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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 £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 financial package as a whole included up to £35m for a Community Emergency Fund, £115m of funding rollover for partners, the £16.5m 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 - this has yet to be allocated but the details of each of the other 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 brings 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 delay in readmission of spectators to live sporting events, caused by coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions in the UK, has put sports organisations across the country in jeopardy.

As a result, the government has created a £600 million funding programme to support those organisations through the pandemic.

The programme's been delivered in two phases, responding directly to the government's coronavirus policy - and we've managed both of them.

Phase 1 was the Winter Survival Package and has now allocated £300m to organisations affected by coronavirus restrictions.

Phase 2, the Extended Survival Package, is another £300m fund and is now being administered as restrictions continue to affect spectator numbers.

As well as managing the package, we also have representation on the independent decision-making board.

Find out more about the Sport Survival Package

We’ve 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 are three parts to this fund - two of which have been 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.

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.

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’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 doesn't 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 the sector now faces.   

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’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.


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 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.

The open call is now closed to submissions.

Find out more about the open call


As part of delivering on these 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 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 was then 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 described above, and we therefore won’t be adding further conditions to our award, there are other things to consider. 

We produced the Shaping Our Future document, ahead of publishing our 10-year strategy, Uniting the Movement, in January 2021, and we hope you continue to take the chance to share your views on it with us.

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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