Written evidence submitted by StreetGames



Submission to The House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Select Committee

Sport in Our Communities Inquiry

Written Evidence: StreetGames


Introduction to StreetGames

StreetGames is a charity that harnesses the power of sport to create positive change in disadvantaged neighbourhoods across the UK.

StreetGames champions and supports a network of over 1,500 locally trusted organisations (LTOs) that provide access to sport, physical activity and volunteering to children, young people and families in the most disadvantaged and left-behind communities.

LTOs in the StreetGames network typically comprise small to medium community organisations, including charitable trusts, CiCs, constituted community organisations, but also some large Leisure Trusts, Housing Associations and Local Authorities. The majority are part of the third sector and VCSE group of community sports organisations referred to in the Sport for Development Coalition evidence submission.[1]

LTOs provide hyperlocal access to services and activities, including Doorstep Sport,[2] that improve the lives of local people across a range of outcomes including: physical and mental wellbeing, increasing skills and employability, reducing youth crime and antisocial behaviour and contributing to cohesion. Their success is founded upon their trusted status and ability to provide the right kind of sport, to engage with children, young people and improve quality of life in their wider community.

  1. Are current sports governance models fit for purpose?

At what level of sport should the government consider spending public money?

1.1   Appropriately delivered neighbourhood sport can harvest evidence-based social benefits. Some traditional grassroots sports clubs have the leadership, ethos and purpose to provide an inclusive environment where sport and social outcomes are jointly achieved. However, to truly achieve the ambitions set out within Sporting Future (HM Government, 2015) a broader view of what constitutes grassroots sport is required.

1.2   Young people living in disadvantaged, under-served neighbourhoods often experience a lack of structured sporting opportunities outside school or college. Limited social capital in these neighbourhoods, reflected in lower levels of volunteering, mean that very few voluntary sports clubs exist. In these neighbourhoods, a different kind of provision is needed to address the barriers young people face, in order to both increase their levels of activity and improve their life chances.

1.3   StreetGames is an organisation that supports and represents the hyper-local community sport organisations that we call LTOs, to deliver the government ambitions to tackle inactivity and use sporting activity to achieve a range of social outcomes in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. We are not part of the commonly understood NGB affiliated grass-roots sport and funding pyramid structure (less than 15% of the organisations we support affiliate to an NGB). We take an asset-based community development approach, supporting LTOs to reach those in the community who are unlikely to be engaged through traditional grass-roots sport or leisure centres (circa 70% of participants don’t take part in any other sports sessions outside school/college)[3].

1.4   Whilst not part of the traditional structure we still work closely with many NGBs to support them to reach into our target neighbourhoods through developing versions of their sports that work for LTOs[4]Our purpose is to deliver both increases in sports participation and non-sporting outcomes in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. We bridge the divide between sports participation and sport for development and play a leading role within the emerging sport for development sector in the UK through the Sport for Development Coalition.

1.5   We feel that the ‘sport sector’ is increasingly understood as not being a homogenous whole but rather a series of interrelated levels of provision delivered by different types of organisations, some like the LTOs we support, with multiple primary purposes.

1.6   These agile LTOs have survived as a result of their ability to continually adapt to the external environment, finding different ways to attract investment and resources for their work.[5] That agility has been tested to the limit by COVID-19. These organisations, focused upon providing a vibrant and varied sporting offer for children and young people in the heart of under-served neighbourhoods, provide multiple benefits for any public investment.

Policy Recommendation:

  1. A greater proportion of public investment should be spent on locally trusted organisations (LTOs) using sporting activity to both increase activity levels and to deliver social outcomes, in disadvantaged communities. This approach will support a broad range of Government priorities including those identified for sport and within the levelling up agenda.



  1. What are the biggest risks to the long-term viability of grassroots sport?

What key measures could the Government introduce to increase the resilience of sports clubs and venues?

Support & Recognition for Locally Trusted Organisations

2.1   With their enviable reach into local communities, LTOs are and will be crucial to the ‘levelling up’ agenda and ambitions to reduce long-standing inequalities in sport.  Investment and support must be provided for these types of community organisations to prevent large numbers of them disappearing forever.

2.2   It is therefore vitally important that these types of organisations are recognised and valued in the same way that more traditional sports clubs are. They are a crucial part of the social fabric of their neighbourhoods and from a grassroots sport perspective, they can often be the sole providers in some disadvantaged communities. 

Providing long-term financial and capacity building support

2.3   Historically, LTOs are agile fundraisers. They lack access to the same financial levers that more traditional sports clubs have, such as membership subscriptions - research shows that to get these young people engaged and active, this needs to be provided for free or nearly free - and are only able to exist on a ‘cocktail’ of grants, awards, fundraising, commissions, income generation and limited volunteer support. As a result, they tend to live very much hand to mouth currently existing on short-term funding arrangements.

2.4   LTOs have repeatedly said that securing adequate long-term funding is one of the major challenges they face.  For example, in the StreetGames’ 2019 Network Survey, 87% of LTOs cited fundraising as a major challenge.  Access to longer term investment would be beneficial in terms of their ability to plan the right offer for their neighbourhoods and to increase their overall resilience.

2.5   Government investment needs to be accessible and reach those in need easily and swiftly.  The Sport England approach to distribution of the recent Tackling Inequalities Fund (TiF) through partner organisations has been a good example. Active Partnerships and National Partners have reached out to local organisations to support them to apply and in so doing reduced or taken on much of the administrative ‘burden’ that organisations typically face when applying for funding.

2.6   Local capacity building support is also necessary, as many LTOs are small-medium in size they typically focus the majority of their efforts on frontline delivery. For example, StreetGames Doorstep Sport Advisors and Sustainability Leads support LTOs with:

LTOs tell us how valuable it is to have local support to help them in these areas of their work so that they can spend their time, doing what they do best – connecting and engaging with their communities.


Providing short-term financial support


2.7   Alongside these long-term risks, many LTOs have told us that they have been significantly impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic and lockdown restrictions and that they are very concerned about their financial future (see data below). There is a real risk that many of these organisations will not survive the winter. If these organisations cease to exist, many children, young people and their families in disadvantaged communities will be severely impacted and long-standing inequalities will deepen further. Our research shows that once this local knowledge, understanding and acceptance is lost, it takes years to build up and replicate.




StreetGames LTO Coronavirus Research 2020

2.8   During April-May 2020 StreetGames researched the experience of Coronavirus and lockdown in low income areas of England and Wales. Over 280 LTOs took part in in-depth, one to one telephone conversations. The LTOs operate in the most disadvantaged areas of England and Wales. LTOs shared their worries about the young people and families within their communities who are facing a range of issues, including increased financial pressures, deteriorating mental health and wellbeing and family breakdown.

2.9   During the conversations, it became clear that many LTOs were extremely concerned about their financial future – with difficulties in securing long-term funding at a time when there is increasing demand for their support.   To further explore this issue, StreetGames undertook follow-up research during June 2020, via in-depth interviews with circa 10% of LTOs from the initial research. The cohort spanned small – medium community organisations with annual turnovers from under £50,000 - £1m. This showed that the situation has severely worsened and many of these vital organisations are in danger of collapsing.

2.10  The research highlighted that in the early stages of the lockdown, many LTOs took on an outsized role in supporting vulnerable people and adapting their work to meet the needs of their communities (e.g. providing food deliveries, online activities, mentoring support and calls to the vulnerable).  In doing so they have spent their human and financial resources on pandemic relief. They have stretched themselves thin, in some cases at the expense of their own medium-term sustainability. Some LTOs are now the victims of their own success and may fold - even the survivors may be forced to cut or reduce their sports offer.

2.11  The key findings included:

A range of factors had impacted, but most notably:  

In combination, these factors form a perfect storm for many LTOs. Their capacity and services are more stretched than ever at a time when services and capacity are not being paid for.

2.12  LTOs are taking action to try and mitigate this impact – most (70%) have sought new funding, (67%) had applied for Government support funding – but equally many were having to reduce the delivery of their activities (63%) and/or cut operational costs (44%).  They need and highly value support from capacity building organisations like StreetGames who sign-post them towards suitable funding pots, help them to apply and assist in training their volunteers and workers to help them to be more sustainable and resilient.

2.13  Financial support is required for this vital part of the sector alongside the mitigating actions LTOs are already taking. One-third of any sport focused support package should be ring-fenced for community sport and physical activity for third sector and VCSE ‘sport for development’ organisations in order to sustain the critical services they provide and wider social impact delivered in communities across the country.


Widening Access to Sport & Leisure Facilities

2.14  It is also vitally important that public sport and leisure facilities are supported to stay open, as they play a key role in the provision of grassroots sportBut importantly, they must be incentivised and supported to be more accessible for people on low incomes/lower socio-economic groups (LSEGs) if long-standing inequalities are to be addressed.

2.15  Data from Sport England's National Facility Benchmarking Service (NBS) has shown that over time, users from LSEGs are increasingly under-represented in public sports halls and swimming pools.

2.16  NBS data includes information about how ‘representative’ sport and leisure facility users are by comparison to expected numbers based on the demographics of the catchment population. A score of 1 means the user profile of a leisure centre is representative of the local catchment population, whilst a score of less than 1 means an under-representation.

2.17  NBS data captured between 2014-2019 shows a decrease in users from LSEGs (NS-SEC 6-7). The ‘best’ performing facilities showed a decline from a score of 0.95 in 2014 to 0.6 in 2019 [i.e. they attracted 95% of the 'expected' level in 2014, but only 60% in 2019].  Whilst scores at the ‘worst’ performing facilities declined from 0.44 in 2014 to 0.29 in 2019. [i.e. they attracted 44% of the ‘expected’ level in 2014 and just 29% in 2019].

Figure 1 - Representation Scores for NS-SEC 6-7 at Public Sports Facilities in England.

(Source: Sport England, National Benchmarking Service)


Policy Recommendations:


In response, to secure the viability of grass roots sport, the following policy considerations are supported in respond to the impact of COVID-19:

  1. Provide a community sport and physical activity rescue package proportionate to need and extend the VAT reduction that has been applied to the culture and hospitality sectors to the sport and physical activity sector.
  2. Ring fence one-third of any support package for community sport and physical activity for third sector and VCSE ‘sport for development’ organisations in order to sustain the critical services they provide and wider social impact delivered in communities across the country.


For the long-term viability of community sport that has an impact in disadvantaged communities our policy recommendations are:


  1. Recognise and value locally trusted community organisations in the same way as more traditional sports clubs, especially in the role they play in Levelling up through sport and physical activity.
  2. Prioritise longer term Government investment to expand local provision and ensure that LTOs are sustained to support delivery of the Government’s wider agenda through sporting activity in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
  3. Provide investment to keep public sport and leisure facilities open but importantly, they must be incentivised and supported to be more accessible for people on low incomes/lower socio-economic groups (LSEGs) if long-standing inequalities are to be addressed. 



  1. To what extent should elite professional sports support the lower leagues and grassroots?

How should the Government make this happen?

3.1   Our experience shows it can be extremely beneficial for LTOs and through them, the communities they work with to have connections and support from NGBs and elite professional sports. This has a mutual benefit as such connections can help NGBs to extend the reach of their sport into communities and audiences that their ‘traditional’ sporting offers do not typically reach.

3.2   In recent years StreetGames has partnered with a range of large NGBs to support LTOs to provide ‘pop up sports’ where, new activities are provided in local communities linked to major sporting events.  LTOs receive kit, equipment and training to help them put on the new activities and in some cases spectator tickets for their young people to attend major sporting events such as Wimbledon, Queens Club Championship, the Rugby League World Cup, the British Athletics Championships and the FA Cup Final.

3.3   During the pandemic, StreetGames has worked successfully with partners including the Lawn Tennis Association and Welsh Rugby Union to distribute 4,700 tennis rackets and 130 rugby balls to low income families during Lockdown through LTOs

3.4   Through these partnerships, young people are provided with opportunities to: try new sports, gain new experiences, go to different places and build new connections which can be really important, in helping to build sporting capital

3.5   StreetGames would welcome the expansion of partnerships between elite professional sports and the grassroots. This expansion to specifically include reach into disadvantaged communities and connections with LTOs as well as more traditional grassroots sports clubs. This will play an important role in the ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Policy Recommendations:

  1. Government encourages and funds the grassroots sports organisations (NGBs, Leisure facilities, and others) to work in partnership with The Sport for Development Coalition, StreetGames and others to improve the reach, engagement and social outcomes through sport of those in disadvantaged communities.
  2. Legacy plans for Major Sporting Events are ‘proofed’ to ensure that children and young people from low income backgrounds are not socially excluded by design with both tickets and plans for increasing participation through e.g. Pop-Ups or similar interventions.
  3. Recognise the value of trips to Major Sporting Events, in terms of helping to build sporting capital among low income children and young people and consider investment opportunities.

[1] Sport for Development Coalition, written evidence to the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry on Sport in our Communities (November 2020)

[2] Doorstep Sport is sport delivered in local neighbourhoods at the right time, in the right place, at the right price, in the right style and by the right people. Doorstep Sport is designed to both increase and sustain activity levels and to achieve social outcomes.

[3] Insight to Action: The Lessons from the Doorstep Sport Club Programme 2013-17

[4] StreetGames work with NGBs has included among others: supporting the development of the Smash-Up! programme with Badminton England; developing a Poverty Action Plan, adopted by the Board of the Welsh Rugby Union and delivery of the SERVES programme with the LTA.

[5] Thoughts Arising from the Chiles-Webster-Batson Commission Round Table – ‘From Agile to Fragile: the financial impact of the Coronavirus on community organisations’.