Survival package not a revival package


  • Emergency funding granted to protect the immediate future of major spectator sports in England
  • Support will be provided to rugby union, horse racing, women’s football and the lower tiers of the National League football
  • Rugby league, motorsport, tennis, netball, basketball, ice hockey, badminton and greyhound racing also in line to benefit
  • Unprecedented sport package by a national government in addition to hundreds of millions of pounds sports clubs have received through the Covid business support schemes


In 2020 the sports and entertainment industries have been hit hard by the human and economic crisis. In November the UK Government announced the issuing of a Winter Survival Package to help major spectator sports. Distributing the funding and managing the application process is Sport England[1].

Whilst this funding has been well received by most sports fans there are many who have questioned the integrity of the decision. Arguing that funding has been targeted at Conservative heartland sport after rugby union received the lion’s share of a £300m pot.

Having read these remarks and after listening to people from around the industry what is clear to us is that everyone is struggling. There is no exception. Grassroots participation in sport is down, governing bodies and organisations are struggling to deliver against commercial responsibilities and professional athletes are under significant stress. When we consider the winter survival package the question many ask is, why? Why address this problem and not grassroots participation?

So in this article, we hope to explore what financial support the government and Sport England have provided to sports bodies and associations and what are the gaps where we as an industry will have to come together to protect the longevity of sports.

The Sport Winter Survival Package  financial support to 11 different sports:

The aim: supporting spectator sports through the current period where revenue has dried up because of an absence of paying fans.

There are two important considerations here. The first being that this is aimed at supporting sports reliant upon spectators as the primary commercial revenue stream. Secondly, the mechanism that these funds are distributed is as a loan. Which will inevitably look at the potential for repayment. Although the loan will likely consider the short term cashflow issues faced by the business there is an assumption that the sports have a significant fan base that in the medium-term future once restrictions ease, repayment is possible.

One of the most common complaints that have been raised is the contrast is the distribution of funds i.e. rugby union set to receive £135m while basketball was granted £4m. [2] Within the UK the difference in scale of the sports is considerable. Rugby union employs 58,900 people and relies upon an average of 13,833 spectators attending each match. The funding reflects the scale of the businesses and the cash flow. It isn’t about putting them on a level playing field but about enabling them to survive in their current state. Smaller businesses will naturally have less overheads and will likely be much more flexible to adapt their business model.

Rather than arguing which team deserves what share of the pie before we look at how many players, they have to feed we should consider the aim of the fund and the mechanism by which it is distributed.

Managing director, Jason Harborow had this to say about the issue at hand. “For me, the blend between elite-level competition and participation is linked – people are inspired by elite performance, nothing like sport helps build a sense of pride and purpose and the outcome is people wanting to participate – sport has a responsibility to balance the focus for the greater good at all levels and believe me it will be sport and culture which will reunite people post COVID and provide the fun and joy which has been missing during 2020”

A more important set of questions to address is perhaps what is the local government is planning to do as a revival package for sports? As we see a light at the end of a long dark tunnel how are sporting events/ events of all kinds across the entertainment industry is supporting to rebound? In the midst of a Brexit, Covid-19 recession which has been rather unavoidable we have seen a lot of reactions but no talk of what a future could look like and how we plan for sports to survive but to be revived. As one the England and Great Britain’s greatest exports how do we rebuild grassroots sports for a healthier happier future?




[1] Who work closely with national governing bodies to support building an active nation through a combination of National Lottery funding and grant-in-aid from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which classifies us them as a non-departmental government body.



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