Sport England’s Historic Investment in Local Communities to Drive Equal Access to Sport and Physical Activity

Tuesday 7th November 2023

Sport England has made a ground breaking announcement today that sees them investing an unprecedented £250 million investment in up to 100 local places across England, with the goal of addressing inequality and increasing access to physical activity. As Sport England Chief Executive, Tim Hollingsworth, rightly points out, opportunities to play sport should not be determined by one’s address.

Together Active CEO Carly Jones commented: “We wholeheartedly support Sport England’s extraordinary initiative to promote equal access to sport and physical activity. The benefits of physical activity are numerous, extending beyond personal health. They play a pivotal role in building stronger communities, raising aspirations, and improving overall life outcomes. It’s of utmost importance that disadvantaged areas receive a more concentrated approach from Sport England to foster a healthier, more active society.”

Recent research conducted by Sport England underscores the urgency of such a massive investment. The findings reveal that the most active area in England boasts a staggering 81% activity rate, while the least active area lags far behind at just 43%. This disparity highlights the shocking contrast in opportunities for physical activity across the nation, where one’s lifespan could differ by up to nine years depending on where they reside.

The situation is even more dire for individuals living in underserved, economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. These individuals are twice as likely to face disabilities or health conditions, further hampering their ability to engage in physical activity and leading to a vicious cycle of inequality.

To tackle these glaring disparities, Sport England is extending its Place Partnerships programme. This expansion involves a substantial allocation of £190 million in National Lottery and Exchequer funding to support 80-100 new place based initiatives across England. Additionally, £35 million will be invested to bolster ongoing initiatives with Sport England’s existing Place Partners, while £25 million will be designated to create a Universal Offer aimed at addressing inactivity and associated inequalities.

This revolutionary approach reflects one of the most significant overhauls of sports funding in decades. It resonates with the government’s Get Active strategy, which strives to get 2.5 million more adults and 1 million children active by 2030, with a focus on individuals from less affluent households.

The core principle of this initiative is to target local investment and resources to boost activity levels, reduce inactivity, and dismantle the barriers and inequalities preventing people from participating in sports or physical activities. This groundbreaking effort involves Sport England partnering with new places and working in collaboration with existing Place Partnerships and Active Partnerships across England. This holistic approach aims to foster connections with local organizations and leaders to address the unique barriers within their communities.

Sport England will utilize evidence-based strategies to ensure that resources are directed to areas with the highest inactivity levels and other social need indicators. This data-driven approach will involve analyzing physical activity data from Active Lives surveys, as well as social data, community needs, and health inequality data.

Sport Minister Stuart Andrew MP noted, “Our new sports strategy sets out an ambitious aim to get 3.5 million more people active by 2030, and this £250 million investment from Sport England will help make that a reality.” He emphasized the importance of breaking down barriers for people to stay fit and healthy, highlighting the positive impact on both mental and physical health and well-being.

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive at Sport England, reiterated the pivotal importance of addressing the inequalities in sports and physical activity access: “Access to sport and physical activity in England is still not close to being a level playing field. Where a person lives and the environment around them has a huge impact on how likely they are to be physically active. Too often, people in low-income communities don’t have access to the same facilities or opportunities as wealthier areas. This is manifestly unfair – and must be addressed as a real priority.”

With the expanded Place Partnership programme, Sport England is unapologetically focusing on communities that need the greatest levels of support and face the most significant levels of inequality. This commitment ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity to access the many benefits of playing sports and being physically active.

Lisa Dodd-Mayne, Executive Director of Place at Sport England, highlighted the momentous nature of this initiative within their strategy, “Uniting the Movement,” which aims to tackle inequalities at its core. By working with local experts and trusted organizations, Sport England intends to break down the barriers preventing their community’s least active members from participating in physical activities, promoting a wider range of local spaces that cater to the community’s unique needs.

Sport England’s bold move to invest in local communities with the goal of fostering equal access to sports and physical activities stands as a remarkable step towards building healthier, more active communities and reducing the disparities in society. This initiative is poised to improve not only the physical health of the nation but also the social fabric of communities, ensuring that every individual has the opportunity to lead an active and fulfilling life.