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Funding, innovation and flexibility


In March 2020 we committed a financial package of up to £195 million of government and National Lottery funding, to help the sport and physical activity sector through the ongoing crisis. 

In May this was boosted by a further £15m, which was added to the Community Emergency Fund, bringing the total pot to £210m.

And in October we added the Return to Play Fund, totalling £21.5m - £15.5m of which is new funding, with £6m being repurposed from the initial £210m pot - and consisting of three separate funding strands.

The financial package as a whole included up to £35m for a Community Emergency Fund, £115m of funding rollover for partners, the £21.5m Return to Play Fund and £55m for key programmes and to promote innovation.

Then in January 2021, alongside our new Uniting the Movement strategy, we also announced a further £50m of funding to help the sector recover and reinvent - the details of each of the separate funds making up the £270.5m total can be found below.

Join the Movement

Since March 2020, we’ve also invested £3m of National Lottery funding into our Join the Movement campaign designed to show what activity is possible during lockdown and promote its benefits.

This included a successful social media campaign, backed by many famous sport stars and celebrities, during the first period of national lockdown in the spring.

Since then, the campaign has returned in November during the second period of national restrictions and has again been backed by sports stars including Sally Gunnell and Sir Geoff Hurst, as well as television presenters Anthea Turner and Kirsty Gallacher.

This extra support brought the total funding allocated by us towards supporting community and grassroots sport and activity, since March 2020, to almost £275m.

Extra support

We’re also assessing how to maximise the impact of additional funding, so that it supports those that need it most.

To do this, we're continuing to work with sports to determine immediate emergency needs, as well as evaluating where our funding has gone so far, what it’s achieved and what we’ve learned.

Working with the government

The government restrictions put in place due to coronavirus (Covid-19), and specifically the delay in readmission of spectators to live sporting events, put sports organisations across the country in jeopardy.

From December 2020 to March 2022, we acted as programme manager in the delivery of the up-to-£600 million funding programme to support those organisations - the Sport Survival Package.

The Sport Survival Package investment phase closed on 31 March 2022 and we continue to work with government on the management of the portfolio.

Find out more about the Sport Survival Package

We also actively supported the development of the business case, implementation and administration of the £100m funding package for local authority leisure facilities. And have since aided with successfully administering the fund.

A man running in the park

Funding breakdown

£21.5m Return to Play Fund

There were three parts to this fund - two of which were adapted from pre-coronavirus funds, with one extended, and all three focus on supporting a safe return to play.

Return to Play: Small Grants makes awards of between £300 and £10,000, from a total pot of £15m, to help sport and activity groups, clubs and organisations respond to the immediate challenges of returning to play in a coronavirus-safe way. Following national restrictions in November, it also offers up to £2,000 awards towards the running costs of organisations supporting the most deprived communities.

This fund is now closed.

Return to Play: Community Asset Fund, which is now closed, made awards of between £10,001 to £50,000, from a pot of £5m, to help local sports clubs and organisations adapt and open important places and spaces to help their local community return to play safely.

This fund is now closed.

Return to Play: Active Together is a crowdfunding initiative that can match fund, up to £10,000, successful Crowdfunder campaigns from a pot of £7.5m. The partnership with Crowdfunder also includes advice, guidance and training to help create a successful campaign.

Our funds

£35m Community Emergency Fund

This aimed to deliver immediate funding of grants between £300 and £10,000 to those most in need and built on the success of similar previous funds, such as our Flood Relief Fund.

It specifically targeted organisations, including those not currently supported by us, who have a role in supporting the nation to be active but who were experiencing short-term financial hardship or the ceasing of operations due to the impact of coronavirus.

This fund is now closed.

Community Emergency Fund

£5m sector partner fund

This fund was used to support 12 key partners in immediate financial need.

It was specifically designed to support membership-style organisations playing a crucial role to support other bodies and clubs in sport, with recipients including Community Leisure UK, Disability Sport Coach and the Association of British Climbing Walls.

£70m sector stimulation

We believed financial support would be needed to support and stimulate the sector while restrictions were being lifted, and that organisations would need help getting back to business and back to delivery. 

We also want to make sure we can quickly adapt to changes in the way society operates and that we can quickly accelerate good ideas where they emerge. Support may also be needed to re-engage front line staff, coaches and other volunteers to be ready to respond as activity habits return or change.

Part of this pot, £20m, formed the Tackling Inequalities Fund (TIF), which is designed to minimise the impact of coronavirus on the activity levels of people from under-represented groups, ensuring that the participation gaps don’t widen during this period.

It’s working with specific partners and organisations trusted by the audience, including the network of 43 Active Partnerships across England, to support local clubs and groups – ensuring the funding will reach deep into local areas, to the people in greatest need.

This has been followed with another £20m on the Together Fund, which will follow the same investment method as TIF, with the intention now to help community organisations past the survival stage and into growth. 

A further £1m was used to support our Innovation Open Call - about which more information can be found below.

And £5m went into supporting community leisure facilities to reopen and recover through the Community Leisure Recovery Fund.

£115m funding rollover for funding partners

We rolled over current funding into 2021/22 to give long-term certainty to more than 100 well-established partners who play a vital role in the delivery of sport and physical activity in England.

It was administered through a ‘light-touch' process that didn't add extra burden at the challenging time. 

This resulted in certainty of funding and allowed these organisations to focus on the longer-term response to the enormous challenge the sector faced, both financially and in encouraging people back to activity.   

Some of the partners included here are established governing bodies, Active Partnerships and wider sector partners who play a pivotal role in helping to get and keep the nation active.

Alongside this, given cashflow concerns in the sector, we also agreed to consider requests to release six months of funding (50% of awards) to our partners, meaning additional funding will be available sooner. 

The package followed our decision to offer major flexibilities to those who already received funding, which you can read more about below.


In addition to funding the sector, we also issued an open call to innovators as we looked for solutions to existing inequalities in activity levels that have been worsened by coronavirus.

The three-week call was to people and organisations that have solutions already worked up and were able to deliver a positive impact within the next six months.

Solutions were being sought to solve issues for women, people on low incomes, people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people or people with long-term health conditions, who are facing challenges to being active due to changes in their circumstances, their mental health or digital exclusion as a result of coronavirus.

Successful applicants were supported by us through a combination of advice from experts, access to our connections and industry-leading research, as well as further training and possible funding.

A total of £1m of National Lottery funding was allocated to the open call from the £55m sector stimulation pot, with successful solutions possibly being awarded up to £50,000.

The open call is now closed to submissions.

Find out more about the open call


As part of delivering on our two pandemic priorities, we wanted to offer some specific reassurances to any individual or organisation who receives funding, or any other type of support from us, for their work.

On 17 March 2020 we confirmed that, for an initial period of three months, we'd introduce significant flexibility to reflect current circumstances in how we manage that support.

This was then extended until the end of the financial year (31 March 2021). 

We then produced the Shaping Our Future document, ahead of publishing our 10-year strategy, Uniting the Movement, in January 2021.

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