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Funding, innovation and flexibility


In March 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 in the pot for the Community Emergency Fund, bringing the total pot to £210m.

And in October we added the Return to Play Fund, totalling £16.5m - £10.5m of which is new funding, with £6m being repurposed from the initial £210m pot - and consisting of three separate funding strands.

The details of each separate fund making up the £220.5m total can be found below.

£16.5m Return to Play Fund

There are three parts to this new fund. Two have been adapted from pre-coronavirus funds, with one extended, and all three will now focus on supporting a safe return to play.

Return to Play: Small Grants will make awards of between £300 and £10,000, from a total pot of £10m, to help sport and activity groups, clubs and organisations respond to the immediate challenges of returning to play in a coronavirus-safe way.

This could include the costs incurred by having to deliver activity in smaller groups than normal, or having the correct hygiene and safety equipment.

Return to Play: Community Asset Fund will make 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 could include the costs incurred by converting existing space to meet social distancing guidelines, or improving a facility’s ventilation.

Return to Play: Active Together is a crowdfunding initiative that can match fund, up to £10,000, successful Crowdfunder campaigns from a pot of £1.5m.

This will help clubs and organisations raise money to cover losses of income due to coronavirus, and the partnership with Crowdfunder includes advice, guidance and training to help create a successful campaign.

Our funds

£34m Community Emergency Fund

This aims to deliver immediate funding to those most in need and builds on the success of similar previous funds such as our Flood Relief Fund.

It's specifically targeted at organisations, including those not currently supported by us, who have a role in supporting the nation to be active but who are experiencing short-term financial hardship or the ceasing of operations due to the impact of coronavirus. Organisations can apply for grants between £300 and £10,000.

Please note, this fund is now closed.

Community Emergency Fund

£5m sector partner fund

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

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

£50m sector stimulation

We believe financial support will be needed to support and stimulate the sector while restrictions are being lifted, and that organisations will 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, has formed the Tackling Inequalities Fund, 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’ll work 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.  

Details on how we propose to use the remainder of the funding will be set out in the coming weeks.

£115m funding rollover for funding partners

We’re rolling 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’s being administered through a ‘light touch process’ that does not add extra burden at this challenging time. 

This will result in certainty of funding for the next two years and will allow these organisations to focus on the longer-term response to the enormous challenge that the sector now faces.   

The partners likely to be included here are established governing bodies, Active Partnerships and wider sector partners who play a pivotal role in getting and keeping the nation active.

We’re getting in touch directly with relevant partners to confirm next steps in the coming weeks.

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

The package follows our decision to offer major flexibilities to those who currently receive funding, which you can read more about below.

A man running in the park


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 are 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 will be 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 has been earmarked for the open call from the £55m sector stimulation pot, with successful solutions possibly being awarded up to £50,000.

Please note: the open call is now closed to submissions.

Find out more about the open call


As part of delivering on these priorities, we want 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 we confirmed that, for an initial period of three months, we'd introduced significant flexibility to reflect current circumstances in how we manage that support.

This has since been extended until the end of the financial year (31 March 2021). 

We know that:

  • It may be difficult to deliver projects, programmes or events as planned – so if you receive funding from us for something specific, but it's no longer possible to deliver it, or you want, or need, to deliver it in a different form, speak to us about the changes you want to make and we can discuss funding in this new context*
  • The timings of your work may need to change from what we'd previously agreed – if you feel this is the case, please discuss with us the changes you think you might need to make and we'll support you to do that
  • The KPIs, targets and conditions within the funding agreements we have with you may not be relevant, appropriate or proportionate given the drastically changed circumstances – our focus is on achieving our key priorities around supporting the sector and encouraging people to stay active, not on asking you to report on previously agreed conditions
  • More generally, you may want to use the money you receive from us in a different way, or on different things, to respond to the current situation or to keep your organisation going – we can be clear now that you're able to do this, and should discuss with us the changes you’d like to make*
  • If we've committed to providing you, your organisation or your project with future funding or any other support, we remain absolutely committed to doing that, but we'll listen to you and be as flexible as we can be as to where, how and when that funding is deployed.

While the funding flexibility is as offered, and we therefore won’t be adding further conditions to our award, we’d like to make a related point. 

We’ve produced the Shaping Our Future document, with a view to publishing a new 10-year strategy in early 2021, and we hope you’ve taken the chance share your views on it with us. If not, or if you have new comments to make, you can do that here.

In addition to the consultation, the flexibility until March 2021 gives you the chance to understand our future direction and, if you want to partner with us to deliver our new strategy, you can prepare your consumer insights, structures and plans to be ready.

We’re not going to be too prescriptive about this as it’s for each partner/organisation to make their own decisions but we’d love to make a fast start on the new strategy in April 2021, which hopefully means lots of partners being willing and able to help us deliver it.

If you wish to discuss this further, please do this with your point of contact within Sport England, or you can get in touch with us using, calling us on 03458 508 508 or using our live chat function if you want to discuss what this means for you specifically.

*Please note, we remain committed to supporting your staff at this difficult time - as such, our flexibility offer does't allow moving funding away from staff salaries to other costs.

Other support

In addition to what we've set out on this page, we'll continue to keep you informed and update you as soon as there's more information on any support we can offer to individuals and organisations alike. 

Some things we'll be able to help with, but some things will require a request to the government - whose information on business support can be found here.

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