Whatever management model you choose, it is important to be fully aware of your potential income and likely expenditure

Once your community programme is established with a sustainable business plan that includes an appropriate pricing policy, it is possible to generate income over and above covering your costs, which can then be used to renew and develop your sports provision.

Top tip

"Set realistic income targets – remember some facilities are used seasonally, and don’t assume maximum occupancy levels and maximum hire rates" Jake Collin, Access to Schools Manager, Liverpool City Council.

Simple Financial Model

can schools generate an income from community use?

Potential costs/outgoings

  • Staff costs: salaries and wages, employer's superannuation and national insurance contributions, uniforms, training, recruitment.
  • Administration costs: stationary and printing, website hosting, telephones, insurance etc.
  • Utility costs: heating (including hot showers), lighting (including floodlights for All Weather Pitches), rates, water and sewerage.
  • Repairs and maintenance: short term repairs and maintenance such as light bulbs and long term replacements such as All Weather Pitch surface.

Utility Costs

Things to consider:

The DfE recommend that community use facilities are metered separately so that you can identify the associated utility costs more accurately.

Where this is not possible, a percentage of the utility bill is generally charged to the community use budget, which has been agreed at senior management level, for example by your Community Use Steering Group and/or Governors.

Less common is a ‘pay as you go’ type arrangement for fuel bills, whereby heating is turned off unless requested by the community team and the date and time is noted and then paid back annually.

In order to balance the additional cost of utility bills you may wish to charge a higher fee during winter for some facilities to cover the cost of floodlighting, heating, hot showers etc.

Consider how you can make your facilities as energy efficient as possible and raise awareness of this with your community staff and customers. For example, encourage users to switch off lights when they leave a room, and set up a recycling programme for plastic bottles to cut down on refuse collections.

Sport England have guidance on environmental sustainability and money saving measures.

Cleaning Costs

Things to consider:

You will need to balance the financial implications of extra cleaning with the need to provide a professional service to community users.

If you are directly managing community use then this will probably include negotiating with existing contractors.

Can you change the times of current cleaning schedules to work around community use times?

Could your community use staff carry out a light clean-up prior to community use such as litter picking etc, to help avoid any potential complaints/issues?

Or could you request caretaking staff to empty bins, renew any consumables etc. if they are being paid to be on site during community use hours?

Encourage community users to leave the facilities as they have found them to minimise additional cleaning costs. You could include a clause in the lettings contract which enables you to charge a community group or club if they have left facilities in an unsuitable condition.

Catering contract

It may be appropriate to request your catering contractor to extend their opening hours to provide refreshments during community use hours. There are benefits to schools managing the catering provision in-house as this often has the potential to be a profitable venture for the school, particularly if the catering facility is located in a social area near to where the activities are taking place.

A useful starting point is to survey your community users to ascertain which days and times would be most profitable and start with those. If refreshments are booked for a school evening or weekend event then offer them to community users as well.

It could be an opportunity for catering students to try out their skills in a real work experience setting. Developing this partnership with the catering provider could then lead on to offering student apprenticeships.

Alternatively you may choose to install a healthy vending / hot drinks machine near to the community reception area with the agreement of your catering provider.

Sinking Fund

It is advisable to set aside revenue over a period of time to fund any future capital expense/life-cycle term - this is known as a sinking fund. Typically, the fund will be used for any long term maintenance and replacement/refurbishment costs such as:

  • replacement or refurbishing of sports flooring
  • cyclical redecoration
  • planned and preventative maintenance
  • Infill jetting and replacement of All Weather Pitch surface (approx every 5-10 years)

Community use will increase your footfall and usage and will therefore contribute towards an increase in your maintenance requirements, so it is important to factor this additional expense into your budget.

Downlands Community School are using their community income to fund an All Weather Pitch sinking fund. 


Whoever is financially managing your community use will need to consider the VAT implications, which to some extent, depend on the type of school. With careful planning of community use, it is possible in some instances to avoid significant VAT costs.

It is worth the school understanding the supplies and services that are exempt from VAT, such as block bookings by clubs for a series of 10 or more sessions (that also satisfy a series of conditions), continuous use exceeding 24 hours and entry fees for a sporting competition (when made by an eligible body).

View our VAT GuidanceVAT Summary and sample VAT Exemption Form.

Pricing Policy

Once the actual costs of a letting have been calculated and you understand your ‘break even’ cost per hour, you can think about your charging policy.

A useful starting point will be to carry out a benchmarking exercise of other local provision and their rates of hire for similar facilities. Include other schools or educational institutions, your LA leisure provider/ Trust and any commercial providers in your locality.

Your pricing policy will need to reflect your school vision and also present a financially viable solution. Many schools have two or three different levels of charges to their policy which are appropriate to the different sets of users:

  • A Commercial rate:  this is usually in line with other providers and will be charged to businesses and informal groups such as 5-aside use etc.
  • A Community rate: this is usually lettings charged at cost or slightly above cost to make them affordable for community groups, removing this as a potential barrier to taking part.
  • A Key user or Target group rate: this is usually offered at a reduced rate which is subsidised from external sources (e.g. grants) or surplus from other lettings. This rate is usually used for activities that will benefit students, their families and the wider community (i.e. the target groups identified in your vision). Or to an organisation in return for another service being provided to the school e.g. a basketball club that is offered a subsidised rate in return for free coaching for your students.

Example of a facility price list with commercial and concessionary rates

Example of a facility price list with adult and junior rates

As part of your Pricing and Lettings Policies you may also want to consider the ideal mix of the different rates that you will take as bookings. This will ensure you gain enough income across the bookings to subsidise your preferential groups/activities and conversely, that any key users have enough sessions made available to them to develop their role.

External funding

Sport England invest in community sport through a number of funding programmes that schools are eligible to apply for. To be successful, you will need to demonstrate how your project can help deliver one or more of Sport England’s strategic outcomes.

If you are looking for funding for community sport/club costs for a new project then the Small Grants fund will be of interest to you. 

Some examples of school projects that have been funded by Small Grants:

a)    After School Yoga Sessions aimed at increasing participation by young women aged 14-18 years. The grant funded yoga kits and coaching.

b)    Engaging the local community in non-traditional sports clubs (Weightlifting, Biking, Fencing and Trampolining). Working in partnership with the local police to reduce anti-social behaviour in the area. The grant funded bikes, safety equipment and coaches.

c)    Raising standards of performance and skill levels in Girls and Women’s cricket. Working in partnership with a cricket club the grant funded cricket nets for the sports hall to improve the quality and flexibility of club coaching.

If you are looking for capital funding to improve your community sport facilities then the Inspired Facilities programme will be the most appropriate. 

Funding Advice:

  • Allocate a ‘Fundraiser’ who will take on a lead role to collate information about your project, complete the application form, manage the application process and if successful, monitor the project.
  • Seek advice – Your CSP and LA Leisure/ Sports development department can usually provide a good source of information, guidance and signposts. Particular guidance from them will be useful regarding identifying the need for your project and setting realistic targets
  • If you are working with a club it will be advantageous if they are affiliated to their National Governing Body, as this will offer you some certainty of them being sports development driven and working towards service standards. You may already be operating or have been approached about hosting a Satellite Club
  • Think about ‘exit routes’ for your participants and ‘sustainability’ of the programme if you are requesting funding for a discreet project – Sport England will need to ensure that lottery funding is delivering value for money.

Application Advice:

  • Assume that Sport England know nothing about your project when you complete the application form. Ask an external person to read through your application form to check it makes sense.
  • Write succinctly and focus on your project rather than providing too much general information
  • Be realistic regarding your target figures and work them out logically
  • Get quotes and estimates from reliable sources when working out your breakdown of costs.
  • Sport England provide a range of helpful documents to support you in the application process – invest time up front to read and digest them, to ensure you put forward the best possible project for funding.

Here are some examples of successful school applicants:

Worthing High School Funding Case Study

Priory Academy Funding Case Study

TOP TIP: "Exploit external funding opportunities – there is still money out there but it is about identifying the right opportunities and having the skill to make successful applications. It helps to have a person with development funding as part of their role." Jon Marshall, Community and Business Development Manager at Wright Robinson College