Sport England cuts grants to governing bodies as focus shifts to the inactive

Published: Friday 16th December 2016 by The News Editor

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Sport England’s strategy for getting the country more active is taking shape after it announced £90million in grass-roots funding for 26 national governing bodies to spend on coaching, competitions and facilities.

The government agency has £1billion to invest over the next four years, similar to the sum it had for 2013-17, with about three-quarters of this sum coming from the National Lottery and the rest from the public purse.

The investments announced on Friday are targeted at sport’s “core market” – the 14.9million adults in England who play regular sport – and include £17.3million for British Cycling, £9million for England Hockey, £8.3million for British Gymnastics and £7.6million for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

British Cycling wants to invest more in traffic-free festivals and a campaign to encourage families to ride together; England Hockey is interested in quicker, small-sided versions of the game; British Gymnastics will invest in the surge in demand for high-quality coaching; and the ECB will focus on 20-over formats, the women’s game and getting more south Asians into club cricket.

But these Sport England decisions actually represent a significant decrease – £13million – in the sum allocated to British Cycling, and small decreases for the others, but Sport England’s director of sport Phil Smith believes this is a reflection of the agency’s new focus on the “unsporty”, as well as national governing bodies’ “maturity”.

Smith told Press Association Sport: “Take cricket, for example – it made a compelling case for funding its core market and supporting talent.

“But it knows it is unlikely to be the answer for the mass market or inactive sectors – it would be tough to get people doing nothing into cricket clubs in one leap – so the ECB focused on the customers it knows best.

“British Cycling is another example of a governing body that is trying to become less dependent on public funding, which is what we want to encourage, and I think the application it made to us was a sign of a mature and well-run organisation.”

Smith explained that British Cycling’s recent sponsorship deal with HSBC now made it more like football, rugby union and tennis in terms of its ability to fund its own initiatives but added that the Manchester-based organisation has not yet applied for Sport England money targeted at the inactive and may do so next year.

In a British Cycling statement, the governing body’s president Bob Howden welcomed the “fantastic news” and thanked Sport England and the National Lottery for their continued backing.

“The sustainability of our work at the grass-roots has long been a key priority for us and we are becoming less reliant on public money thanks to the support of our commercial partners,” said Howden.

Missing from Friday’s tranche of funding are the Amateur Swimming Association, the Football Association, the Lawn Tennis Association, the Rugby Football Union and several other large governing bodies. Their allocations will be announced in February.

But with the government now determined to shift Sport England’s funding away from those already playing sport to those who do no exercise at all, 2017 will see large sums of money allocated to charities, county sports partnerships, local authorities and even commercial organisations that are better suited to reaching those people than traditional sports organisations.

“We have said loud and clear that we are trying to reduce the subsidy for the core market,” said Smith.

“That does not mean we are taking those people for granted or we are ignoring sports that do not have the numbers or commercial offer that the big sports have. But we probably have over-emphasised sport for the sporty in recent years.

“And this means a more audience-led, customer-first approach – good governing bodies know their customers really well but they don’t know people who don’t play sport. That is where other organisations can help.”

Published: Friday 16th December 2016 by The News Editor

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