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Sport for good starts at grassroots

Sported Foundation's chief executive officer explains the work they do with sports groups across the country and how the positive effects of these collaborations expand beyond any pitch.

15th March 2024

by Sarah Kaye
CEO, Sported Foundation

Grassroots groups are one of the engines of our communities. They help getting people of all ages active, but they’re more than that.

They’re also social spaces where young and old get to know one other and share experiences, and where the natter between parents forges bonds that extend beyond a club’s night.

They transform lives and can even save them.

And this is because they’re a potent channel for improving our mental and physical health, especially for our youth.

They’re truly a force for good, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour through developing positive role models and building safe spaces.

Sport for good

Grassroot groups can also lower truancy and educational disruption with programmes that cut the attainment gap, contributing massively to community cohesion in our most deprived areas.

Widening inclusion to everything from archery to yachting among the under-represented sections of society is yet another of their superpowers.

That’s why at Sported Foundation, we think that grassroot sport  is not “just” sport. “It’s sport for development. Sport for good.”

Sported is a charity and the UK's largest network of community groups.

Each year we help around 5,000 grassroots organisations across 100 different sports and activities through our programmes and our nationwide team of regional managers – an army of 300 volunteer consultants that inject business experience and skills.

A member of Sportsed Foundation talks to some kids during a rugby session.

But what do grassroots community groups need?

They mostly require practical assistance with governance, financial support (including fundraising) and forward-planning.

Every group is different, with varied shapes and sizes and a range of structures, but the majority are game-changers in underserved communities and for diverse audiences.

Some are members of national governing bodies but many – for a variety of reasons – are not.

We’ve put together a series of illustrations on our website to better explain who we are, what we do and how we do it.

The first image gives us a clear view of our our community groups, like the fact that half of our network operates with, and in, culturally diverse communities and that many work with disabled participants.

Enabling positive transformations

These groups deliver more than physical activity – they improve community cohesion, youngsters' mental health and challenge existing inequalities.

For over a decade, Sported’s mission has been to deliver the help that allows these clubs to become more resilient, ensuring they can continue to serve their communities throughout challenging times.

We also use insight from our members to inform our priorities and advocate on their behalf to local, regional and national governments.

Widening inclusion to everything from archery to yachting among the under-represented sections of society is yet another of these groups' superpowers.

Since becoming a System Partner of Sport England in 2022, our network has grown and we continue to sharpen our core offer – how and what we deliver and to whom.

The second illustration on our site explains this impact and highlights the 13% growth in members, which meant overachieving by 76% on reaching our target audience.  

The table also demonstrates how we're retaining the groups that continue to tackle the inequalities in our communities.

Plus we're also supporting other System Partners to help them achieve their goals and Sport England’s ambition of Uniting the Movement.

The third illustration highlights projects and interventions that we're engaged with or that are currently being developed with NGBs and the Active Partnerships.

It also demonstrates that there is so much more potential to grow support through our core offer, helping them overcome capacity and skills pressures.

Through our insight work (Pulse Survey) we know that organisations within our network are often unconnected to others within the system.

Our role, therefore, is to facilitate a change by:

  • connecting clubs and organisations to relevant support, to each other and the wider sector
  • widening the reach of NGBs and teaching them how to engage diverse communities, supporting change to their projects and programmes, supporting field teams in evolving their clubs and programmes to remove the unseen barriers to engagement
  • connecting Active Partnerships to the grassroots and vice versa.

Since becoming a System Partner, Sported has attracted £3.5 million into the sector from corporate funders, delivering projects and distributing grants - a net gain for everyone!

Our added value can be seen on the fourth illustration.

A great example of this is our work with the Barclays Community Football Fund which, to date, has funded nearly 2,000 community groups - often sitting outside of the traditional structures and NGBs.

Our support around the grants helped clubs grow in confidence to apply elsewhere. 

We also created a participatory grant model that saw black leaders design, implement and distribute a grant fund specifically for black-led groups.

We develop, grow and learn whilst supporting others within the system and we aim to be an effective and tireless partner in helping clubs, NGBs, or any others, achieve their strategic goals.

In the spirit of Uniting the Movement we must ensure that, collectively, we tackle the inequalities that exist for communities in accessing sport and physical activity.

We must provide support to those groups that are there for individuals and communities traditionally left behind, ensuring participants move more and helping transform lives for the better.

Find out more

Sported Foundation

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