1.The sport sector in the UK encompasses a wide range of individual, community, regional, national and international activities. It is managed and supported by organisations that range from football clubs worth millions to small volunteer-run community groups. According to Sport England, community sport and activity generates £85.5 billion of social and economic value in England and that “every £1 spend on sport and physical activity generates an economic and social value of £3.91”.1
2.In 2019, our predecessor Committee published a Report on Changing Lives: the social impact of participation in culture and sport, which noted the value of sport in breaking the cycle of crime, improving pupil engagement education and broader social impacts.2 These benefits are reflected in the Government’s Sporting Future strategy and its five “key outcomes” for participation in sport: physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development, and economic development.3
3.We began this inquiry in mid-October 2020. England had just embarked on a new three-tier system for Covid restrictions whereby different geographical areas of the country were subject to different rules depending on the prevalence of the virus. By the end of the month, the Prime Minister had announced another lockdown across the whole of England in order to prevent a “medical and moral disaster” for the NHS.4 As a result, much of the written and oral evidence we received was submitted during lockdowns when many sporting organisations, no matter their size, were unsure about their long-term survival.
4.As we publish this Report, the country is in a significantly different, and arguably improved, position: over 60% of the adult population across the UK has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine,5 mass pilot events, both in- and outdoors, have taken place,6 and the rates of hospitalisation rates are significantly lower than they were at the start of 2021.7 What is more, sport and exercise were some of the first businesses and activities to reopen as part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown. For example, outdoor sports facilities, including tennis courts and open-air swimming pools, reopened on 29 March 2021, and people were also able to take part in “formally organised outdoor sports”.8 Gyms reopened on 12 April 2021 and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes returned five weeks later.9
5.However, this now improved position does not negate the experience of the last 18-months of thousands of sports groups, organisations, volunteers and participants across the country. This Report explores some the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic and the support made available by the Government but it is not intended to relive every challenge of the last 12-months. Instead, we have focused more on what needs to be done to sustain, support and grow community and grassroots sport as we emerge from the pandemic.
6.We would also like to take this opportunity to applaud the work that many sports groups, organisations and teams have done across the country in supporting their wider community during the pandemic. From boxing teams delivering food parcels10 to rugby clubs delivering prescriptions and shopping to people shielding and self-isolating,11 their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
7.Sport is a devolved policy area, so this Report focuses on England. We are, however, grateful for the evidence we received and heard from organisations based in the other nations.
2 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Eleventh Report of Session 2019–19, Changing Lives: the social impact of participation in culture and sport, HC [2019–19] 734, chapter 1
3 UK Government, Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation (December 2015), p 10
4 UK Government, ‘Prime Minister’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 31 October 2020’, accessed 2 July 2021
5 ‘Covid vaccine: How many people in the UK have been vaccinated so far?’, BBC News, 1 July 2021
6 UK Government, ‘Information on the Events Research Programme’, accessed 2 July 2021
7 UK Government, ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK’, accessed 2 July 2021
8 Cabinet Office, ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 (Summary)’, accessed 21 June 2021
9 Cabinet Office, ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 (Summary)’, accessed 21 June 2021
11 England Rugby, ‘RUGBY’S VALUES & IMPORTANCE OF VOLUNTEERS’, accessed 24 June 2021
Published: 29 July 2021 Site information Accessibility statement