Sport can be life-changing for young people, both mentally and physically, and contribute towards better life outcomes
If you haven’t had the chance to read Hansle Parchment’s Olympic story, I’d recommend it. The Jamaican 110m hurdler has won praise recently, not just for his gold medal win but for finding and thanking a good Samaritan who paid his taxi fare after he found himself stranded at the wrong venue and in danger of missing his semi-finals race. Stories like theirs are what make the Games so special, and they also go to show that in the big moments - even at sport’s most elite levels - the support of a local community is crucial.
Over the past 18 months, this has come into even sharper focus as we’ve witnessed the devastating impact of the pandemic on sporting clubs and their members all over the UK. Local clubs are often the lifeblood of communities - they don’t just provide opportunities to excel in sports, but also the networks and life skills that can help shape futures.
Being part of a local sports club builds better levels of teamwork, greater resilience and enhances communication skills. It helps deliver the lost social interactions that many have missed. Some studies have estimated participation in sport can create returns of £4 for every £1 spent by reducing crime, truancy, and ill health. Young people have really felt the brunt of their loss and support is needed now more than ever if the UK’s clubs are to remain a feature of their communities for years to come.
That’s why we made the decision to partner with Made By Sport earlier in the year. Through our grassroots fund, Cash4Clubs, we have a long history of supporting local club sport and we were determined to do something that would make a real difference as communities rebuild following the pandemic.
Using the monies we received through the business rates relief system, we set up the ‘Clubs in Crisis’ fund with a donation of £4.79 million to support local clubs delivering positive social outcomes. Thanks to the great work of Made by Sport and the UK Community Foundation, we have reached a major milestone this week, distributing more than £1.79 million to hundreds of sports clubs across the UK, all of which have been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic over the past year. Around 65% of grants have gone to clubs whose primary social outcomes are developing life skills and improving mental health, with the remainder focused on community building (21%), reducing crime and anti-social behaviour (11%), and improving youth employability (3%).
Clubs from all parts of the UK have benefitted from the fund. In Northern Ireland, where demand has been unprecedented, over £120,000 has been administered. Close to £140,000 has been awarded to clubs in Scotland and over £58,000 to those in Wales. In England, sporting organisations including the Leeds Powerchair Football Club and the Trafford Handball Club in Manchester have received much-needed financial support, as well as a variety of different clubs in rural regions from Cornwall to Cumbria, where such funding makes a significant difference.
The response that Made by Sport and the UK Community Foundation (“UKCF”) have received in just three months demonstrates the clear need for this type of funding and I hope that this inspires others to get involved, so that together we can strengthen the new support networks we are building for this hard to reach sector.
We truly believe that access to sport can be life-changing for young people, both mentally and physically, and contribute towards better life outcomes. There is still some way to go to distribute Flutter’s donation in full and we will continue to work closely with Made by Sport to ensure it reaches clubs that are delivering a real difference to the lives of young people in the local communities they serve.
Peter Jackson is the chief executive of Flutter Entertainment