Sport England opened the National Leisure Recovery Fund (NLRF) in December 2020, with the aim of supporting the reopening and recovery of public sector leisure facilities. A total of £100M has been distributed to 266 local authorities across England, funded by the Government and administered by Sport England.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, leisure facilities have had to close during each lockdown and operate with reduced visitor capacity when open. This has resulted in significantly lower levels of income generation over the past year. Leisure providers operating facilities and services on behalf of local authorities have been seeking financial support to subsidise retained closure and recovery costs. Like their local authority partners, many leisure operators are facing significant financial challenges and unfortunately a small number have become insolvent in the last year.
The NLRF is helping to reduce the financial burden of COVID-19 on the physical activity, sport and leisure sector, as part of the Government’s commitment to ‘building back fitter’. This funding will prove vital in supporting local authorities and their operator partners to continue to deliver outsourced physical activity, sport and leisure services. Critically, the data that will be made available through the Moving Communities platform will enable the sector to better evidence its state of health, performance and social value more than ever before. This will optimise the potential for further funding support in the future, based on hard evidence.
A full list of local authorities in receipt of National Leisure Recovery Funds is available here.
Physical activity, sport and leisure facilities reopened to the general public on 12 April 2021 for socially distanced use by individuals and households.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said
“We know that Local Authorities have faced significant financial pressure as a result of the pandemic so this £100 million for leisure will be vital in helping them recover.
“Communities across England rely on their local leisure centre or gym to help them keep fit and healthy and this funding will assist those public facilities to make ends meet.”
Sport England Chief Executive Tim Hollingsworth said
“Leisure facilities have a vital role to play in supporting the health of the nation and in particular in serving our more disadvantaged communities.
“They have been hit especially hard over the past year, so this investment is crucial and will help thousands to reopen when it becomes possible to do so – supporting the recovery and helping people get back to the activity they have badly missed.
“Sport England has worked at pace to enable the distribution of the investment to happen as quickly as possible and remains committed to doing what we can to continue to support this crucial part of our sector.”
Other funding and financial support that has been provided to the physical activity, sport and leisure sector includes:
- £270M of emergency funding allocated to grassroots organisations prior to the NLRF, also delivered by Sport England
- Government contributions to local government finance – local authority funding has been increased as part of the recent budget review
- Relief through the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (furlough), business rates relief and business interruption loans.
Duncan Wood-Allum, Managing Director of SLC said
“SLC is proud to have supported a significant number of our clients in receiving £ millions of funding support to operators which will boost the reopening of nearly 50 facilities across England including the two core cities of Sheffield and Manchester.
We would like to pay tribute to the Sport England team and national bodies who worked tirelessly to secure acknowledgement and unlock support from Government. The opportunity presented by Moving Communities (which SLC supported in its early concept and design stage) in providing national performance management information will be a game changer and we hope, a gateway to future financial support for 2021/22.”