Sport bodies ‘will need climate action plan in place to receive public funding’

National sport governing bodies will need to put a robust sustainability action plan in place by March 2027 to receive funding, Sport England has announced.

The public body announced the policy on Thursday as part of its first-ever sustainability strategy.

It also ringfenced more than £45 million of National Lottery funding for supporting people to get active in nature, restoring flooded sports pitches and helping sports clubs become sustainable.

Concerns over the future of UK sports have been growing in recent months, with several sports bodies warning about the loss of infrastructure due to climate-related impacts.

The Football Association (FA) estimated 120,000 games will be lost each year, with a third of community pitches already unplayable for two months due to flooding.

Last month, seven UK water sports bodies launched an alliance to campaign for clean open water, warning environmental impacts like pollution are a “death-knell” to their sports.

Sport England chairman Chris Boardman said: “There is no doubt that our changing climate is already impacting our opportunities, motivation and ability to be active.

“Extreme weather is increasingly making it difficult for us to live healthy, active lives by creating a ‘doom loop’ where people become less motivated and more fearful of injury, with sporting opportunities increasingly cancelled and disrupted.”

He warned that, without change, the Government’s target to get 3.5 million more people active by 2030 is “very much in jeopardy”, with children suffering the most.

“If places to play are unavailable, people will go and do something other than sport and physical activity, leading to small clubs going under and vital community organisations disbanding,” he said.

Sports England’s new sustainability strategy outlines several commitments including the requirement for its 130 partners to have sustainability action plans in place by March 2027 as a condition of their funding.

The public body said it will also commit to work with partners and stakeholders to ensure end-of-life recycling for all newly-funded replacement artificial grass pitches from June 2024 as another condition of funding.

Elsewhere, the organisation pledged to become a signatory of the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, to reduce its own carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and to achieve net zero by 2040 across its national sports centres and its supply chain.

Sports minister Stuart Andrew said: “All organisations, including across the sport sector, must play a part to reduce their impact on the environment and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“This commitment from Sport England will help to maintain access to facilities, so that as many people as possible are able to keep fit and healthy as we strive to achieve our ambition to get 3.5 million more people active by 2030.”

Dr Russell Seymour, chairman of the British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS), said: “The publication of this strategy is a step change for sustainability in sport.

“BASIS has been calling for funding to be linked to sustainability since 2011 and I congratulate Sport England for creating a framework which can provide national governing bodies with the support they need to protect sport in the face of climate change.”

Olly Scadgell, the Lawn Tennis Association’s executive lead on sustainability, said: “Whether it be the impact of extreme heat on our major events, or rising sea levels and increasingly severe rainfall threatening tennis courts across the country with regular flooding, changes to the climate and environment are already impacting tennis at all levels.

“We look forward to working with Sport England and partners across the sector to continue to play our part and ensure that we safeguard sport for future generations.”

The investment comes as part of a wider £100 million cash injection to help the sector adapt to climate change.

The Government and Sport England have already ringfenced £60 million as a joint investment to make hundreds of swimming pools more environmentally-friendly and financially sustainable.