English grassroots sport is set to receive an extra £50m worth of funding, as part of Sport England's new 10-year strategy. Called "Unite the Movement", the strategy was published today (26 January) and outlines the sport body's plans to "transform the nation's fitness levels and tackle obesity".
The £50m extra support will be distributed during 2021 to help sports recover from the impact of the pandemic. The funding is in addition to the £220m that the agency has already invested since the start of the crisis.
The strategy, which will set the course for Sport England until 2031, places children and those most disadvantaged in society at the heart of activities and initiatives. In order to reach these groups, the strategy outlines the importance of providing different types of investment and support, with an emphasis on looking for "new and innovative ways to increase participation" - such as better use of technology and data.
The strategy also calls for "effective investment models" and increased partnerships.
It states: "The right kinds of investment, timed well and delivered skilfully, can stimulate demand, provide opportunities to get active, enable innovation, encourage collaboration, reduce inequalities and enable greater sustainability.
"We will continue to build, establish and grow partnerships and a common purpose across both the government and our sector to join up policies, strategies and approaches."
In the strategy, Sport England also hints that funding will be made available to an even broader range of applicants, in order to engage people from "hard to reach" backgrounds.
"All activity matters, but for tens of millions of people, being active depends on organised sport and physical activity," the strategy paper reads. "By organised, we mean arranged by people - it could be anything from an exercise class or a led walking group, through to a parkrun or a Sunday league football game."
There will also be funding made available for "investing in new people, skills, and methods" to ensure engagement of disadvantaged groups.
But there is also a warning for those who already receive funding, but perhaps aren't prepared to adapt to the new priorities.
"For those eager to change, we can work together to find ways to help and adapt. For those unwilling to change, we won't shy away from difficult conversations about what needs to be done differently."
Commenting on the new strategy, SAPCA chief executive Chris Trickey said: "We welcome the new strategy, which makes a powerful case for the value of sport and physical activity. The extra funding provided for sports, which have been hit hard by the pandemic, is particularly pleasing.
"The lockdowns and forced closures of facilities have severely impacted on people's opportunities to take part in physical activity. The pandemic has, therefore, highlighted just how important facilities are for getting the nation active.
"It is crucial that none of the facility infrastructure we have in place is lost due to the pandemic. For that to happen, sports clubs, operators and local authorities need financial support to help them maintain their assets.
"As well as investing in the maintenance (and improvement) of existing facilities, we need to ensure we provide funding in the building of new, well-designed venues. This is because facilities will continue to provide the backbone for all sport and physical activity for people of all ages.
"We look forward to working with Sport England in its efforts to build, establish and grow partnerships within our sector and to join up policies, strategies and approaches."
To find out more about the new strategy, direct from Sport England, click here.