Skip to content

Community Leisure Recovery Fund

A £5 million fund to help community-run leisure centres and facilities reopen, providing a vital service to their local area.

Please note, the fund is now closed to submissions.

About the fund

The Community Leisure Recovery Fund (CLRF) aimed to support community-run leisure centres in England with £5 million of National Lottery investment to assist the reopening and recovery of their services.

It was an open fund allocated over a single funding round in April and covers the period from 1 April to 30 September 2021.

Leisure centres play a vital role in helping people to be active and community-run facilities are an important part of delivering the health, wellbeing and community benefits that come as a result.

Recent insight from Community Leisure UK suggests many community-run facilities are reducing their services or facing permanent closure – threatening our nation’s recovery from coronavirus (Covid-19).

Lane swimming at a public indoor swimming pool.

This funding focuses on supporting those who provide a general leisure offer – for example, a mix of swimming, sports hall, fitness, health and wellbeing and other facilities – that’s open to all members of the community.

It was targeted at organisations who own or have a long-term lease for a community leisure centre that’s open to the community, but don’t have any contractual obligation or receive income from a local authority to deliver leisure services.

The facility must be an integral part of the local public leisure provision, with community leisure service provision being its primary purpose.

This fund wasn’t designed to support sports clubs or member-only facilities like bowls, tennis or other similar clubs.

Many organisations eligible for the CLRF may not have been included in their local authority’s bid for the £100m National Leisure Recovery Fund, provided by the Exchequer.

Those who were could still have applied to this fund, but should have expected to receive less support than other applicants.

We recognise this funding can’t solve all the challenges facing local leisure services because of the pandemic, but we’re confident this investment will make a significant contribution to reopening valued community assets at a time when they’re needed most.

In addition to funding, recipients of the CLRF also received bespoke support to help inform their recovery planning, guide improvements, train their workforce and complete coronavirus risk assessments.

Key information

There was one round of applications for organisations managing a community-run leisure centre.

The fund opened at noon on 6 April and closed at noon on 29 April – applications not submitted by this time won’t be accepted.

What could be applied for?

We have limited funds available and to help reach as many communities as possible you could only apply for up to £50,000.

We considered applications requesting a higher amount, but a decision to award more than £50,000 was only made in exceptional circumstances.

We anticipated a very high demand for the fund and only bodies meeting the eligibility criteria and demonstrating strong alignment with the fund’s core objectives were encouraged to apply.

Funding objectives and priorities

The CLRF's key aim was to help with the reopening of eligible community-owned leisure centres post-lockdown, and to support recovery of the community-owned leisure sector, to a position of sustainable operation over the medium-term.

  • Objectives

    The objectives of the CLRF were to:

    • ensure the continuation and reopening of community-owned leisure centres following the third period of national restrictions in England
    • provide the best chance of recovery to a position of sustainable operation over the medium to long-term
    • sustain the delivery of open/non-membership/pay-as-you-play activities (such as swimming) and access to facilities that support such activity
    • to enhance health and wellbeing and support physical activity across England, contributing to the government’s objectives around healthy lifestyles, reducing obesity and addressing widening inequality.

    This investment is intended to ensure that, by early summer 2021, successful applicants are either:

    • fully or partially reopened (subject to continued coronavirus restrictions); or
    • operating on a sustainable, cost-efficient basis so that, where relevant, they can reopen more fully at a later date.
    Read less
  • Priorities

    We gave priority to those applications with the following:

    • Evidence there’s a viable plan to reopen facilities in the period April to September 2021
    • Evidence of a coherent recovery plan that’s consistent with the information provided
    • Evidence of proactive work being undertaken to encourage the community to return to play at the leisure centre
    • Evidence of activities that support the most vulnerable in society and add significant social value
    • Evidence the funding is required to enable facilities and/or activities to reopen that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible
    • Evidence that reopening a facility will increase accessibility of physical activity to wider community groups

    We also gave priority to organisations:

    • narrowing the inequalities gap in sport and physical activity with their community offer
    • supporting groups and people in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, people on lower incomes, disabled people, people with long-term health conditions and people experiencing a greater burden of care because of coronavirus
    • without significant levels of reserve funding available to utilise.
    Read less

Who and what we're funding

  • Who could apply?

    Organisations responsible for the management and operation of a leisure centre that’s open to the community.

      ‘Open to the community’ means any member of the public can access the facilities on a pay-as-you-play basis and membership is not required.

      A leisure centre will most often combine a typical facility mix of swimming pool, sports hall and fitness facilities, but will often have additional facilities.

      For the purpose of this fund, a facility can be included in the application if it:

      • contains a range of facilities typically found within a leisure centre (although a stand-alone swimming pool will be acceptable) and
      • provides a range of the activity areas typically included within such facilities.

      We've referred to these as primary activity areas for the purpose of this fund. They are:

      • swimming pools
      • health and fitness suites
      • exercise studios
      • sports halls
      • artificial grass pitches.

      Please note, there may be additional activity areas within the facility and these can be included in the submission as part of the wider offer of the facility as a whole. But the facility must include a range of the primary activity areas.

      Read less
    • Who couldn't apply?

      The following types of organisations/bodies couldn't apply to the CLRF:

      • Local authorities
      • Town and parish councils
      • Leisure trusts or providers operating leisure facilities on behalf of a local authority
      • Private leisure facility providers
      • Sports clubs
      • National governing bodies (NGB) of sport or trust structures developed through NGB initiatives
      • Educational establishments
      • A commercial/for-profit entity
      • An individual or sole trader.
      Read less
    • What we're funding

      The CLRF was available to support the difference between income and expenditure for the period of 1 April-30 September 2021.

      This enabled community-run leisure facilities to reopen or partially reopen post-lockdown, where this offers a reasonable balance of activities and programming within coronavirus guidelines.

      Costs must be directly related to the recovery plan for this six-month period. This timescale will only be flexible if further restrictions or another national lockdown are introduced by the government.

      Read less
    • What we couldn't fund

      As this National Lottery funding is to assist your community leisure centre recovery plan for the period 1 April-30 September 2021, we couldn’t cover the following: 

      • Any costs already covered by other strands of government support such as the Job Retention Scheme.
      • Costs not directly related to the reopening of the leisure centre in line with the government’s roadmap
      • Costs incurred before 1 April 2021
      • Costs incurred after 30 September 2021
      • Capital expenditure relating to repairs and routine maintenance, and any expenditure on repairs that’s already covered by insurance
      • Costs associated with mothballing facilities that won’t reopen before 30 September 2021
      • Financing costs associated with capital expenditure undertaken since 20 March 2020
      • Anything not related to the operation of the leisure centre and doesn’t support the delivery of community leisure activities.
      Read less
    • Next steps

      Once an application’s been submitted via the online application form, you’ll receive an email notification to confirm receipt.

      We’ll review the application to confirm it meets the requirements of the fund. If the application meets these requirements:

      • we’ll request some detailed financial and operational information about your recovery plan to help inform our assessment and final decision
      • during the assessment, if we require further information, this will be requested via email to the contacts provided in the application form.

      We’ll notify you of the outcome of your application as soon as we can. This will be dependent upon the demand on the fund. However, we expect this will be no later than the end of June 2021.

      If successful, you’ll receive an award offer by email with our terms and conditions, along with our monitoring and evaluation requirements.

      It’ll also contain some forms for you to complete and return. Once the award is accepted, the funds will be transferred in one transaction by BACs to your nominated bank account within 14 days. 

      If your application isn’t successful, we’ll let you know the reason why.

      Read less

    Frequently asked questions

    • Can I submit additional information to support my application?

      The application form will capture all the information we require for the first phase.

      We’ll ask for further detailed information for us to fully understand your recovery plan in the second phase.

      Read less
    • What’s the support package you’ll offer?

      For successful applicants the award offer will include a ‘support package’.

      This will be delivered by Right Directions, who are contracted to Sport England to deliver Quest and Quest Prime Assessments.

      Applicants will receive funding for two days of support, which can be bespoke to the applicant’s needs but will include an assessment plus a package of support that may include workforce development, development of Covid-secure risk assessments or support writing a Covid recovery plan.

      Read less
    • What's a recovery plan?

      A recovery plan will include:

      • What facilities you propose to reopen using this funding, and why?
      • What activities you propose to re-establish using this funding, and why?
      • Your rationale for this recovery plan and why you think it’s deliverable
      • Your longer term (post 1 October 2021) plans.


      We want to understand:

      • What facilities and activities will be available to service users when facilities reopen
      • Why you think this balance of facilities and activities is appropriate and warrants support from the fund
      • how the activities offered will help with sustainability
      • About the facilities and the activities you’re reopening that address the needs of society’s most vulnerable
      • About your proposed approach to encouraging service users to return to your facilities and increase participation in physical activity. This should cover areas such as marketing activity and special offers, where applicable
      • What the mix of facilities and activities could look like beyond 1 October 2021.
      Read less
    • What do you mean by impact?

      We need to understand what the impact of the CLRF would be. We need to know what facilities and activities you’ll be able to reopen with the funding that you wouldn’t be able to open otherwise.

      • We want you to tell us what the funding is enabling you to reopen/deliver that wouldn’t have been possible without this funding
      • We want you to tell us the % of facilities you’re able to reopen compared to the pre-coronavirus period and the period between the three national lockdowns and tiered restrictions. We also want to know the facilities this funding is enabling you to keep open and avoid further constraints on public sector leisure provision
      • We’re particularly interested in you telling us about the activities and facilities you’re reopening that have the greatest social value
      • We want to hear how the proposed range of facilities and activities will enhance health and wellbeing, support physical activity and contribute to government objectives around healthy lifestyles, reducing obesity and addressing widening inequalities
      Read less

    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.