Written evidence submitted by the Sport and Recreation Alliance



  1. Introduction


1.1 – The Sport and Recreation Alliance


The Sport and Recreation Alliance is the umbrella organisation for the governing and representative bodies of sport and recreation. We have a diverse membership of more than 300 national and local organisations across the sector.[1]


As the voice of the sector, the Alliance works with government, policy makers and the media to make sure grassroots sport and recreation grows and thrives. Having an active nation is important as it delivers huge benefits to society and the millions of participants, volunteers, staff and spectators who participate in it.


The Committee’s inquiry covers three areas and we will be looking to comment on all three. However, given the nature of the Alliance and its membership the bulk of our comments will focus on the current state of grassroots sport and physical activity and what the future is likely to be for our clubs up and down the country.


The Alliance is working on pulling together more full evidence on the future of sport and physical activity and would appreciate the chance to furnish the committee in an oral evidence session.


1.2 - Summary of Key Points



      VAT reduction to 5% in line with that awarded to the hospitality sector

      Introduction of a mechanism to ensure a fair return to sport from gambling

      Reforms to tax and giving rules and the CASC scheme to broaden its appeal and impact.

      Further reforms to the system of Business Rates to support community clubs.


  1. Are current sports governance models fit for purpose?


While we recognise that there remains room for improvement in sports governance, we believe significant steps have been taken in recent years to address many of the most pressing problems.


The introduction of the Code for Sports Governance has been a significant factor. Following the Code’s introduction in 2016, all funded governing bodies are compliant meaning the board is the ultimate decision-making body, directors have term limits, the board size must be restricted to a maximum of 12, all organisations have at least 30% of each gender on the board and at least 25% of directors must be independent.


Likewise, the Alliance’s own Principles of Good Governance and provision of tailored support to the sector continues to drive improvement, particularly amongst the broader community of sport and recreation organisations which do not benefit from public funding and which are therefore not required to comply with the Code for Sports Governance.[2]


The Alliance’s study of the impact of both the Code and the Principles demonstrates that the sector has embraced the governance challenge and is now on a much more sustainable path.[3] However, we recognise there is still much to be done – particularly with respect to equality, diversity and inclusion – and welcome the recent announcement by Sport and England and UK Sport to further review the requirements of Code in these areas.[4]


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


While the sector was able to re-open slowly from late May, not all facilities have done so and participation remains lower than pre-pandemic levels. Figures from Sport England reveal that the number of adults doing five days per week of exercise has fallen by 9% since March from 33% to 24%.[5] These drops in activity are particularly prevalent among women, black, Asian and minority ethnic people, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and disabled people.


While we are still in the middle of the current lockdown, it is hard to tell what the precise long-term effect on the sector’s finances and participation will be but the complete cessation of grassroots sport and physical activity again in November will likely have a profound effect beyond what can be evidenced here. However, following on from our evidence in the Spring, we have included some updates on the current status of the sector:



Following the Spring lockdown the sector was able to reopen slowly from May with outdoor sports like golf and tennis being among the first activities permitted again. Some areas of the sector however, were harder hit with gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools remaining closed into July. Indeed, some 200 swimming pools were unable to reopen at all between the spring lockdown and the November lockdown and remain closed[6].


Those that were able to reopen had to do so with social distancing and other extra Covid-19 protocols in place and the changing nature of the virus and of the government’s response to it means that sports organisations have had to adapt often at short notice and with increased expense in order to make venues and activities COVID secure. It is likely that these additional COVID-related costs are likely to persist until such time as the virus is able to be controlled through other means e.g. vaccination.


Communicating and understanding these changes has proved difficult and the tiered approach in particular created confusion, notably where sports facilities in some Tier 3 areas were allowed to remain open while in other Tier 3 areas they were forced to close.


The November lockdown has seen the sector shutdown completely at the grassroots level again. This is despite campaigns from sports including golf and tennis to stay open as they felt they could operate in a COVID secure way.


Given the likelihood of continued restrictions for some time to come and the possibility that some venues and organisations may cease to operate completely, the government must be clearer about how it is trading off measures to suppress the virus against the short- and long-term impact on organisations within the sector and the health and wellbeing of the population more broadly.



As sport was slowly allowed to return, the increased costs of making venues COVID secure and the drop off in revenue caused by a lack of normal capacity due to social distancing in many cases entrenched the financial difficulties already faced from three months of closure. Many organisations and clubs were not able to replenish revenues fully and, in some cases, did not have the finances to be able to open securely.


The impact on elite sport means that less money will be available for reinvestment into the lower pyramid of sport. Some of the country’s largest governing bodies reinvest over 30% of their net broadcast income into the grassroots under the Alliance’s Voluntary Code on Broadcasting.[7] In the most recent year, reinvestment under the Code totalled £163m.[8] While we have subsequently seen broadcast elite sport return, the financial impact in terms of reduced broadcast, ticketing and commercial income has been severe and it is clear that maintaining reinvestment at these levels will almost certainly not be possible in the coming years.


Finally, from a workforce perspective the sector supports almost 100,000 self-employed workers, many of whom coach, teach and instruct and whose livelihoods are now in jeopardy.[9] With reduced capacity, participation and the lack of available venues, many have been unable to earn a regular income and research by CIMSPA shows that 60% have no financial reserves and face substantial losses.[10] These impacts will be exacerbated given that government support for the self-employed is limited. In the wider workforce too, 39% staff were furloughed at some point with a further 20% having their hours reduced.[11] A number of major sports governing bodies have already announced plans to reduce staff and restructure their operations which will have long-term implications for their respective sports. The new lockdown and government delays in announcing the extension of the furlough may well result in further job losses in the sector.



The business support and funding schemes in place are helpful but there remain gaps in coverage, particularly for non-facility owning grassroots organisations, and challenges in accessing the support.


Sport England has made a number of funds available to grassroots sports clubs, most notably through the Community Emergency Fund, which totalled £210 million.[12]


The money has been warmly welcomed and this money has been hugely helpful, but there are approximately 150,000 grassroots sports clubs across the country and many of them have not been able to access this funding. For them, government support schemes have been the only help and in some cases these have not benefitted the full breadth of the sector. Looking at some of the issues briefly:


Even in full-time coaching money is usually tight. In speaking to the APPG for Sport (which the Alliance supports) in the Summer, Mel Marshall, who is coach to Adam Peaty explained that in the early days of her coaching career she was earning £14,500 per year as a swimming coach.[13]



Previously, Sport England reported that 39% fewer adults and 37% fewer children participated in sport and physical activity in a given week during lockdown than they had previously.


This has subsequently been borne out in the latest available figures which show that some 3 million less people are active. Indeed, in Sport England’s Active Lives assessment of the coronavirus pandemic they said:


“During the mid-March to mid-May period, the number of active adults fell by 7.1%, or just over 3 million, whilst inactivity levels rose by 7.4% or 3.4million adults.[17]


We face losing a generation of sport and physical activity in this country if more is not done to promote and increase participation to the record levels it was at before the pandemic. Long-term and lifelong changes in participation levels will have a profound effect on the lives of people up and down the country. Sport is crucial for people’s mental and physical wellbeing and it is increasingly concerning that we are moving towards a mental health crisis in this country.


Sport also contributes hugely to the economy. A recent study by Sheffield Hallam in Partnership with Sport England explained that for every £1 of government investment the return is £3.91 to the public purse in saving across healthcare, crime and social care among other things[18].


The government should be looking to protect the sector now through a Sports Recovery Fund or face putting much of this social and economic benefit at risk.


3.1  Case Study – England Boxing and Boxing Clubs


The problems facing the sector are widespread and cover the full range of sport and physical activity in the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s membership.


England Boxing (members of the Sport and Recreation Alliance) has 980 clubs affiliated to it as an NGB. Very few of these are facility owning clubs but rather they rent their boxing club space from landlords in community halls, leisure centers and churches. During the initial lockdown these clubs faced a total cessation of activity and were not able to raise their usual fees, only raising some nominal subscriptions from junior boxers.


Following the opening up of restrictions, boxing clubs were able to start operating albeit with social distancing in place. This meant that clubs could only operate with a much smaller number of members allowed in venues at any one time leading to lower subscriptions when bills and rent still needed to be paid.


As a result, England Boxing reported that a number of clubs have had to access various grants. The bulk of these were grants that were made available via Sport England, but a number of clubs also took advantages of government grant schemes. England Boxing can account for £7.5M of grants between the April-September period.


In explaining the challenges Boxing has faced this year they said:


‘This money is really appreciated but without a return to normal footfall clubs will need another round of grants early in 2021.


Clubs shutting obviously stopped physical activity for thousands of members, but the mental impact is also enormous and harder to measure. All government stats say that the pandemic has a harder impact in areas of deprivation and it is that space that boxing clubs occupy. 40% of boxing clubs are in the top 20% of IMD[19], whilst football occupies 16% and tennis 2%.’[20]


One of those clubs is Ludus Magnus Boxing Club in Doncaster. The club was faced with the threat of closure at the start of the pandemic. As a small club in one of the most deprived areas of the country it struggled with the cost of reopening once the first lockdown was finished. They were required to make their boxing gym Covid-19 safe and the increased cost of cleaning and the equipment required saw them struggling to survive. Fortunately, England Boxing helped them apply for a financial grant from Sport England’s Tackling Inequality Fund allowing them to stay open.


However, they are now shut again and like many clubs the next period of lockdown could see them shut for good as they will not be able to pay rent and bills. That’s why it is crucial that help is found for them and for the thousands of clubs across the sector who need ongoing support in order to survive.


  1. What key measures could the government introduce to increase the resilience of sports clubs and facilities.


4.1  – Introduction


The sector faces a huge number of challenges in both the immediate and more long-term future. There are a number of existing and indeed new measures that the sector could facilitate that could help, but it is vital that this is underpinned by government support in the immediate term so that the sector is robust enough to be able to make those changes.


4.2  – Policy Recommendations



Following this there are a number of mechanisms that the committee could recommend to government including:



Where movement and dance classes are taught.


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

5.1 How should the government make this happen?

Elite professional sport supports the grassroots side in a number of ways most notably through the Voluntary Code on Sports Broadcasting for Sports Rights Owners. The Voluntary Code outlines the ongoing commitment of the UK’s leading sports bodies to two general principles: 

 Accessibility – Wherever possible, making all major events under their control available free-to-air (in live, recorded or highlights form);

 Reinvestment – Putting a minimum of thirty per cent of their net UK broadcasting revenue back into the long-term development of their sport.

Compliance with the Code is monitored by the Sports Broadcast Monitoring Committee, to which the Sport and Recreation Alliance acts as secretariat. Signatories to code are currently split in to two categories:


Signatories assessed as compliant with both the accessibility and reinvestment principles are:

The signatories assessed as compliant with the accessibility principle are:

Money from the code is reinvested into grassroots sport through a number of schemes. One example of which is the R&A, who reinvest broadcast money into the charity Golf Foundation which aims to get more young people into golf.[23]

Looking beyond the existing reinvestment model, we believe government must now look seriously at introducing a mechanism which ensures a fair return from gambling to sport.


The proposed review of the Gambling Act provides a key opportunity to reform the relationship between sport and gambling and ensure that some of the profits made by gambling companies is returned to sport and physical activity, including the grassroots.


Concluding Remarks


As we enter a second nationwide lockdown the future of the sector is unclear and uncertain at all levels. It is hard to predict where the sector will be in both the short and medium-term but it is clear that if no action is taken it is not too much to say that the future of grassroots sport in the UK faces an existential crisis.


In this context we believe there is a compelling case for Sports Recovery Fund along the lines of the Culture Recovery Fund. Grassroots sport and physical activity is the lifeblood of local communities and without a support package we are looking at the closure of many sport and physical activity facilities including sports clubs, leisure centres, community halls and swimming pools. This will be nationwide but the biggest burden will fall on the least active. Without support we face a generation lost to active lifestyles.
















Appendix 1 – Sport and Recreation Alliance Members


Access Sport CIO

Active Cheshire

Active Devon

Active Essex

Active Humber Ltd

Active Lincolnshire

Active Partnerships

Active Surrey

Activity Alliance

All Terrain Boarding Association

Amateur Martial Association

Angling Trades Association (ATA)

Angling Trust

AOC Sport

Archery GB

Army Cadet Force Association

Army Sport Control Board

ASA Swim England Limited

Associated Board of Dance

Association for Physical Education

Association of British Climbing Walls

Association of British Climbing Walls - Training Trust

Association of British Riding Schools

Association of Dance and Freestyle Professionals

Auto-Cycle Union Limited

Badminton England

Baseball Softball UK

Basketball England

Bath Recreation Limited

Birmingham Sport And Physical Activity Trust

Boccia England

Bowls England

Bristol Sport Foundation

British Aerobatics

British Aikido Board

British American Football Association

British Association for Shooting & Conservation

British Association of Snowsport Instructors

British Association of Teachers of Dancing

British Athletes Commission

British Balloon and Airship Club

British Blind Sport

British Canoeing

British Carriagedriving

British Caving Association

British Crown Green Bowling Association

British Cycling

British Dance Council

British Disability Fencing

British Disc Golf Association

British Dodgeball

British Dragon Boat Racing Association

British Dressage

British Equestrian Federation

British Equestrian Vaulting

British Esports Association

British Eventing

British Fencing

British Foosball Association

British Gliding Association

British Go Association

British Grooms Association

British Gymnastics

British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association

British Horse Society

British Horseracing Authority

British Ice Skating

British Inline Puck Hockey Association

British Ju-Jitsu Association

British Judo Association

British Kickboxing Council

British Kite Flying Association

British Kitesports

British Kung Fu Association

British Martial Arts & Boxing Association

British Masters Athletic Federation

British Microlight Aircraft Association

British Model Flying Association

British Motorcyclists' Federation

British Mountaineering Council

British Nordic Walking

British Octopush Association

British Olympic Foundation

British Orienteering Federation

British Para Table Tennis

British Paralympic Association

British Reining

British Roller Sports Federation Ltd

British Rowing

British Shooting

British Showjumping

British Skydiving

British Sledge Hockey Association

British Student Taekwondo Federation

British Sub-Aqua Club (The)

British Taekwondo

British Tenpin Bowling Association

British Triathlon Federation

British Universities & Colleges Sport

British Water Ski & Wakeboard

British Weightlifting

British Wheel of Yoga

British Wheelchair Basketball

British Wrestling

Camping and Caravanning Club

Canoe-Camping Club

Cardiff Met Sport

Carnegie Great Outdoors

Cerebral Palsy Sport

Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation

Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA)

Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association

Civil Service Sports Council (CSSC Sports and Leisure)

Clay Pigeon Shooting Association

Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation

Cobra Martial Arts Association

Commonwealth Games England

Confederation of Long Distance Racing Pigeon Unions of GB and Ireland

Continuum Sport & Leisure Limited

Countryside Alliance

Croquet Association (The)

Cycling Time Trials

Dalcroze Society

Disability Karate Federation

DMC Sport


Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE)


Endurance GB

Energise Me

Energize Shropshire Telford & Wrekin

England and Wales Cricket Board

England Athletics

England Boxing

England Fencing

England Golf

England Handball Association

England Hockey

England Kabaddi Federation (UK)

England Korfball

England Lacrosse

England Netball

England Squash

England Touch

English Amateur Billiards Association

English Amateur Dancesport Association

English Association of Snooker and Billiards

English Bridge Union

English Chess Federation

English Ice Hockey Association LTD

English Indoor Bowling Association Ltd

English Institute of Sport

English Karate Federation

English Petanque Association

English Pool Association

English Schools' Athletic Association

English Schools' Football Association

Eton Fives Association

Extend Exercise Training Ltd

Federation of Artistic Roller Skating

Federation of English Karate Organisations

Federation of Sports and Play Associations

Fields in Trust


Football Association (The)

Football League Community Ltd

Football Supporters Association

Forest School Camps

Girlguiding UK

Goalball UK

Golf Club Managers' Association

Golf Foundation (The)

Great Britain Disability Football Association Ltd

Great Britain Diving Federation

Great Britain Outrigger

Great Britain Savate Federation

Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby


Green Lane Association (GLASS)

Greenhouse Sports

Greyhound Board of Great Britain

Grounds Management Association Limited

Guild of Professional Teachers of Dancing


Halliwick Association of Swimming Therapy

Haringey Sports Development

Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference

Herts Sports Partnership

Horse Scotland

Huddersfield Town Foundation

I Trust Sport

Ice Hockey UK

Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing

Inclusive Skating

Institute for Outdoor Learning

Institute of Clay Shooting Instructors

International Dance Teachers Association

International Netball Federation

Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigade

Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB)

Keep Fit Association

Kent Sport

Laban Guild for Movement and Dance

Lacrosse Foundation

Language of Dance Centre


League Managers Association


Leicester-Shire & Rutland Sport


Living Sport

London Federation of Sport and Recreation

London Fire Brigade Welfare Fund

London Sport

London Sports Trust

Long Distance Walkers Association Ltd

LTA Operations ltd

Margaret Morris Movement

Motorsport UK

Mountain Training England

Mountain Training Trust

National Association of Karate and Martial Art Schools

National Association of Schoolmasters & Union of Women Teachers

National Association of Teachers of Dancing

National Council for Metal Detecting

National Council for School Sport

National Council for Voluntary Organisations

National School Sailing Association

Nordic Walking UK

North Yorkshire Sport Ltd

Northern Counties Dance Teachers' Association Ltd

Outdoor Industries Association

Panathlon Challenge

Para Dance UK

Parkour UK

Parkrun Limited

Patanjali Yog Peeth Trust UK

Pentathlon GB

Pilates Teacher Association Limited

Playing Fields Network

Police Community Clubs of Great Britain

Police Sport UK

Pride Sports

Pro Touch SA CIC

Professional Cricketers' Association

Professional Footballers' Association

Professional Golfers' Association

Professional Players Federation


Racecourse Association (The)

RAF Central Fund

RAF Sports Federation


RollaDome All Skate


Rounders England

Royal Aero Club

Royal Life Saving Society UK

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Royal Yachting Association

Rugby Football League

Rugby Football Union

Skateboard England

Snowsport England

Social Tree Climbers

Special Olympics GB

Sport Across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent

Sporting Assets

Sporting Equals

Sports Grounds Safety Authority

Sports Leaders UK

Sports Officials UK (SOUK)

Sports Volunteering North West


Stack Sports

Stoolball England

StreetGames UK

Surrey Sports Park, University of Surrey

Swimming Teachers' Association

Table Tennis England

Tchoukball UK


The Arts Society

The Lord's Taverners

The Medau Movement

The Naval Service Sports Board

The R&A

The Sabre Trust

The Walking Football Association

Theatre Dance Council International

Trail Riders Fellowship

UK Armed Forces Sports Board

UK Athletics

UK Coaching

UK Deaf Sport

UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability

UK Ultimate Ltd

UK Youth

UKA Dance

United Kingdom Cheerleading Association

United Kingdom Kyudo Association

United Teachers of Dance Ltd

Volleyball England

Volunteers in Sport West Midlands

Watford FC Community Sports and Education Trust

Welsh Rowing


WLV Sport

Women in Sport

World Association Kickboxing & All-styles Martial Arts (WAKO GB)

World Professional Billiards & Snooker Association

YHA (Eng & Wales) Ltd

Yorkshire Sport Foundation

Youth Sport Trust




[1] A full list of our members is included in Appendix A.

[2] Sport and Recreation Alliance

[3] Sport and Recreation Alliance, Committing to Good Governance, - http://sramedia.s3.amazonaws.com/media/documents/49e5977e-1ce2-4653-897c-5ecbcd9a2e77.pdf - 12/11/2020

[4] https://www.sportengland.org/news/joint-review-code-sports-governance

[5] Sport England - Source

[6] Swim England, ‘New Community Sport Inquiry, but financial support is ‘swiftly needed.’’ - https://www.swimming.org/swimengland/new-inquiry-welcomed/ - 12/11/2020.

[7] https://www.sportandrecreation.org.uk/policy/campaigns-initiatives/broadcasting-of-major-sporting-events-the-vol

[8] https://www.sportandrecreation.org.uk/news/grassroots/uk-sports-bodies-reinvest-163m-from-broadcast

[9] ESSA-SPORT UK National Report: https://www.essa-sport.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ESSA_Sport_National_Report_United_Kingdom.pdf

[10] CIMSPA, 2020 Workforce Insight Report

[11] DCMS, Coronavirus Business Impact Survey – Round 2 – Report - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dcms-coronavirus-impact-business-survey-round-2/dcms-coronavirus-impact-business-survey-round-2-report - 12/11/2020.

[12] UK Parliament, Hansard - https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-10-19/105625 - 10/11/2020

[13] APPG for Sport, June 2020.

[14] The following report by the Local Government Association highlights a range of reasons why this support has been hard to come by. It can be accessed here: https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Options%20for%20councils%20in%20supporting%20leisure%20providers%20through%20COVID-19%20WEB.pdf.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Sport and Recreation Alliance, Sports Club Survey Report, http://sramedia.s3.amazonaws.com/media/documents/b8ddaf87-e6f2-45c5-9c59-11ae4dff67ef.pdf - 12/11/2020.

[17] Sport England, Adult Active Lives Survey: Coronavirus Report, https://sportengland-production-files.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/2020-10/Active%20Lives%20Adult%20May%2019-20%20Coronavirus%20Report.pdf?2L6TBVV5UvCGXb_VxZcWHcfFX0_wRal7 – 10/11/2020.

[18] Sport England, Why Investing in Sport and Physical Activity is Great for our Health – and Our Nation, https://www.sportengland.org/news/why-investing-physical-activity-great-our-health-and-our-nation - 10/11/2020.

[19] IMD is a 1-10 scale which measure the levels of deprivation in a particular area or community. The top 20% refers to the most deprived areas in the country.

[20] England Boxing, Evaluating the Impact of Boxing Clubs on their Communities, p.16, file:///C:/Users/rmcCullough/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/Content.Outlook/I19W0RNK/Final%20pdf%20workforce%20research.pdf – 9/11/2020.

[21] https://www.cafonline.org/gift-aid-emergency-relief

[22] Sport and Recreation Alliance, Movement and Dance, Covid-19 Impact Survey. The report is currently in final draft form and we would be happy to share it with the committee upon publication.

[23] See https://www.golf-foundation.org/ for more information.