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Two years of Uniting the Movement

How we’re working with our partners to help everyone play sport and take part in physical activity.

26th January 2023

It’s been two years since we launched our ambitious 10-year Uniting the Movement strategy that aims to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity.

The result of a major consultation with our partners and the wider sport and physical activity sector, our new strategy represented a significant change in the way we work and reflected a new understanding of what our role could and should be in helping people to engage with activity.  

A woman using a climbing wall

Initially focussed on helping grassroots sports clubs and physical activity providers recover from the effects of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, Uniting the Movement is now primarily concerned with tackling the long-standing inequalities that make it much harder for some people to enjoy the benefits of being active than others.

“The launch of Uniting the Movement two years ago represented a turning point in the way we work and how we see our role in the sport and physical activity sector,” said Tim Hollingsworth, our chief executive.

“We could not have produced such an ambitious and transformational strategy without the involvement of the entire sector, and we won’t be able to succeed in our long-term aims without everyone involved in sport and physical activity in England playing their part.

“I’ve been delighted with the overwhelmingly positive reaction from our partners and the way the sector has collectively embraced Uniting the Movement’s ambitions.

"It’s clear there’s a shared and genuine desire to work together to create a happier, healthier nation and a united determination to tackle inequalities and provide opportunities to people and groups who’ve been left behind for too long.

“The pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge to community sport and activity in this country and, while the impact of Covid-19 is still being felt by many groups and organisations, there is plenty of optimism that through the changes we’ve made and by working together we can build on the progress of the last two years and bring about the change we all want.”

One of the biggest changes we’ve implemented since we launched our strategy in January 2021 has been the creation of long-term partnerships with more than 120 influential organisations and revolutionised our investment model.

These partnerships include traditional allies such as the Football Association, The England and Wales Cricket Board and The Rugby Football Union but, crucially, also include long-term relationships with organisations such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, parkrun and Mencap, to help them contribute to tackling inequalities and support people to access the profound physical, mental and community benefits of sport and physical activity.

This long-term approach will see organisations receive funding for up to five years, in order to provide longer-term financial security and make strategic decisions that will help bring about the change required to meet our strategy’s ambitious targets.

"It’s clear there’s a shared and genuine desire to work together to create a happier, healthier nation and a united determination to tackle inequalities and provide opportunities to people and groups who’ve been left behind for too long."

Tim Hollingsworth

Chief executive, Sport England

Expanding our hyper-local work

We've built on and expanded our work at a hyper-local level with partners across our 12 local delivery pilots, helping to integrate movement into people’s lives in a way that makes sense for where they live.

From Free Bikes in Birmingham and getting school children moving in Calderdale, to rehabilitating patients in South Tees to improve their chances of recovery after surgery, we’ve been targeting systemic barriers to activity within each community, working out what’s needed alongside partners in order to focus efforts and resources.

We’ve also built up a deep understanding of what works and what doesn't work, so while we’ll soon be expanding our place partnerships to significantly increase the number of places across England that we partner with and invest in.

Other highlights from Uniting the Movement

During the first two years of our strategy, we’ve:

  • provided critical support to 10,500 local community clubs and groups so they could keep going during coronavirus and help people return to sport and activity when it was safe to do so, through our Community Emergency Fund and Return to Play Funds.
  • supported 4,600 community organisations to specifically support groups most impacted by coronavirus, including lower-socio-economic groups, culturally diverse communities, disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. Our Together Fund is still live and is being distributed through our Active Partnership local networks.
  • seen our flagship campaigns – Join the Movement, We Are Undefeatable and This Girl Can – continue to inspire people to get active.
  • found that more than a quarter (26%) of men aged 25-44 who had seen the Join the Movement campaign said they increased their exercise.
  • found We are Undefeatable inspired one in five people living with a long-term health condition to take action to get active.
  • launched Studio You. Since its launch in 2021, almost half of all state secondary schools in England have registered to use our free This Girl Can and Studio You PE resources, with more than 3,000 teachers signed up and over 130,000 girls using Studio You.
  • seen more than 165,000 people join the Sport England-supported Couch to Fitness community since June 2020 and start their journey to a more active lifestyle. The Couch to Fitness programme is proven to engage key audiences including women, ethnically diverse communities and lower socio-economic groups.
  • found that more than 150,000 women have signed up to the TGC Club on Strava, with 34,000 taking part in the Make Your Comeback challenge.
  • supported 278 new multi-sport PlayZones to be developed thanks to our partnership with the Football Foundation. These safe, inclusive and accessible outdoor facilities bring communities together through sport.
  • invested £35 million into the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and supported the creation of world-class facilities for communities to use after the Games, like the Sandwell Aquatics centre and Cannock Chase Forest. 
  • supported community sport and physical activity groups to improve places and spaces across the country through our B2022 Places and Spaces fund, a match-funding initiative, delivered in partnership with Crowdfunder. So far, its supported 85 campaigns, helping thousands of people to get active where they live – with more than £500,000 invested by us and over £1m raised by supporters. For every £1 of Sport England investment, a return of £2 was raised by supporters.

Fencers taking part in a training session

What impact has it had on activity levels?

Our Active Lives surveys show that adult’s activity levels are recovering following large drops in participation caused by restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus, while children’s activity levels have, overall, now returned to their pre-pandemic levels.

However, our research has also shown that the recovery is not universal, with the general trend hiding stark inequalities.

Women, those from ethnically diverse communities, those living in more deprived areas, disabled people and people with long-term health conditions are still less likely to be active than others, and in many cases the pandemic exacerbated those inequalities.

This is why Uniting the Movement has such a strong focus on tackling inequalities and barriers. 

Looking ahead to 2023

This year we will be championing further positive change in sport, with welfare and integrity an absolute priority, especially as we scale up our work to support children and young people.

We’ll continue to support national governing bodies to implement our Code for Sports Governance that was updated in 2021 and ensures bodies in receipt of substantial public funding have a detailed and ambitious diversity and inclusion action plan. We’ll also move forward with our own Diversity Action Plan and the actions we are taking as a result of the Tackling Racism and Racial Inequality in Sport Review.

We’re also strengthening our safeguarding work, working with over 40 national governing bodies on our Safeguarding Case Management programme – one of 19 new commitments we’ve made alongside UK Sport to improve safeguarding and welfare for everyone involved in sport.

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