Football Foundation launches three new funds to help clubs return to sport

12th Mar 2021

The Football Foundation have launched three new ‘Game On’ funds, committing over £16m of funding to help grassroots football to prepare for the return of sport.

The three Game On funds: Return to Football, Grass Pitch Maintenance and Small Grants are geared towards the varying needs of clubs who will need help prior to lockdown restrictions easing on 29th March, when outdoor team sport is set to resume in England.

What are the new Game On Funds?

The three Game On funds are targeted at grassroots football clubs across the country, each with a different purpose, such as supporting football in areas of need, grass pitch maintenance and funding for new sports equipment.

In total, over £16m is on offer for eligible groups across the three funds:

  • Return to Football Fund
  • Grass Pitch Maintenance Fund
  • Small Grants Fund

The Football Foundation is strongly encouraging community groups to apply for the funds, to help ensure a strong return to the sport on March 29th. Find out more about each fund below.

If you’re looking to secure funding for a non-football related or larger scale project, such as a new facility or facility refurbishment, please refer to our funding and finance page.

Return to Football Fund

The Return to Football fund is targeting the clubs and organisations who are most in need, to help them either restart existing grassroots football programmes or deliver new ones.


How much can you get?

Depending your organisation type, you can apply for grants of between £500 – £2,500.


What can you spend it on?

The grant must be spent on either restarting football activity, or delivering new football activity that was cancelled due to the pandemic.

This includes funding things like: sports equipment, safety and sanitation, staffing and training costs, marketing costs – any reasonable cost directly involved with restarting or delivering new football activity.

You can find a full breakdown of what you can/can’t use the grant on here.


Who is eligible for the grant?

  • FA Women’s National League Clubs (Tiers 3-4 of the Women’s Football Pyramid)
  • Disability Leagues
  • Professional Club Community Organisations
  • FA Charter Standard Clubs and non-for-profit organisations – only if delivering football in an area within Decile 1-3 of the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD)

Still unsure? Check out the fund’s handy eligibility checker.

Ready to apply?

The Return to Football fund is now open and closes on Sunday 28th March 2021, with all funding decisions communicated to applicants by Friday 9th April at the latest.

Apply on the Football Foundation website.

Grass Pitch Maintenance Fund

The Grass Pitch maintenance fund is a whopping £14m fund which will provide six-year tapered grants to clubs wishing to improve the quality of their natural turf pitches.


How much can you get?

This will depend on two things: pitch size and the quality of your pitch, as assessed by PitchPower, which will give your pitch a ‘Performance Quality Standard’ (PQS).

Pitches with a PQS of ‘basic’ or below can receive up to £2,500 in the first year (for a full sized pitch).

Pitches with a PQS of ‘good’ or higher can receive up to £750 in the first year (for a full sized pitch).

Grant payment are made annually for 6 years, though are tapered, so your annual amount received will decrease over time. For full-sized pitches with a PQS of ‘basic’ or below, you could receive up to £10,000 funding over 6 years.


What can you spend it on?

What you spend your grant on will be informed by your PitchPower Assessment Report.

This could include: contractor works, purchasing materials or purchasing equipment.

You cannot spend the grant on routine maintenance work.

You can find a full breakdown of what you can/can’t use the grant on here.


Who is eligible for the grant?

  • Grassroots clubs
  • Leagues
  • Charities with an annual turnover of <£500k
  • National League System Clubs Step 1-6 – only for pitches that are used for community football

The below are not eligible for the grant:

  • Clubs, leagues or organisations without suitable security of tenure
  • Clubs, leagues or organisations without a PitchPower Pitch Assessment Report
  • Charities with an annual turnover of >£500k
  • Local authorities

Ready to apply?

Before applying for the Grass Pitch Maintenance fund, eligible organisations have to sign up for PitchPower and undertake a PitchPower pitch inspection.

The fund opens on Monday 15th March for eligible organisations who have completed their PitchPower pitch inspection via the PitchPower app.

Find out more on the Football Foundation website.

Small Grants Fund

The Small Grants fund caters for clubs who need help paying for essential equipment, machinery or small works needed to start playing again.


How much can you get?

Grants of up to £25,000*

*Not to exceed 75% of the total project costs.


What can you spend it on?

The Small Grants on offer can be used to make a variety of improvements such as:

  • Improving the quality of playing surfaces
  • Installing fencing
  • Buying pitch maintenance machinery
  • Replacing or buying new goalposts
  • Refurbishing or carrying out essential works on your changing rooms or clubhouse.

You can find further details on what you can/can’t fund with the grant on here.


Who is eligible for the grant?

So long as grassroots football is an integral part of your offering, the below organisations are eligible to apply:

  • Non-for-profit football clubs or voluntary groups
  • Local authorities
  • County FAs
  • Professional club community organisations
  • Schools, colleges or universities providing facilities for the community
  • Registered charities
  • Non-for-profit companies
  • Community interest companies (CIC) or other social enterprises
  • Companies limited by guarantee

The below are not eligible for the grant:

  • Individuals or sole traders
  • National governing bodies
  • Commercial or for-profit entities
  • A club within the Premier League, Football League, National League System (Steps 1-6) Regional Feeder League (Step 7), Women’s Football Pyramid (Tiers 1-5) or Welsh Premier League
  • Schools, universities or colleges providing facilities only for their students

Ready to apply?

It’s worth reading the full Guide to Small Grants to ensure your organisation and project goals are eligible.

The fund is open for eligible organisations who can apply directly on the Football Foundation Website.

I’m not eligible for the Game On Funds, what other funding options are there?

Last year Sport England announced their Return to Play Fund, which will deliver a total of £16.5m in funding to groups, clubs and organisations in the sport and activity sector who have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The fund is split into three separate strands (£10m for small grants up to £10,000, £5m for Community Asset grants up to £50,000 and £1.5m for Active Together crowdfunding matched grants up to £10,000).  The Return to Play fund is aimed at helping organisations to get back on track, in turn helping to get people active in the coming months as restrictions ease.

You can find out more about the Return to Play fund on the Sport England Website.

Sports Facility Financing

If you’re not eligible for the Game On funds, Sport England or similar funding, then financing some or all of your new facility or refurbishment may be an option available to you.


Sports Operating Lease

Sports operating leases are particularly popular for academy and state schools and allow you to spread the cost of investing in your new sports facilities. Benefits include reduced upfront costs, no deposit options, fixed payments, reduced tax payments, and the option to reclaim VAT.

Find out more about sports operating leases.


Hire Purchase Agreement

Particularly beneficial for VAT-registered organisations, hire purchase agreements allow you to spread the cost of your new sports facility over time. Benefits include reduced upfront costs, deferred payment options, tax relief via annual capital allowances and the option to claim VAT back at the outset (if VAT registered).

Find out more about hire purchase agreements.


Finance Lease

Finance leases are recommended for organisations who are not VAT-registered, as they allow you to spread the cost of your facility, and VAT, over time. Benefits of a finance lease include no-deposit options, fixed repayments and the ability to reduce taxable income with the full asset value on your balance sheet.

Find out more about finance leases.


You can find out more about all of these finance options and alternative funds on our dedicated Funding & Finance page or call our experts on 01635 34521 for tailored advice.

Funding and finance advice from S&C Slatter

We’ve worked with clients who have utilised a variety of funding options to bring their sports construction projects to life. With 30 years’ experience in the design, construction and maintenance of sports facilities, we have a large network of funding partners and contacts.

View our sports funding and finance case studies to see a selection of projects funded by operating leases or framework funding.

Contact our team to talk to us about your plans and receive advice and guidance on what funding options may be best suited to you.