My local authority is considering asset transfer – what help is there?

Understanding the context

Asset transfer involves transferring the management and ownership of buildings or land from a local authority to a club or community group via a long-term lease or freehold. The transfer of sporting assets such as pitches and clubhouses from local authorities to sports clubs or community organisations can potentially benefit both parties.

For the local authority the benefits include:

  • Revenue savings through reductions in operating and maintenance budgets
  • Promoting the council’s wider corporate objectives in relation to community engagement, sport, health and wellbeing.

For the community sports organisation the benefits include:

  • The opportunity to develop a permanent base with greater autonomy over management and maintenance
  • Enhanced ability to generate income, apply for external funding and improve the quality and viability of the asset.

For both parties the benefits include:

  • A better environment in which to grow participation in sport and create more sustainable sporting organisations in the community
  • Developing clubs or community groups which can act as catalysts for local enterprise, skills development, employment and volunteering.

Opportunities for asset transfer have typically been demand-led, with an ambitious sports club or community group approaching its local authority to take over control of an asset. Increasingly, proposals are coming forward in response to the rationalisation of facilities. Key issues to consider are that:

  • Asset transfers will only be successful if the asset is fit for purpose and is capable of generating a revenue surplus or securing a stable source of guaranteed subsidy
  • Where significant refurbishment or replacement costs are required, this has to be factored into the assessment of the viability of a transfer
  • The most successful asset transfers are those that are collaborative efforts, where effective partnerships are forged and developed over time between the local authority and the receiving community-based organisation.

How can Sport England help?

Asset transfer is a complex undertaking, and requires considerable input from both sides to make it successful.

  • We have developed a Community Asset Transfer Toolkit to support both local authorities and community sports clubs through the asset transfer process. It provides a step-by-step guide to each stage of the process, with links to resources and case studies
  • Asset transfer is more likely to succeed where it can be demonstrated that the facility could be more efficiently and effectively run by a community-based organisation. Asset transfer of one or more facilities to community-based organisations can be one of the options considered when local authorities undertake an Options Appraisal of their leisure management contracts
  • Asset transfer is more likely to succeed where there is clear potential for growth in usage. The need for a facility has to be established if an asset transfer is to be viable in the long term. Our guidance on developing Playing Pitch Strategies and Assessing Needs and Opportunities for sports facilities can be used to demonstrate evidence of local need.

What's the result?

By using the material from these tools you will be able to:

  • Identify opportunities to transfer sporting assets to clubs and community-based organisations
  • Understand the circumstances in which asset transfer is and isn’t appropriate
  • Understand the challenges faced by community-based organisations in negotiating asset transfers and use this to develop a collaborative approach to working in partnership
  • Identify the level and type of support which will be required to make an asset transfer work
  • Develop policies and support systems to promote asset transfers
  • Develop a network of asset owning/controlling sports clubs which are empowered to develop their assets and grow participation in sport
  • Achieve reductions in revenue budgets for facility operations.