During the COVID-19 crisis, many sports clubs have reached out for help, revealing the incredible variety of England’s sporting landscape and the amount of people who want to preserve it.

England loves sport and it is times like these, when it is restricted that its loss is keenly felt. We know that fitness is not the sole benefit of sport but just one part. It also meets our mental and social needs.

Without membership fees, match fees, club house income, ticket sales, traditional methods of fundraising and additional outlays in expense to meet COVID-19 regulations, sport clubs have really suffered.

Sport England responded with a £2.5 million Return to Play: Active Together Fund, a match funding incentive to engage with a crowdfunding process that can bring communities together and produce a vital crutch of financial support. A variety of clubs across the sporting spectrum have taken up this opportunity; for every tennis, football or rugby club, there is everything from pétanque, scuba diving and croquet too. Collectively these clubs have raised over £6 million!

The Sport England Return to Play: Active Together Fund is for all not for profit organisations ‘who play an important role in keeping their community physically active’, have ‘experienced short term financial difficulty or a need to adapt due to the pandemic’. With up to £10,000 available for each crowdfunding project, sports were able to bounce back from the impacts of the pandemic and engage their community in the process.

Aldwych Speed Club – COVID-19 Recovery Funding

Aldwych Speed Club is an ice speed skating club based in Guildford, founded in 1908 they have trained many skaters who have competed internationally and in the Winter Olympics. Across 2020 and 2021 the club has had to open and close repeatedly in-line with government guidance and the subsequent loss of income led to a crowdfunding campaign, raising £10,265 from 92 supporters with £3,000 pledged from the Return to Play: Active Together Fund. 

They’ve since been able to replace some of the income lost due to closure and invest in their coaching team and replacement of equipment, ready for reopening once restrictions are lifted.

“We had excellent support from both Sport England and our crowdfunding coach, they helped us design a campaign that was likely to attract funding. Using this, we were able to gain the attention of members both past and present, importantly those who had been through the club years ago that we had lost contact with”.

Paul Ellis – Committee member 

Covid safe Community Pétanque area

Pétanque is a traditional French game, helpfully described by John Edmondson the Chairman of Leicester Pétanque Club, as “a sport played on a hard gravel surface (Piste) where players toss a metal ball (boule) towards a small wooden “jack”. 

This is a sport with a low entry cost, of great community spirit, that’s open for all and ideal for anyone experiencing social or economic hardship. Venues for the sport are usually based in pubs or social clubs and due to the COVID-19 pandemic and their closure, the game has come to a standstill. 

Leicester Pétanque Club has been hard at work trying to find a suitable home and an ideal facility in the form of a former bowls club, which has been secured through Leicester City Council. In the middle of a busy and social city park, with its own pavilion, the site is perfect. Pétanque is played on a hard gravel surface which requires the removal of the grass and soil. In January 2021 the club successfully crowdfunded £10,815 from 97 supporters, including a £4,000 pledge from the Return to Play: Active Together Fund to convert the space.

In an interview with The Western Park Gazette, Chairman John Edmondson said, 

“We look forward to meeting new people and introducing them to the game. The pétanque community forges long term friendships and while this pandemic has affected the physical and mental well-being of so many people, this is our chance to do something positive for them, for our sport, and for the local community.”

Rob Roy Boat Club Covid Fundraiser

The Rob Roy Boat Club, founded in 1880, is one of Cambridge city’s oldest and most successful volunteer-run rowing clubs. Amongst usual club activities, a big part of what they do is working with local schools to encourage those who may not be regularly active, to join their ‘Try Rowing’ programme. Jo Burch, one of the club’s coaches, explains that their “junior squad enables young people, who have never sat in a boat before” to develop a huge number of skills that can help to build their confidence.

Due to COVID-19, they have not been able to raise money from their events to invest in this programme, which has put the junior squad at great risk. Through crowdfunding they successfully raised £11,320 from 111 supporters, including a pledge of £3,000 from the Return to Play: Active Together Fund.

After their campaign closed successfully, in their final update to their supporters, they said;

“With your help, we made (and exceeded) our target and the Rob Roy BC junior squad can now look forward to getting back on the river and training and racing as soon as we’re permitted to do so. Hooray”!

Let’s Bounce Back Together

Gravesham Tennis Club is based in an ancient town in Northwest Kent. They keep their membership fees low to further their ambition to make “Sport Open For All” in an area of high social deprivation. With 157 adults and 129 children among their members, they are a valuable community asset. Faced with a dilemma of compensating members for forced closure while balancing a need to keep their courts in good order, the club successfully crowdfunded £11,218 from 110 supporters, which included a pledge from the Return to Play: Active Together Fund of £4,000.

Mike Barrett the project leader behind the campaign was quoted in a local publication Kent Online, saying;

“We are so grateful for the incredible support from the community and from Sport England which has allowed us to meet our initial fundraising target. The speed with which we did it demonstrates how much the club means to its members.

The money we’ve raised so far will pay for vital repairs to our clubhouse and the repainting of our courts to maintain and protect them for years to come.”

Project Phoenix

The Norfolk Gliding Club in Tebenham is based on one of the few surviving airfields that were dotted around East Anglia during WW2. It has a proud history and a community of keen volunteers who look after it. With flying stopped across COVID-19, their income has been hit hard, leaving little funding to carry out the essential maintenance works on the airfield. In the same quarter last year they were able to set aside £9,866, compared to nothing for the year the pandemic hit. Thankfully in February 2021, the club successfully crowdfunded £19,214 from 154 supporters, including a £4,000 pledge from Sport England.

Eric Ratcliffe, who set up the crowdfunding campaign noted its success in nearly raising double of the original £10,000 target. To the project’s supporters he said,

“Without the generosity of a group of people, like yourself we wouldn’t have managed to achieve this fabulous result. We salute you”.

Crowdfunder’s coach Chloe Jones has been working hand in hand with the Sport England team and the clubs to get them funded. On reflection of what has been achieved over the past year, Chloe had this to say,

“It’s been about more than just money for these sports clubs. They are seeing a huge boost to their club’s morale, learning new skills about fundraising and becoming more self-sufficient, as well as growing their profiles in the local communities too. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with so many dedicated sports clubs and see their communities come together to help the clubs not only survive but revitalise through such a trying time”. 

Since 2020 Sport England’s Active Together fund on Crowdfunder has provided match funding for over 365 clubs raising more than £6,244,532. The current fund is close to being distributed, but you can still raise money for your idea; get online and real 1-2-1 coaching to make your crowdfunding campaign a success!

While the fund is still open, find out if you’re eligible for up to £10,000 in match funding and start crowdfunding today!