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7 Nov 2023 | 9:09

The Coalition has welcomed the announcement of "significant" funding from Sport England which will support community-based projects and programmes addressing the health and societal inequalities that sport for development targets.

New research from the funding body has shown that inactivity rates are double in the most deprived areas of England, and that lifespan could vary by nine years depending on where someone lives. People living in some poorer neighbourhoods are twice as likely to have a disability or health condition.

In response, Sport England has announced £250million of National Lottery and Exchequer funding will be invested over the next five years into up to 100 places across England where inequality is the greatest.


The Sport for Development Coalition is a movement of charities and networks supported by Sport England, Comic Relief and Laureus Sport for Good. It is working collaboratively to demonstrate the impact and value of investing in sport-based interventions in communities facing disadvantage and deprivation. Its Executive Director, Hitesh Patel, commented: “Targeted sport-based interventions delivered by Coalition members across the UK represent one of the most cost-effective ways of tackling the stubborn health and societal inequalities which persist in our communities.

“Alongside improved physical and mental health and wellbeing, they are helping to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, increase educational attainment and employability, strengthen communities and build social cohesion.

“As such, the multiple returns on investment and public cost savings that sport for development offers represent an open goal for Government, and we welcome this significant investment in the people and places that make this happen.”


Sport England say the announcement signals one of the biggest shake-ups of sports funding in decades, and  directly supports the Government’s recent Get Active strategy which set ambitious targets of getting 2.5million more adults – with 1.4 million of these being from least affluent households – and one million children active by 2030 to tackle the disparities in activity levels across society.

Targeted local investment and resources will help to increase activity levels, decrease inactivity and breakdown the barriers and inequalities that prevent people from playing sport or being active. This work will see key Coalition networks and partners such as Active Partnerships help to foster relationships with local organisations and leaders and overcome the specific barriers to physical activity that exist in their communities.

Active Partnerships CEO Andy Taylor urged the sport sector and Government departments to work together and unlock the contribution of sport and physical activity to society, as highlighted by the Coalition's #OpenGoal framework. He told BBC Sport: "We need to take that further and wider and we need to get organisations and departments working together with that common goal. Investment is important but we need to be efficient as a system. We need that vision from national Government to have that healthy nation. There's too much of 'We've got NHS waiting lists - how do we reduce them?'…Well actually, we need to look earlier - it needs to be a long-term plan."


Sport England say the funding will ensure the greatest resource is targeted to the places with the highest inactivity levels and other social need indicators. The body will consider a range of data sources to do this, including analysis of physical activity data, from its Active Lives surveys; as well as social data, community need and health inequality data. Since 2017, Sport England has tested this place-based approach of working with ‘Local Delivery Pilots’ in 12 of the country’s most disadvantaged and least active communities.  This includes schemes such as Free Bikes in Birmingham, ‘Beating the Streets’ in Burnley through a partnership with Intelligent Health, getting school kids moving in Calderdale and rehabilitating patients in South Tees to improve their chances of recovery after surgery.

The Minister for Sport, Stuart Andrew MP, said: “This targeted place-based funding gives greater access to quality activities and clubs for people of all ages in areas of the country that need it most. Keeping active is essential for our mental and physical health and wellbeing, so it is crucial we continue to break down barriers for people to stay fit and healthy.”

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive at Sport England, said: “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.  That is why our expanded Place Partnership programme will unashamedly see us target our resources and efforts on communities that need the greatest levels of support and experience the greatest levels of inequality.  We will invest most in those that need it most so that everyone has an equal chance to access the very real benefits of playing sport and be physically active.”

Lisa Dodd-Mayne, Executive Director of Place at Sport England, said: “This is an important moment in our delivery of Uniting the Movement, our long-term strategy which has tackling inequalities at its heart.  We have shown through our local delivery pilots that this approach works. We will continue to work with local experts from a range of locally trusted organisations and partners in a bottom-up way to break down the barriers that prevent their community’s least active members from joining in. We want to ensure that a wide range of local spaces where people can be active – be it a facility, park or outdoor space – are the right spaces that meet the needs of the community.”

Read more about the new research from Sport England.