Skip to content

Sport steps up

Our executive director for sport Phil Smith hails the efforts of those in the sport and physical activity sector who are going the extra mile to do their bit during the coronavirus crisis.

15th April 2020

by Phil Smith
Executive director of sport, Sport England

We all love sport and being active, it’s why we do what we do. Some of the enthusiasm to keep the nation moving that has been so visible in the last few weeks is brilliant.

The physical and mental benefits of sport and physical activity have never been more important than now. But it’s one of the other benefits that we’re starting to see more and more of now - sport’s role in the community.

Sport and exercise can have a profound effect on where we live. And it’s here – in our communities – that we’re seeing amazing acts of kindness, generosity and compassion from the sporting sector.

Inevitably, with so many good things going on to help out in this time of need, I can’t capture all the positives out there – but I do think it’s worth mentioning some examples of the power of sport.

Sport for good

So whether it’s Scottish javelin record holder James Campbell turning his hand to running and completing a marathon in his 6.4m-long back garden to raise almost £30,000 for the NHS, or Premier League footballers setting up a collective fund for the same cause – it’s encouraging to see everyone from individuals to big sporting organisations wanting to play their part.

James was not the only one to run a garden marathon either, as British Canoeing’s slalom coach Gareth Wilson also got in on the act – and he even did it wearing his full kit!

James Campbell runs a marathon in his back garden

Olympic champion swimmer Adam Peaty has also been getting active in his garden, but he decided to switch feet for wheels and ride 100km on a home trainer, also in aid of NHS charities.

The world record holder is also raffling off the racing trunks he wore to win Olympic gold in Rio  – following in the footsteps of Jos Buttler, who auctioned off the shirt he wore when winning the 2019 Cricket World Cup for England to raise £65,000 for two London hospitals.

Jos has also said that the England players would like their £500,000 wage donation – the result of centrally contracted players taking a 20% cut in salary – to help cricket’s grassroots initiatives.

Also in cricket, the Edgbaston cricket ground is now a drive-through coronavirus testing centre for NHS staff, while the hotel of former Manchester United players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs is being used to house NHS workers free of charge. Chelsea FC has also pledged to match donations to domestic abuse charity Refuge.

Community ventures

Also supporting the NHS are users of the exercise tracking app Strava, through a challenge of one activity a day, of at least 10 minutes, for 12 days in a row. To fully complete the challenge and gain the virtual badge, users must donate at least £5 to the NHS – which proved so successful that it raised more than £80,000 before it even began and it’s now up to nearly £400,000.  

While the Run For Heroes movement has seen more than £2 million raised for NHS Charities by people running 5km, donating £5 and nominating five other people to do the same.

A woman runs alone in a park, wearing a Good Gym t-shirt

Sticking with running, one of our funded partners Good Gym has created a function on its website allowing people to request support for vulnerable people from their members – such as delivering food and medicines, or doing basic tasks for hospital discharges. Similarly, This Mum Runs has switched away from its free group runs to delivering medication on foot.

Continuing on the volunteering theme, Active Essex is recruiting a 1,000-strong volunteering team for their programme of community support to those at greater risk from coronavirus.

While another of our funded partners, the Team 100 volunteering project, is making and delivering 200 meals a week to vulnerable adults and families in one of the most deprived areas of the country.

Team sports – despite all fixtures and training being cancelled due to the social distancing guidelines – are also chipping in, with the Rugby Football Union having compiled examples of their members’ efforts here.

And professional clubs are also doing their bit, with Premiership Rugby sides, among other things, donating to community causes and providing home learning resources for children.

A This Mum Runs volunteer holds a pharmacy bag during a delivery to a vulnerable person

Football League members are getting involved too, with players doing everything from becoming NHS volunteers to delivering food parcels.

And finally, a nod to ‘Captain Tom’, whose efforts in walking 25m laps of his garden – aiming to do 100 before his 100th birthday, on 30 April – have now seen him smash (to put it mildly) his initial £1,000 target and is up to a staggering £6 million, at last count, raised for NHS charities.

Thank you

To everyone who is helping others through these unprecedented times, we say a heartfelt thank you from everyone at Sport England.

There are also many people in the sport industry whose day job sees them doing key roles to help the nation cope during this time.

Kim Daybell and Vicky Wright are two examples – both being high performance athletes but putting their sporting careers on hold to return to work as a junior doctor and surgical ward nurse.

Club medics are also helping out on the front line, along with thousands of other key workers who would normally be enjoying their sport with the rest of us.

We thank you all.

Sign up to our newsletter

You can find out exactly how we'll look after your personal data, but rest assured we’ll only use it to make sure you receive our newsletter, to understand how you interact with our newsletter, and to provide administrative information about our newsletter.