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Return to Play: Community Asset Fund

Capital awards of between £10,001 and £50,000 will help clubs and community groups adapt and open important places and spaces, so that sport and physical activity can happen during the pandemic.

About the fund

The Return to Play: Community Asset Fund is for new applications focused solely on helping support clubs and community groups through the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic to return to play.

It's designed to provide capital funding to help local sports clubs and organisations to adapt and open important places and spaces so people within their community can return to play and physical activity, safely. The focus is on responding to the immediate challenges of sports and physical activity returning to play this autumn.

There are some important changes to how this funding will operate, compared to how our pre-coronavirus Community Asset Fund operated. These are:

  • Your project must be about addressing the challenges you're now facing because of coronavirus and linked to a return to play. At this time, we’ll not be funding general capital works.
  • The minimum level of funding available is £10,001 - for anything less than this, please see our Return to Play: Small Grants fund.
  • The maximum level of funding available is £50,000 - this is to ensure we can fund more clubs and groups.

Funding priorities

As the regulations regarding what's appropriate for each sport continue to change, we'll regularly review the fund's priorities to ensure it responds to the challenges faced by those clubs and community groups most in need.

We'll assess your project against the current guidance on safely returning to the activity you provide, and we'll be unable to make awards that go against that guidance - even if it was correct at the time the application was submitted.

Please ensure you only apply for funding if your project Is ready to start within six weeks.

Decisions on awards will be guided by our current funding priorities, with the majority of funding directed towards projects meeting our highest priority.

We also have 'other funding priorities' which we'll also use to prioritise applications.

Highest priority

  • Projects located in areas of high deprivation, including rural areas (decile 1-3 of the Indices of Deprivation). To see which decile your project location fits into, you can use this postcode checker

Other funding priorities

  • Organisations working with 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.
  • Organisations that don't have a significant level of reserve funding available to utilise.

Sports and activities

Our funding will support projects delivering recognised sport and physical activity – a full list of which can be found here.

We won't be able to fund football-only projects - please see our 'Who and what we'll fund' section for more details

Tennis players on hard courts, after coronavirus restrictions are eased

Who and what we'll fund

  • Who can apply

    You don't have to be a sports organisation to apply, however, sport should be an established and significant part of what you do.

    Your organisation can apply if you're:

    • a not-for-profit voluntary group or sports club
    • a not-for-profit community club or organisation
    • a registered charity 
    • a not-for-profit company
    • a community interest company (CIC) or other social enterprise
    • a leisure operator, operating a single site.

    Please note that to apply for a grant in excess of £25,000 you must either own your community asset or have a lease agreement, with ideally seven years or longer remaining, that allows you, with the landlord's consent, to make any necessary adaptations.

    If you have any queries on this, please contact our funding helpline on 03458 508 508, or email funding@sportengland.org.

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  • Who can't apply

    There are some entities we won't currently be able to fund through our return to play funding.

    Your organisation can't apply if you're:

    • an individual or sole trader
    • a statutory body or educational establishment - including academies and universities
    • a leisure centre operator, operating more than one site
    • a national governing body (NGB) or Active Partnership
    • a commercial/for profit entity
    • an organisation delivering football-only activities.

    Through various funds, we're committing up to £220.5 million of funding to help the sport and physical activity sector through the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

    You can find out more information about this package, which is a combination of National Lottery and government money, here.

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  • What we can fund

    Applications will be welcomed for projects seeking to implement adaptations needed to ensure clubs and community facilities can reopen safely and operate within the government's/NGB's rules and guidance.

    This could be a project to:

    • adapt the way you use a place or space to meet return to play guidance, e.g. by creating a one-way circulation system, improving ventilation, or access arrangements
    • convert an existing space to help meet social distancing requirements, such as additional changing accommodation, showers etc.
    • make improvements to a building or open space to enable activity to take place as a temporary arrangement, such as as a vacant warehouse, shop or community centre
    • cover an outdoor area or install temporary floodlights to enable activity to take place.

    Your project must be for fixed permanent, or semi-permanent, capital works and applications for non-coronavirus related works will not be accepted during this time.

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  • What we won't fund

    Unfortunately, we can't fund everything, and this fund won't cover:

    • projects not clearly related to coronavirus challenges
    • revenue-only projects (for example, additional facility hire, volunteer training, cleaning, signage/floor marking etc.) - please see our Return to Play: Small Grants fund
    • construction/refurbishment projects where building regulations approval or planning permissions have not yet been obtained
    • routine maintenance and repairs resulting from wear and tear
    • retrospective funding, i.e. paying for works you’ve already completed
    • projects not ready to begin within six weeks from submitting your application
    • football-only projects*.

    *We already directly fund the Football Foundation, which funds a range of football projects. If you have a football-only project, we suggest contacting your FA County Association.

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  • We can't fund everything

    We know from experience that all our capital funding programmes are oversubscribed, which means we must make some tough decisions.

    Please be aware that we only have limited funds available and therefore can't fund everything we'd like to, including some really good projects - if we can't fund your project, we'll tell you why.

The research you need

  • Target audiences

    We carry out a lot of research to help you with your application – the information below outlines some of the findings relating to the target audiences for this fund.

    People who feel worried or anxious about contracting coronavirus for a prolonged period

    • Concerns about contracting coronavirus and worries about the safety of family members, including those still shielding, can undermine good intentions to be active. We know from previous Active Lives data that people with medium-high levels of anxiety are already less active.
    • 7-in-10 adults remain worried about exercising with others and report they’d feel safer exercising at home rather than public spaces. Many people are not returning to their pre-coronavirus activity choices and may never return.
    • This demonstrates the importance of working with providers to find simple ways to manage this worry and anxiety as they reopen and restart, e.g. ongoing reassurance around key issues like hygiene, proximity to others and policing behaviour.
    • The longer people don't return to the activities they were doing before in the places and spaces they once did, the more challenging it’ll be for us to change their behaviours back.

    People disproportionately affected financially as a result of coronavirus

    • The financial uncertainty as a result of coronavirus has had a profound impact on people’s ability to be active.
    • For many people, a reduction in disposable income is leading to a reduction in sport or leisure spend, e.g. memberships and subscriptions, and this is likely to be further impacted by the ending of the furlough scheme.
    • In addition to this, we know people on lower incomes have less mental bandwidth to think about doing other things (such as being active). The chaos which can be caused by financial difficulties means people are less likely to be thinking about being fit and healthy.
    • Activities that are easy to do (reduce friction for this group)/free/low cost/provide good value for money, are likely to become more and more appealing and providers need to consider hybrid models to maintain their audiences in the short term. 

    People experiencing a greater burden of care because of coronavirus

    • A wide range of research suggests women have taken on greater amounts of caring responsibilities and 72% of parent carers of disabled children provided more care during lockdown than before.
    • For many, this means less available time and significantly reduced mental bandwidth to think about being active. Many continue to worry about the impacts of coronavirus on those they care for.
    • The gradual return to workplaces and children returning to school, education and childcare may create an increase in time, for some, and the bandwidth to think about being active again.
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How much can I apply for?

No two places or spaces are the same and you and your organisation know better than us what your immediate need may be.

Only you are best placed to shape your project and the funding request that you make to us, but if you’re unsure and need to talk it through, our advisors can be reached on our funding helpline by calling 03458 508 508.   

We know small and medium-scale capital awards can make a significant difference, therefore we envisage a typical award would fall into one of two categories.

  • Small-scale investments ranging from £10,001 to £25,000:

    • the investment will address any immediate works required to adapt your place or space to enable a safe return to play.
  • Medium-scale investments ranging from £25,001 to £50,000:
    • the investment will address more substantial, but still immediate, changes that may be required to a facility or space.

We don’t expect to make large-scale awards of more than £50,000. If you’re seeking a higher investment we recommend you email funding@sportengland.org to discuss your specific situation, before starting an application.

Likewise, if you’re seeking investment of £10,000 or below, please see the information on our Return to Play: Small Grants fund.

Applying

To apply for this fund, you’ll need to do so via our dedicated Community Asset Fund Application Hub, which you'll find a link to lower down this page. There you’ll be able to work on your application when it’s convenient to you and submit when you’re ready.

If you're an existing Community Asset Fund awardee, please contact your case manager initially before submitting a new application.

After you've applied

We aim to let you know our decision within three weeks. If we need some more information, we may contact you.

Please be aware that we only have limited funds available and therefore we can’t fund everything we’d like to, including some really good projects. If we can’t fund your project, we'll tell you why.

If I'm successful, what happens next?

If we like your project and decide to fund it, we’ll need you to provide some additional documents (no need to submit them with your application).

Based on what is described, the standard information we may require is:

  • evidence of your organisation’s governance arrangements, such as a constitution
  • evidence of financial accounts
  • evidence of an organisational bank account
  • evidence of security of tenure – this would either be a lease or freehold
  • evidence of appropriate safeguarding policies – all organisations we invest in will need to show they have appropriate procedures in place.

If you’re unsure of the requirements for any of these documents, please contact us on 03458 508 508, via webchat, or email funding@sportengland.org.

We'll also be asking all projects to complete a short survey, once any awarded funds have been paid in full, to help us learn and share best practise. This will include providing a before and after photograph of any work carried out - see our photo and video guide for advice

What about non-coronavirus capital funding?

Whilst we’re currently prioritising funding to directly respond to the challenges facing the sport and physical activity sector, we hope to revert to non-coronavirus related funding in due course.

In the meantime, please visit our dedicated page to learn more about other ways to generate funding.

To receive the latest news about our funding programmes, please sign up to our newsletter using the form at the bottom of this page.

Apply now

Start your Return to Play: Community Asset Fund application.

Application hub

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