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Winter Survival Package of £300m for major spectator sports

We'll be administering the money via a solicited fund that's aimed at supporting sports who've been affected by the ban on spectators in recent months.

19th November 2020

Our chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth, has welcomed the government’s announcement of a £300 million Winter Survival Package to help major spectator sports.

The injection of funding will support spectator sports impacted by coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions – from national governing bodies through to individual clubs.

The government package is providing support to, among others, rugby union, horse racing, netball, basketball and badminton, as well as the lower tiers of football’s National League – a preliminary breakdown of the funding distribution proposed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) can be found below.

Empty stands at a Premiership Rugby game

We’ll be distributing the funding and, in due course, will announce the criteria and how the process will work.

The fund’s designed to last until the end of the current financial year and Tim hopes the money will have a positive impact on sports affected by the ban on spectators due to coronavirus restrictions.

“These are unprecedented times for our sector, and those sports and leagues that rely so heavily on spectators for their income that have been especially impacted by the pandemic,” he said.

“The role they play in their local communities is vital and this package of support from government will be hugely welcomed.  

“Alongside our wider support for grassroots and community sport, Sport England is working very closely with government colleagues on the design of this fund and we look forward to playing a key role in its successful and swift delivery.”

'Beating hearts'

The funding process will be overseen by a new, independent, decision-making board and supported by us, with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, saying the government will do everything it can to help sports and club make it through the coronavirus pandemic.

“Sports clubs are the beating hearts of their communities, and this £300 million boost will help them survive this difficult winter period,” he said.

“We promised to stand by sports when we had to postpone fans returning. We are doing just that by delivering another £300m on top of the existing business support schemes.”

The Prime Minister initially announced that spectators could begin to return to sporting arenas, in a socially-distanced manner, in October.

A rise in cases saw this move postponed, but Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston hopes this money will help lessen the impact of the virus on sports and clubs.

“Over the past few weeks we have worked tirelessly with sport governing bodies and clubs across the country to fully assess what support is needed, as a result of the decision to postpone the return of fans,” he said.

“We know the vast majority of sports – many of which operate on tight financial margins – have been making serious cost reductions, such as locking down grounds, taking up the furlough scheme for many staff and halting excess payments.

“Whilst the government’s overall economic package has provided a significant buffer, it is absolutely right that we now intervene to protect entire sports, and the communities they support, as we navigate this pandemic.”

The fund will be a targeted investment into spectator sports, and not an open, sector-wide fund.

This is not the sole funding option available to sports, though, and our £16.5m Return to Play Fund – part of a £220.5m package of National Lottery and government funding we’ve invested into the sport and physical activity sector since the onset of coronavirus – is currently open.

Frequently asked questions

  • What’s the fund and why’s it needed?

    This a professional/spectator sport support package, designed to help those organisations who've suffered significant revenue losses as a result of the lack of spectators attending matches or events in recent months.

    This has had a severe impact on the cash flows and reserves of clubs and bodies across the country and put them under immense financial pressure. In many cases this has, in turn, severely impacted their ability to support the grassroots of the sport.

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  • How will the funding be distributed and how can people apply?

    This is a solicited programme and not an open fund. All of the relevant sports and organisations have been engaged throughout the process to determine their specific needs. This has helped establish the overall level of money needed.

    The next phase of the process will be for the relevant organisations to submit an application, which will be considered and decided upon by an independent committee.

    The expectation is that the £300m will be distributed primarily as loans, but grants will be offered based upon individual organisations' financial need.

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  • What about grassroots sport?

    The government has been clear that this package was always about ensuring organisations didn’t suffer as a result of the decision to postpone the re-admittance of spectators to stadia since October. In many cases this has, in turn, severely impacted their ability to support the grassroots of the sport.

    We've provided a significant amount of financial support for grassroots and community sport, including over £220m of grant funding through a variety of rollover funding and emergency funds since March.

    And the £16.5m Return to Play Fund, for those who deliver sport at community level to apply, is open for applications.

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  • What support are you providing for grassroots sport?

    In March, we agreed a £195m support package for the community and grassroots sport and physical activity sector in England, which was increased to £210m in May.

    This was designed to assist national partners, key organisations and facilities, and local clubs and community groups survive the period of the initial lockdown – as well as being able to respond to the opportunities and innovation the situation provided – and return to activity and not just survive, but thrive in the future.

    In the past month we've dedicated further money to our £16.5m Return to Play Fund. 

    It's designed to assist local sports clubs and community organisations in readying themselves for a coronavirus-secure environment and to maximise the opportunity for people to be active. It contains a mix of revenue grants, capital grants and the option of pursuing crowdfunding income, and was reopened on 5 November after revisions following the new national-level restrictions.

    Since March we've also invested £3m of National Lottery funding into Join the Movement, a campaign designed to show people what activity's possible during lockdown and promote its benefits.

    More details on all our support for the sector can be found here.

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  • Why are you involved in supporting professional sport – surely this sits outside your remit?

    The government approached us to help create a process through which immediate financial support can be provided to sports organisations.

    This is a direct result of the successful implementation of the £16m rugby league loans programme which has recently made decisions on all financial requests.

    Whilst the investment decisions will be taken by an independent committee, we’ll be responsible for administering the overall programme.

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  • Is more funding needed for grassroots sport?

    We're continuing to work closely with sports to determine immediate emergency need at a grassroots and community level.

    We're also pursuing analysis of where our funding has gone so far, what it's achieved and what we've learned.

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Funding breakdown

  • How will the money be split?

    A preliminary breakdown of funding by sport, based on needs assessment, has already been made. 

    However, these are all indicative figures based on provisional returns to DCMS to produce the initial assessment. 

    Each sport will need to go through an application process to access the support and the final amounts may differ from those shown here. 

    Rugby union 

    • Rugby Football Union: £44m
    • Premiership Rugby clubs: £59m  
    • Championship rugby clubs: £9m
    • Rugby clubs below Championship: £23m.


    • Racecourses: £40m.


    Rugby league 


    • Owners/operators of major circuits (Silverstone, Goodwood, The British Automobile Racing Club, MotorSport Vision): £6m.


    • Lawn Tennis Association: £5m.


    • England Netball: £2m 
    • Super League Netball: £2m. 


    • Basketball England: £1m. 
    • British Basketball League clubs (including Women’s British Basketball League clubs): £3m.

    Ice Hockey 

    • Elite League: £3m. 


    • Badminton England: £2m.  

    Greyhound racing 

    • Greyhound Board of Great Britain: £1m.

    It’s expected that the first wave of funding will be distributed in the coming weeks.

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