NEWS RELEASE: Launch of FA/Football Foundation Local Football Facility Plan project “landmark for national grassroots game”


ISSUE DATE:  26 November 2020

Launch of FA/Football Foundation Local Football Facility Plan project “landmark for national grassroots game”
Two-year project delivers 300-plus reports identifying 5,000 community schemes


The Football Foundation announcement of its intent to start implementing the recommendations set out in its local football facility plans (LFFPs) which cover the whole of England represents a landmark for the  grassroots game, according to Knight, Kavanagh and Page (KKP), the consultancy practice that undertook the research and consultation, and wrote the plans upon which the project is based.

The announcement (made by the Football Foundation in association with the FA) on 19 November 2020 confirms their intent to react to and deliver the detailed programme of improvements to football facilities needed across every local authority area in England. The Football Foundation is now starting the task of working with local councils and other partners to put the proposals outlined in these plans into place.

David McHendry, KKP managing director, commented: “The announcement of the start of the implementation phase of the LFFP project represents the culmination of more than two years’ work by the team at KKP. Together the Football Foundation, the FA, the DCMS, the English Football League and the Premier League recognised the need for a concerted effort to improve grass pitches and increase the quantity and quality of artificial grass pitches and related facilities to sustain and develop football at community level. Commissioning KKP to prepare the report for each local authority area, delivering the extensive research, consultation, data collection and analysis required to underpin each report, was a reflection of the company’s expertise in this field and our experience producing playing pitch strategies. It was a major undertaking that KKP was pleased to be part of and we are delighted that implementation has begun.”

KKP delivered 318 local football facility plans, a process that involved contact with all the local authorities involved and more than 2,000 grassroots football clubs, along with a whole range of stakeholders and interested parties. More than 5,000 individual projects have been identified, including the improvement of grass pitches, installation of new football turf pitches, redeveloping club houses and building new small-sided football facilities.

Andrew Fawkes, KKP’s project manager for this assignment, commented: “KKP’s approach to preparing each plan was based on developing trusted relationships with the football partners, the crucial element of  club consultation, and the compilation of comprehensive reliable data. Assessing the outcome potential, quality and opportunity offered by each project was reliant on our consultants co-ordinating a wealth of site-specific knowledge. In addition numerous face-to-face and telephone interviews ensured the full engagement of all stakeholders, while KKP’s geographic information systems (GIS) team mapped demographic and participation data to underpin the process.”

Robert Sullivan, interim chief executive of the Football Foundation, commented: “After two years of hard work, every local authority has an agreed list of specific pitches and clubhouses to build or improve in their area. These local football facility plans are the road map to a transformation in how every player enjoys our national game. Our next challenge is to work together – as a team at the local and national level – to secure the necessary funding and deliver these projects.”

For further details and interviews please contact KKP via (0)161 764 7040 or email mail@kkp.co.uk

 Notes for editors

  • Further detail of KKP’s work on playing pitch strategies and in all aspects of the fields of sport, leisure and planning is available via the KKP website at www.kkp.co.uk
  • Full details of the Football Foundation’s Local Football Facility Plan project is available at the Football Foundation’s website: https://footballfoundation.org.uk/local-plans
  • The Sport England document Playing Pitch Strategy Guidance: An Approach to Developing and Delivering a Playing Pitch Strategy, which was written by KKP on behalf of Sport England, is available via the Sport England website at: www.sportengland.org/facilities-and-planning
  • KKP was founded in 1990 and is the longest-established sport and leisure consultancy currently operating in the UK.

The great indoors: taking the hassle out of community use of school facilities

There may be light at the end of Covid-10 crisis tunnel but sport and leisure may need to grasp the opportunity to adopt new approaches to perennial problems. Clare MacLeod, principal consultant at KKP, suggests that Badminton England’s facility strategy might be a step in the right direction


News of encouraging results in several of the coronavirus vaccine trials has re-ignited hope. With so much damage done to individuals, communities and businesses, could there be a chance to insert an LED bulb into the light at the end of the tunnel for the sport and leisure sector?

Not wishing to get carried away, the answer might be a cautious ‘maybe’, perhaps even a hesitant ‘yes’, but lessons have to be learned and opportunities grasped if we are to emerge from 2020 with a functioning sector able to survive and build upon the lessons learnt through multiple lockdowns.

One issue we face at present is the trauma of facility-based sports. Badminton, gymnastics, netball and basketball, to name perhaps the most visible, are struggling to find much to celebrate at the moment. Clubs are seeing income from memberships drop, the relevant national governing bodies (NGB) are taking a hit on affiliation fees and, perhaps potentially most damaging, players are being forced to find different things to do with their leisure time. It doesn’t take long for people’s lifestyles and habits to change; many clubs are concerned that, after prolonged lay-offs from their sport, people will have embarked on alternative activities. While facility-based sports ponder the huge opportunity costs of lost play, promotion and development activity, large chunks of the rest of the sport and leisure sector are heavily at risk from the impact of lockdown on physical activity of all kinds.

One of the earliest and most obvious lockdown problems for sports that hire rather than own facilities was access to indoor space. This has been exacerbated by a very high proportion of public leisure centre sports halls being given over (in part or in full) to other activities, predominantly those related to health and fitness, which ‘pays the bills’ in so many facilities.

Badminton has been working on this issue of access to courts (of the right quality and at the right times) for years but the NGB’s current facility strategy, drawn up just prior to the Covid crisis, sees access to school facilities as a potential solution. Community use of school facilities is far from new as a concept but in a post-lockdown environment it looks like an even better option for sustainable access to court space.

However, this requires a new approach if it is going to solve the problem – or part of it at least – in any effective way. The model currently being explored by Badminton England is for the NGB to support local clubs, leagues and/or coaches to gear up and function as operators of the community use of school facilities. This means them taking on the management function for out-of-hours letting to guarantee court access for badminton players, offer additional space to other users and provide a financial return to schools with minimal school staff involvement in the administration process.

As Nick Rimmer, head of development at Badminton England, explained, such an approach offers a real opportunity to make community-use facilities genuinely accessible.

“We don’t have many badminton-specific facilities and our clubs do not normally own their own venues” Nick said. “There are a few exceptions, probably 20 at most across the country, but we tend to find that better development and progression comes from these clubs. As an NGB, we recognise that having that control over facility access and, vitally, programming leads to better development work, from engagement to performance.

“Even before Covid we were seeing sports hall closures and those that were open becoming smaller in terms of court space and more expensive as the demand for other activities grows. It creates a real challenge for clubs that wish to grow and develop.”

Seeking to turn this around, Badminton England started looking at what it could do help clubs and coaches to run their own facilities. Schools are the obvious starting point for this. Research recently published by the Sport and Recreation Alliance shows that 45% of all sports facilities in England are located on ‘education sites’ yet 46% of these were not available to the community for use pre-Covid-19. This means that almost one quarter of all sports hall space is inaccessible to the public.

But how to make it work better than it has in the past so as to create a practical and sustainable route to facilities for badminton?

“It’s been done on a small scale before,” Nick said, “but we’re generally at the whim of sports hall operators. The challenge is to be a little more imaginative in our thinking and look at whether it can be done on a larger scale. Could a club take over a sports hall for several nights per week and build a programme of community use? It’s something we’re exploring while looking to work with these same clubs to put them on a firmer footing.”

The numbers suggest it is an option with huge potential. There are around 4,000 secondary schools in the country and most have a three- or four-court sports hall. That is all most clubs need if they can obtain the requisite programme time. Badminton England’s figures illustrate that around 500,000 people play the sport every two weeks, 50,000 of whom are NGB members. This suggests considerable demand for facility operators (in this case clubs on behalf of schools) to tap into. With so much play being recreational rather than club-based and so many players struggling to find court time, there would seem to be an opportunity for clubs to offer self-managed pay-and-play options within their allocated court time if the booking and management aspect of the letting process can be made to work for all parties. Badminton England is looking to develop core models that are straightforward and replicable for clubs and schools across the country.

Nick acknowledges that this is a big commitment for a club but the badminton-specific centres operating at the moment demonstrate what an impact dedicated facilities can have.

“We’re not looking to take over the world,” Nick said, “but if we can get a few examples working well we can then look to see what will work. We’re looking at a variety of models for badminton but there is no reason why netball and others could not replicate that model with a little help and support.”

The prospect of an NGB being closely involved with facility management also offers an opportunity for the use of schemes such as Clubmark to shape development and behaviours. Offering priority to clubs and leagues that can demonstrate that they are inclusive and safe, with all the positive habits that Clubmark encourages, would be a step in the right direction. A sport with clubs able to demonstrate that that they can deliver the ‘full circle’ of safe, high-quality sporting experiences has a head start in developing the sport and generating membership revenue.

From an education perspective, sports like badminton and netball have a relatively low physical impact on facilities, and the involvement of the NGB providing oversight and quality assurance in the letting process should ensure that schools get a good (and secure) financial return. They can, thus, be confident that clubs managing and using their facilities are appropriately affiliated and that their sports spaces are making a real contribution to the development of sporting opportunity for their students and the local community.

Such a vision undoubtedly involves a level of sophistication beyond that demonstrated to date in respect of community access to schools but that does not mean it could not happen now. Schools have appropriate facilities, court-based sports can bring a long-term, consistent and continuous demand for space, and the impact of the Covid crisis on leisure centre facilities means that operator access to school sites makes more sense than ever.

My own suggestion would be for a sports county governing body, or even perhaps an innovative active partnership, to establish a relationship with two or three schools, becoming the operator for its sports halls and providing coaching and financial benefit to the school (or academy network) in return for access.

At the moment it looks as if the damage done to the sport and leisure sector by the Covid crisis will be with us for a very long time but Badminton England is at least attempting to grasp the opportunity presented by the need for a new approach to existing problems. Let’s see if it can make it work.

Clare MacLeod is a Director and Principal Consultant at KKP

Contact Clare on clare.macleod@kkp.co.uk 


November 2020

Year Zero: what future for sport?

John Eady of KKP considers some options that might be considered based upon the calendar of challenges that 2020 has brought. With professional sport in crisis, what does the future hold for grass roots sport and is it time to look again at the role of community clubs?


Sporting headlines tend towards the cataclysmic at the best of times but recently the usual references to crisis, chaos and disaster have been less easy to dismiss. Many clubs, leagues and entire sports are staring over the financial precipice and facing unprecedented circumstances.

There is no doubting the scale of the challenge. The English Football League (EFL) is talking about further losses of £200m without a return of supporters through the gates. Premiership Rugby and rugby’s second tier, the RFU Championship, are questioning whether they can survive much longer in their current form. Hopes for a support package for sport from the DCMS seem to be edging further into the long grass the lengthier discussions become.

But most of the ‘sport in crisis’ headlines, and a proportion of the pleas for central government support, are about the plight of professional sport. For all the economic impact assessments of the professional sports sector, it is hard to justify government bail-outs for leagues that have rewarded themselves handsomely for their multi-billion-pound broadcasting contracts or clubs that commit to spend 120% of their turnover on player wages. In the context of large-scale support for professional sport, we are surely obliged to ask what we are actually getting for our money. If the professional leagues collapsed, we might wonder, what difference would it make to the grassroots?

There are no easy answers. A great many professional clubs do have strong bonds with their communities. The loss of long-established clubs such as Bury FC and Macclesfield Town has had an impact, not least on local supply chains and retailers. KKP’s work on the EFL’s report Measuring the Impact of EFL Clubs in the Community, published in January 2020, demonstrated the scale of these connections, particularly through their club community organisations (CCO); 41 million person-hours of participation in sport and physical activity is not to be dismissed lightly. But CCOs are, technically at least, independent. Could they continue without the support of and relationship with the clubs they work with so closely? It would seem unlikely.

While football gets the lion’s share of attention and investment, professional rugby has been building a comparable financial model. For all its successes, professional rugby has been on the cusp of a financial crisis for as long as it has existed. Being brutally honest, I can’t get too exercised about the Championship losing its RFU funding. Taking rugby’s second tier out of the (RFU underpinned) professional player-based equation and allocating the funds released to other areas of the game was being considered when I first evaluated the financial implications of Rugby’s World Class Programme two decades ago.

At community level, rugby union’s club-focused structure has been one of the game’s strengths for generations but the willingness to accept the trickle-down of professionalism has put it under strain. The Covid-19 crisis may have at least one beneficial effect in that it may compel all clubs below the Premiership to address the fundamental issue of how and where money is spent. Over the last 15 years KKP has worked with dozens of rugby clubs that have invested heavily to recruit and pay players that can move them up a couple of divisions. The notion of putting the existence of your club at risk in order to secure its place at a slightly higher level of recreational rugby has always seemed to be a pointless exercise, now more than ever.

This has evolved to a degree where player recruitment has, for many clubs, become more important than player development. It has led to the ‘products’ of their own investment of time, effort and other resources in mini and junior structures hitting a first XV glass ceiling whereby the opportunity afforded to home-grown players is limited. It has also, in many clubs, shifted the focus of their executive committees and key volunteers onto an annual drive to raise funds which are simply channelled into the pockets of nomadic players who will, for an extra £10 per game, be playing elsewhere the following season. A number of clubs have invested in paying players at levels that have led to them incurring significant debt, to the point where selling off parts of their grounds for housing and other development has been the only way to stave off terminal financial crises.

We may find that the Covid crisis goes some way to clarifying or redefining the relationship between the professional elite and the grassroots of sport. For all the excellent work of EFL club community organisations, the world of professional football is ruthlessly competitive. Rugby’s steps along that road have already prompted some to wonder whether the loss of the connection between a club and cohorts of local players coming from juniors through to the first team is a price worth paying.

With financial challenges arriving with ever greater frequency, we may start to place a higher value on the role of the community-focused club, the kind of set-up that runs dozens of teams, from minis and juniors aged six or less to under-19s, women’s teams, and three or four men’s teams, all with coaches, assistants and helpers. Clubs with their own facilities, a strong and broad membership base, and deep roots in their locality have a much better chance of surviving current (and future) challenges, whatever their sport might be. In such circumstances, which level of league each of your (many) teams is playing in and whether your first team is one league above or two below your local rivals may not prove to be quite as important. With a bit of luck it will revert to being a matter for discussion in the bar and of local bragging rights rather than a huge commitment of club finances.

Just as empty stadia are requiring the elite end of the sporting spectrum to reassess its relationship with its paying spectators, the prospect of even less money (and, in the case of rugby and many other sports, less NGB staff-led professional support) finding its way from the elite to the grass roots may prompt re-evaluation of all the relationships in the game. Professional sport set up to maximise the commercial returns for owners, administrators and players is fine, but that is business based on sport. Government initiatives, NGB energies and available financial support should be primarily focused on clubs that are set up to enrich their communities rather than remote investors.

There are, as always, no easy answers and the question of what sport is for will prompt a different response from everyone asked. However, the reaction to the question of what kind of sport we should be actively seeking to encourage may prove to be clearer.


John Eady is chief executive of KKP.


Measuring the Impact of EFL Clubs in the Community

KKP produced the report Measuring the Impact of EFL Clubs in the Community on behalf of the EFL. The report, published in January 2020, demonstrated the scale of the connections between professional clubs and their local communities, particularly through the work their club community organisations.

Download the full report via the EFL website via the link above [pdf].


 November 2020

Major events, major issues

Tim Holdsworth considers the impact of a calendar devoid of major participation events and wonders whether the scale of the loss will highlight the contribution they make to the UK’s cultural and sporting life.


In 2020 the London Marathon took take place in October for the first time. The fortieth staging of the event served as a reminder of the extraordinary challenges set by the Covid crisis and the exceptional capacity for innovation demonstrated by those determined to make the best of tough times. The 2020 event was an elite-only race run on a park circuit in the centre of the capital but all around the world thousands of other runners took part in a virtual marathon, earning their medals remotely and ensuring that the spirit of the event is maintained.

The London Marathon is one of the biggest events of the UK sporting calendar. Every spring for the last four decades it has brought huge numbers of people onto the streets, all with a wide variety of roles and motivations.

There are the participants, of course, each with their own reasons for taking on the challenge of a marathon. Each has their own network of supporters, family and friends, helping them on the day or making their training possible over the preceding months. Also in attendance are the many thousands of spectators there simply to be part of an uplifting event and cheer the runners on. Next, there are the thousands of volunteers working at the water stations, the start village and the finish line, making sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible and representatives of the charities for whom the Marathon is one of the biggest annual fund-raising opportunities. On top of these we have the staff who work for the organising company, the local authorities, the media and other agencies who are on hand or behind the scenes to make the event possible and safe.

Add to all these the millions of us watching the whole affair on television from the safety of our sofas and you begin to get some idea of the scale of the event and its reach beyond the streets on the day.

And it is not just the London Marathon. From the Great North Run and the Manchester Marathon through to local half-marathons and 10K runs, a whole range of events all over the country provide a focal point for participation and motivation for those who wish to write their own sporting story.

It is easy to underestimate the impact of all these on participation and physical activity, particularly when a whole calendar of events has disappeared. How many people have been inspired to get active by seeing the London Marathon on TV, reading about one in their own area or seeing a local event in person on the streets of their own towns and cities? How many people are missing the camaraderie and inspiration of their local Park Run or club meeting…or looking ruefully at the darkening evenings and thinking that they should have been planning their training schedule for next spring’s event?

The cancellation of all these events has a profound impact beyond those intending to take part. A great many local charities rely on them as fund-raising opportunities and the loss of the related contributions will put a big hole in their revenue streams. Clubs often use events to raise their own funds, whether by supplying support staff for larger major mass participation or making them a focal point for their own club activity. Plus, even beyond this, we should not forget all the local suppliers – the sign-makers, the marquee companies, the stewarding companies – who will not be generating business from event organisers.

If we are trying to salvage something encouraging from our current, rather bleak circumstances, we might hope that this loss (albeit, we hope temporary) of events will strengthen our understanding and appreciation of the impacts, networks and motivations that they create, whatever their scale or what the headline activity may be.

In addition, while we can apply long-established formulae and models for calculating and demonstrating the economic impact of events, it is easy to overlook the value of the unexpected connections and unintended consequences they provide. Each person who puts on their trainers and steps out of their front door for the first time has their own unique mix of hopes and motivations but you can bet that an image of, or a story from, an event is in there somewhere.

The Covid crisis has clearly had a huge impact on the commercial event operators (we’ll look at this in more depth in another blog post soon) but many companies report that the majority of participants are carrying over their entries to next year. We can only hope that this will be a case of motivation and inspiration postponed rather than vanished, and that having seen what we’ve lost we will appreciate its return that much more.


Tim Holdsworth is a senior consultant at KKP.

Contact Tim at tim.holdsworth@kkp.co.uk


October 2020

Questions of sport: is it time to come up with some answers?


There is no doubt that the post-lockdown environment will be a challenging landscape for much of the sport and leisure sector but is sport suffering from being largely overlooked in the rush for re-emergence? With so many difficult questions on the table, has the sector got any answers?


With schools reopening, traffic building and people (albeit gradually) returning to work in greater numbers, it feels as if the UK is starting to emerge into a post-lockdown landscape. The Covid-19 emergency has been (and still is) a steep learning curve for everyone, not least those in the sport and leisure sector who have had to face hitherto unimagined challenges and deal with new realities.

In the short term at least these include an acceptance that not all leisure centres are going to reopen and that sports spaces (in particular sports halls) have been annexed to enable the development and (hopefully short-term) presentation of a feasible fitness offer. In addition to this, school sports facilities may be unavailable for an extended period. At the same time the Government’s newly published strategy for countering a national obesity crisis barely mentions physical activity; and leisure operators (of all hues) need their direct debit customers to return to the gym as quickly as possible.

The Covid crisis also created a perfect storm for social objectives, or rather for missing them. It can reasonably be argued that the Government’s post-lockdown focus for sport and leisure has been health and fitness and helping the commercial sector stay viable rather than creating opportunities for ordinary people to rediscover and build on experiences of exercise and activity. If we are being completely honest about the sector, this argument was not a difficult one to make even prior to the lockdown in March.

Keeping operators on their toes is no doubt important but the emphasis on commercial viability has meant that sport has been squeezed out. Sports halls full of gym equipment and exercise stations, for example, have taken up the space used by badminton, netball and basketball, leaving players with restricted access at best and often no court option at all. What impact will this have on participation?

Sport is already feeling the pinch as national governing bodies contemplate trying to make ends meet after having income streams cut to a trickle. Many were, in response to Sport England’s (pre-Covid) demands, working hard to improve the proportion of their income derived from individual and club memberships; the lockdown has had a brutal impact on the strides that some were making in this regard. Development programmes and the staff that deliver them have, almost inevitably, borne the brunt.

Discussions with regard to emergency funding from central government for local authority sports facilities have illustrated the point. While arts advocates have secured input of £1.25 billion, sport is still trying to negotiate a lesser package to support the future of provision and facilities across the local authority sector. There seems to be an ongoing and implicit assumption at all levels of governance that the arts deserves its subsidy but that sport should be expected to survive with substantially less (or no subsidy at all) in a commercial environment.

Apparently sport is able to trade its way out of difficulty while the arts (which if we are being honest, also has a very well-developed commercial capacity) needs to be supported as part of the nation’s cultural wellbeing.


To be an advocate for sport is all too often to be treated as an annexe to public health – another area in which Government changes are creating substantial uncertainty.


While the arts is articulately lauded (often from within) for its contribution to the health and wealth of the nation, sport (and associated physical activity) often has its role in creating and building lives, communities and economies taken for granted. To be an advocate for sport is all too often to be treated as an annexe to public health – another area in which Government changes are creating substantial uncertainty.

Some of the new realities have been harsh. A key lesson of the recalibration of public services during the coronavirus emergency and post-lockdown re-emergence is that there is little interest in the low-profit user. Re-engaging with and bringing back the monthly direct debit customer is being seen (justifiably from a commercial perspective) as the route to salvation of the leisure sector. While entirely understandable, this would be slightly more palatable if (pre- or post-Covid 19) there was a concurrent drive to install a decent ‘leisure card’ offer to give the low-waged and disadvantaged a realistic option to take part.

The current focus is on return on investment to enable operators to survive the commercial shock of Covid-19 and to help local authorities mitigate their losses. Recognition of, and the implications for, the social return on investment have largely been missing.

But this should come as no surprise; it is where we have been for the last 15 years at least. The original rationale for swimming pools (‘public baths’) was to enable people living in poverty to have a wash. Our parks and open spaces were laid out to allow those living and working in cramped, congested conditions to get some fresh air and a little exercise during their rare moments of leisure. Despite this history, more recent attitudes to public services and public health have seen the concept of social investment relegated to lip service, platitudes hidden away in the footnotes of commercial contracts.

Emergence from lockdown is a critical moment for sport. Facility-dependent sports are under huge pressure. Badminton, netball and basketball need access to sports halls and courts to continue. With any form of social distancing required, gymnastics will struggle to get sufficient numbers into its dedicated facilities to make them viable. England Athletics has nine sets of guidance on its website.

Rugby and cricket may suffer slightly less trauma given that there is some money within the sport and many clubs own their own facilities. That said, the swingeing cuts to the field development workforce in rugby betray a limited corporate appreciation of just how significant the interaction between in situ development staff and people at various levels in clubs (not just those sat on executive committees) is in respect of the stimulation and maintenance of not only junior and women’s rugby but also the adult 15-a-side game. Swimming too, is in many environments, only on the radar for its role in generating potential pools revenue via swimming lessons.


The coronavirus emergency has put the spotlight on the leisure sector and many operators and local authorities have found themselves exposed, not only financially but also in terms of their priorities and motivations.


The coronavirus emergency has put the spotlight on the leisure sector and many operators and local authorities have found themselves exposed, not only financially but also in terms of their priorities and motivations. Perhaps the biggest exposure has been the limited extent of the management information upon which relationships between councils and contractors are based.

Extensive and detailed financial and commercial data is available but, when it comes to social return on investment or data relating to areas of deprivation, access from people accommodated by housing associations or post-operative interventions, information is almost always sparse. Is this because it is unavailable or difficult to produce; or simply because there is insufficient interest in the answers? While prominent in national strategy statements, is there sufficient local focus on driving opportunity for such groups – groups for whom sports and leisure provision might be of primary importance. How else can we hold contractors to account on their behalf? It’s a good question.

Covid-19 has prompted plenty of questions and the emergence of the sport and leisure sector into a post-lockdown environment will pose many more. In the near future the sector needs to be prepared to come up with some answers. By April 2021 will we have considered responses to questions such as these:

  • Are we (and when) going to start better serving the key groups for which sport and physical activity is an essential component in improving physical and mental health and wellbeing?
  • Are we going to commit to accommodating sport in its purest form and indoor sport in particular?
  • Is the short-term cannibalisation of sports halls on the altar of group fitness likely to follow the trajectory of squash courts? Will Covid-19 accelerate the processes already in train to ‘convert’ sports halls into further fitness rooms, studios, ten-pin bowling centres, soft play spaces and clip ’n’ climb venues?
  • If the sport user is to be evicted from the leisure centre is the schools sector sufficiently keen, able and responsive to provide the sport-specific venues that are already in high demand?
  • Should we set a national target to get local authority sport and leisure venues to a position where they all levy realistic cost-recovery charges for access to facilities with real properly subsidised rates for (agreed) priority groups?

Answers on a postcard please; to be posted en route to your local leisure centre… but make it quick.


John Eady


September 2020

The remobilisation of leisure and the quest for a new old normal

During lockdown KKP has been working with local authorities across England to help them and their operators prepare for the reopening of facilities and the remobilisation of sport and leisure services. David McHendry considers some of the operational and financial challenges of a new leisure environment.



The announcement that leisure facilities will be able to reopen in July marks a significant point in the sport and leisure sector’s reawakening from the Covid-19 lockdown. It is another small indication that life for many people is slowly beginning to return to normal, even if it is going to be a new normal.

Through lockdown KKP has been working with a significant number of local authorities (25-plus at the last count) to prepare for reopening and the working environment beyond. Exploring the process of remobilisation has revealed some real challenges for the sector, not least the implications for the contractual arrangements between councils and operators, but it has highlighted plenty of opportunities too. While a return to where we were in February 2020 seems likely to be some way off, a new normal is possible and, depending on the decisions we make and the support that is available, new systems and modes of operation would appear likely to emerge to build on the lessons of lockdown.

Whatever the long-term future might hold, the immediate challenges for local authorities are going to be operational. Social distancing and bio-hygiene will be part of everyone’s everyday experience for the foreseeable future and this has significant ongoing implications for leisure providers. All buildings will have to be risk assessed. Equipment will have to be cleaned and appropriately spaced, particularly in gyms. Entry and exit routes to all parts of any building will have to be assessed and redesigned. Circulation areas within buildings, including reception and corridors, will need to be carefully managed.

Operators will be looking to protect – and councils will be expecting operators to protect – their main income sources: health and fitness, and swimming lessons. Activity space will be at a premium and will have to be allocated and reallocated in line with demand and the financial realities of income generation. However well planned and managed these spaces are, reduced capacity is likely to have a significant impact on income and each facility’s ability to serve its membership.

Ultimately in the short to medium term facilities will cost more to run and generate less income. This in turn will have significant implications for the viability of the operating contracts under which they are managed. While the Government’s job retention scheme has provided some help over the period of lockdown, the requirements of social distancing will mean that an income will be well below pre-February 2020 contract operating levels. With public procurement notices from Government suggesting that these contracts be temporarily set aside owing to the exceptional circumstances, new arrangements have to be agreed. Solutions will need to be collaborative, amicable and mutually acceptable. With no two buildings the same and each requiring its own Covid risk assessment, local authorities and operators will need to explore and agree the financial implications of opening each individual venue.

KKP’s experience of working with councils and operators over the past few months suggests that, in the most part, these agreements are being approached in a positive and collaborative way. However, moving from lockdown to remobilisation will be an even more challenging – and costly – process and the move from remobilisation to new operational conventions will be accompanied by its own challenges.

Looming over all the remobilisation discussions is the very real threat of rationalisation of services and facilities. The combination of the parlous state of local authority funding, the demands of responding to Covid operating procedures and the (thus far) absence of central government support for the sector means that the closure of facilities and the loss of services remains a real possibility.

Charting a course towards the new normal will be about meeting the expectations of everyone who wishes to get back to their old sport and exercise routines, along with everything that is part of that experience: the activity, the environments, the communities and friendships. The New World will, for a while at least, have to encase this with bookings, restricted (planned) access and more regimented usage timetables. The next period of time will be about being adaptable and creative with each change to the regulations and each step along the path that leads to being able to operate and use facilities in the manner to which we had, prior to March this year, become accustomed.

But the old normal, if it comes, will need to be different. It cannot simply be about a return to health and fitness, and swimming lessons driving financial returns. The sport and leisure sector needs to be driving social objectives. The Covid crisis has exposed so many shortcomings in our society, not least those involving health, physical activity and access to opportunities for both. These are the real objectives. The challenge for the sector is to look beyond the buildings to make sure that our facilities and our operators are meeting the needs of everyone in our communities, not just those who choose, or are able, to pay to come through the door.

The sport and leisure sector will need a new relationship with the concept and structures of public health. It will need to embrace, explore and exploit its online offer and the opportunities of remote access. Building on the lessons of lockdown, the sector needs to extend its offer into areas such as housing associations, care homes, schools, temples and mosques to develop connections with, and opportunities for, client groups that might otherwise have little interest in what our facilities might have to offer.

The Covid emergency of 2020 has been – and remains – a frightening and sobering period for our communities and nations but those in the sport and leisure sector are optimistic by nature. Some constructive aspects of the lockdown experience may be emerging. A national emphasis on the very clear connection between physical activity and health was arguably one of lockdown’s earliest achievements. The profile of walking and cycling has grown. Huge numbers of people have discovered or rediscovered a connection to their locality and realised the importance of their own open spaces; not every walk or ride needs to begin with a car journey. Among the greatest benefits has been the support, assistance and friendship found within and among communities, with so many people responding to adversity with an offer of help to their neighbours, local groups and charities.

Significant opportunities have emerged but there are still so many significant challenges to be overcome. It’s a big ask, so let’s have a Big Ask. As a sector, we should not allow the struggle to return to normality to obscure the responsibility we have to think about the longer term. Our challenge is not just to cope with the new normal and hope for a return to the former status quo. We need to be building on the opportunities that have emerged from the challenges of the last few months to create a vision of a better way of working and a better way of serving and supporting our communities. A new old normal should be our goal.


David McHendry is managing director at KKP.
Contact David at david.mchendry@kkp.co.uk

July 2020

NEWS RELEASE: Sport and leisure sector responding to challenges of post-lockdown remobilisation


ISSUE DATE: 16 July 2020

Sport and leisure sector responding to challenges of post-lockdown remobilisation
Contract agreements central to reopening process, according to KKP


The sport and leisure sector is well placed to respond to the challenges of opening local leisure facilities after the Government announced that facilities will be able to reopen later this month, according to KKP, one of the UK’s leading leisure consultancies.

However, KKP chief executive John Eady has warned that negotiating contract agreements between local councils and facility operators for the new trading environment will be central to a successful reopening. KKP has been working with 25 local authorities during lockdown to broker agreements with the operators who are contracted to manage their sport and leisure facilities.

“The government’s announcement that leisure facilities will be able to reopen this month is very welcome news,” Eady said. “The restrictions on access and activities required to keep staff and visitors safe are necessary and sensible but will affect the balance between running costs and income upon which agreements between local councils and facility operators are based.

“In recent months KKP has been working with local authorities on the governance of remobilisation; exploring how operators can reopen and manage local facilities safely, and what the financial implications of opening with restricted usage will be. Discussions between councils and operators have generally been constructive with a clear focus on collaboration and mutually acceptable outcomes that will serve the best interests of facility users and local communities in the long term.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced on 9 July that outdoor pools can reopen to the public from 11 July followed by indoor gyms, pools and leisure centres on 25 July.


Notes for editors

  • John Eady is available for interview. Please contact KKP via (0)161 764 7040 or by email at mail@kkp.co.uk
  • KKP is a leading UK-based national and international practice operating from offices in Manchester. Founded in 1990, KKP is now a major multi-disciplinary consultancy offering specialist advice and impartial, objective and creative consultancy support to a wide portfolio of clients.
  • The DCMS announcement regarding the reopening of leisure facilities can be found online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-gyms-and-pools-to-reopen-safely

KKP and coronavirus: taking care but fully operational

First and foremost, we hope that our clients, colleagues, families and friends are all well and physically unaffected by this virus.

Taking into account the latest Government advice with regard to the coronavirus/Covid-19 outbreak, this is just a brief note to reassure our clients about the fact that KKP’s services remain fully operational.

We are continuing to service existing projects as normal and are committed to meeting pre-agreed deadlines.

We have implemented changes to current working practices and will, for at least the next few weeks, operate with a mix of staff working from home while others work from the office. All colleagues have full access to project files and will continue to deliver projects as required. We can all be contacted in the normal way.

In line with Government guidelines our working practices are under constant review. At present, in situations where it is not possible or is inadvisable to attend meetings in person we are facilitating conference calls, virtual meetings and presentations to suit and encouraging a ‘business as normal’ approach to ensure that project impetus is not lost and that clients’ needs are met throughout this period.

However long the restrictions associated with Covid-19 are in place, it is our intention to be here to assist you to develop plans, get processes moving and maintain current project impetus. If you have any queries about current assignments, or if you have a project or short-term requirement that might need our support, please get in touch.

If you have any queries about any of the above, please feel free to contact me.


Dave McHendry, managing director, KKP

Contact Dave on david.mchendry@kkp.co.uk

Joint strategy offers vision of new future for cricket in Wales

The launch of a new national competition makes this a big summer for cricket, and for Welsh cricket in particular. Paul Ashton evaluates KKP’s work on the first joint strategy for the future of the game in Wales.


In March 2019 KKP was jointly commissioned by Glamorgan County Cricket Club (GCCC) and Cricket Wales (the national governing body for cricket in Wales) to develop a cricket strategy for Wales that would link both the community and the professional game.

The purpose was to identify the facility needs for the game of cricket across Wales, providing a structure that would enable both organisations to identify and deliver their strategic aims and objectives, enable cricket to thrive across Wales, and enhance the experience of players (at all levels), spectators and volunteers. This first-ever joint strategy between Cricket Wales and GCCC also needed to encompass the essential elements of the overarching ECB Inspiring Generations Strategy (2020-24), which are:

  • growing and nurturing the core
  • inspiring through elite teams
  • making cricket accessible
  • engaging children and young people
  • transforming women’s and girls’ cricket
  • supporting communities.

Cricket Wales and GCCC were keen that the strategy helped to identify opportunities and priorities for future investment, including the role of the ECB as a key partner – anticipating that the ECB would be making increased facilities investment available to reflect the growth of the short-format game and the launch of its brand new competition, The Hundred, in summer 2020.

As well as helping plan and identify priorities for developing infrastructure fit for purpose for the future of cricket, the strategy addressed other key challenges and opportunities facing cricket in Wales, including:

  • Wales hosting a franchise in The Hundred competition
  • growth opportunity related to new markets and audiences, including female participation
  • talent development
  • collaborative opportunity, including options to work more collaboratively with other sports
  • the planning process in Wales and, in particular options to consider community asset transfer.

With these parameters and expectations agreed, KKP set to work to prepare a facilities strategy to meet the needs of cricket across Wales. The starting point was application of the principles of the Sport England Playing Pitch Strategy guidance, a document drafted by KKP and published by Sport England in 2013. KKP began its work on behalf of Cricket Wales and GCCC by contacting all national and regional cricket stakeholders to start to produce a needs assessment evidence base. This was informed by extensive in-situ consultation with local and regional leagues, officials and grounds associations, area cricket boards and Sport Wales, alongside a wide range of other interested parties.

KKP’s national cricket club survey was completed by 149 of the 185 clubs affiliated to Cricket Wales. This meant that 81% of the nation’s community cricket clubs took the opportunity to engage with the consultation process, inform the resulting evidence base and shape the future of their game.

Cricket Wales’s area managers were integrally involved in strategy development. They are closely connected to local cricket and its development, so their role in the review and verification of information collected was vital. The data was then stored and analysed within a bespoke database created by the KKP data analysis team specifically for this project.

The focus on face-to-face meetings, information gathering and data verification enabled the project group to gain a clear picture and a deep understanding of the present state of the game across Wales and the range of issues that will need to be considered and addressed to shape its future. The team worked collaboratively to develop a set of recommendations and identify a network of key sites for cricket that will underpin development of the game in specific growth areas while also supporting the work and activity of local cricket clubs.

To assist the delivery of the strategy recommendations and any future planning requirements, KKP used data collected during the project to develop an online interactive map. This enables Cricket Wales and GCCC to plan and prioritise actions at a national, regional and local authority level. It will also serve as an essential post-project tool to monitor implementation of future actions and developments.

With the summer of 2020 set to be the summer of The Hundred, cricket fans in Wales and the south west of England will soon be as familiar with the achievements of the Welsh Fire as they have been with Glamorgan. The Cricket Wales and Glamorgan CCC joint strategy should ensure that they have plenty to look forward to in the years to come.

Paul Ashton is a senior consultant with KKP.
Contact Paul at paul.ashton@kkp.co.uk

March 2020

NEWS RELEASE: EFL Day of Action highlights research findings and celebrates impact of football on local communities

ISSUE DATE: 10 March 2020


EFL Day of Action highlights research findings and celebrates impact of football on local communities

KKP analysis demonstrates scale and value of club/CCO impact


The EFL will be celebrating the positive impact of professional football clubs on their local communities today (Tuesday 10 March) following the publication of research carried out by KKP on behalf of the EFL Trust.

Football clubs across the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two will be taking part in the EFL Day of Action showcasing the programmes and activities that EFL clubs and their club community organisations (CCOs) deliver to help with a wide range of social issues, including diversity and inclusion, education, and health and wellbeing.

The report, produced by KKP and titled Measuring the Impact of EFL Clubs in the Community, shows that over a 12-month period EFL clubs/CCOs delivered some 562,000 hours of group activity, involved more than 886,000 people, and spent over £62.8 million on social and community projects. The study comprises the first comprehensive overview of club-based involvement in, and impact on, local communities and, viewed collectively, the whole of England.

Findings were based on a three-stage methodology devised by KKP in conjunction with the EFL and EFL Trust to apply common measures to the national network of clubs/CCOs, creating a clear national picture underpinned by robust data. The methodology comprised initial analysis of work carried out by clubs/CCOs, followed by a detailed pilot study of eight EFL clubs and, finally, the roll out of comprehensive survey to all EFL clubs nationally.

Rick Parry, EFL chair, introduced and acknowledged the importance of the report, commenting: “Our clubs have always had a unique position at the heart of their respective towns and cities, so it is important that we celebrate some of the fantastic work being carried out on a daily basis, and also understand the effect that clubs have on their individual and collective communities. Commissioned by the EFL to survey all EFL clubs and club community organisations, KKP has provided a unique study which allows us to demonstrate what clubs do on a national scale.”

KKP chief executive John Eady commented: “KKP’s extensive experience in the field of impact evaluation and specialist performance measurement expertise enabled us to devise a research method that generated the data and developed the analysis to demonstrate the huge community impact – and potential – of EFL clubs/CCOs.”

John Eady continued: “Over the course of the research more than one million data cells were produced and analysed. This was a huge task for Peter Millward and the KKP data team, which also applied a whole raft of geographic, socio-economic and household data to deliver results that were credible, insightful and replicable. The 93% response rate for the survey makes for robust, comprehensive data and is a testament to the effort and commitment of the KKP team to the project.”

In addition to a national report and dataset, KKP produced specific reports for each club and CCO. Each includes a catchment area profile (age structure, total population, projected population, deprivation measures and maps, ethnic composition, income, benefits dependency, crime rates, health indicators and activity rates) and findings related to participation, engagement, purpose, environment and funding.

The national picture that has emerged confirms the scale, human resources and time deployed in programmes that are covering: sport and physical activity; health and wellbeing; education and employability programmes; and community engagement.

Within the Measuring the Impact of EFL Clubs in the Community report, the EFL notes: “Looking ahead, a comprehensive baseline now exists that is not only informative in its own right but enables a more insightful strategic approach nationally and at individual clubs/CCOs.”

Notes for editors