Dominican Republic – 38.3%
- Finland – 38.2%
- India – 38.2%
And finally, one of the most significant indicators: growth in registered players. Which countries saw the most growth in the past year? We took a look at 2012 numbers compared to 2011 (available on page 46 of the 2012 Congress Briefing Book):
- Panama – 151% growth (51 players in 2011 to 128 in 2012)
- Italy – 82%
- China – 79%
- Hong Kong – 64%
- Israel – 60%
- Mexico – 51%
- Brazil – 36%
- Sweden – 31%
- United States – 28%
- Slovakia – 26%
Note that a few countries (Russia, Phillipines) appeared in the top ten but were eliminated them from the list because it seemed like their membership numbers were estimated. Another positive conclusion: 15 countries had over 20% growth in membership from 2011. Nearly all WFDF member countries had positive growth, with the only exceptions being Belgium (-0.4%), Finland (-6%), Hungary (-11%), and Great Britain (-15%). The Great Britain result is especially surprising, especially since anecdotal evidence seems to point to the contrary. This may have been a case of mistaken accounting in 2011, so analysis of further years would certainly paint a more accurate picture.
Apart from pure membership numbers, the census also requested information about the governing organizations themselves. Of the 45 countries for which census results were returned, 14 (31%) countries have at least one paid staff member in their sport’s governing body, with the USA having the most at 14 paid employees. Ultimate is recognized in an official sport in 20 (44%) countries, and ten of these countries receive money from the government (Sweden receives $170,000 yearly).
Overall, the results from the 2012 census certainly paint a positive picture for the future of ultimate. Along with the great news that the WFDF was recognized by the International Olympic Committee, on a country level, membership numbers are up and the sport is starting to gain official status in more and more countries. We can expect this trend to continue in the near future.
Feature photo by Scobel Wiggins – USA vs. Australia at the 2009 World Games