Big Projects, big challenges

Climate crisis and rising utility costs have created a range of new challenges for the design, development and management of leisure facilities, particularly for energy-intensive uses such as swimming pools. David McHendry offers KKP’s perspective on how the sector has been, and going forward be able to, respond.

The climate crisis and rising energy costs have come to dominate headlines and are creating a new set of challenges for the sports sector. While leisure centres and swimming pools in their traditional guises can be viewed as expensive, energy-hungry buildings, central government funding grants of some £63 million to assist leisure operators to cope with rising energy costs and to introduce more energy-efficient technology suggest that, even in Whitehall, there is recognition of the role that leisure facilities still have to play in addressing ongoing, long-term targets for health, physical activity and community development. While old challenges remain and new ones emerge, leisure facilities and the opportunities they provide still matter.

Even prior to the recent escalation of utility bills, Sport England and UK Active had predicted a difficult future for UK swimming pools. The exponential rise in energy costs has only added to this, with many local authorities and leisure operators expressing genuine concerns with regard to potential facility closures. Welcome as the announcement of government financial support for leisure facilities may have been, it is going to take time for the funding to filter through and for energy-efficiencies to be implemented. For many operators, time is of the essence and the support available cannot come soon enough.

Climate and energy issues are not new challenges for the sector, but the scale and speed of change are. Recent KKP projects include reviews of the performance of Wigan’s sports facilities, swimming pools on the Isle of Man of behalf of the government, the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin (a 50m pool, diving and leisure pool facility) and the replacement for the Cascades Leisure Centre in Gravesend, Kent. In Gravesham, KKP has been involved from the initial built facility strategy providing and developing the centre specification with the Council, and design team. For these and many other projects, energy efficiency, wider operating costs and revenue generation are crucial to venue feasibility and sustainability. Going forward, such issues will top the agenda and be closely scrutinised from the earliest stages of the development of any leisure facility new build or refurbishment project.

With stories emerging from leisure operators that new utility contracts have added up to £500,000 to their annual overheads for a single local authority contract, the impact on those with multiple contracts can be eye watering. Some councils have braced themselves for facility closures while others are struggling to justify price increases during a cost of living crisis.

For swimming pools, there is a certain irony when it comes to balancing energy use and income generation. Heating water for a pool and showers is a major expense and, while some operators have challenged their users with lower water temperatures, where there is a focus on income generation, it is generally activities that need warmer water, particularly learn to swim programmes, which are looked to. Thus, while operators wait for government support funding to be distributed and retail utility prices to reflect the declining wholesale costs of energy, they have what might be viewed as conflicting imperatives in terms of their overall strategy for survival.

There have not been, nor are there likely to be, any quick and simple solutions but there are grounds for optimism amidst the gloom.

Perhaps the starting point in the search for an upside should be recognition of the fact that the quest for energy-efficient buildings in the sport and leisure sector is not new. Architects and engineers have been tasked with the reduction of energy costs as a key part of design briefs for a long time and, as technology has developed and experience is gained, the facilities being constructed have improved.

S&P Architects, with whom KKP works extensively on many projects, recently unveiled the UK’s first ‘Passivhaus’ leisure centre at St Sidwell’s point in Exeter. Working with engineering experts Arup, S&P applied Passivhaus principles, including triple-glazed windows, premium-grade insulation and air-tight internal environments to create what is claimed to be the most energy-efficient leisure facility in the UK and one of only three Passivhaus leisure centres in the world. St Sidwell’s Point is said to use 70% less energy than comparable traditional buildings, figures that will command attention from anyone involved in new facility discussions.

It will come as no surprise to discover that meeting the facility construction requirements of Passivhaus design is an expensive business but in the context of climate emergency declarations and climbing energy prices, a 70% reduction in energy use is a powerful argument for up-front investment.

Ultimately, it is unlikely that the Passivhaus concept will immediately become the default for all leisure buildings but even if it offers a starting point for discussion its guiding principles will inform design debates and begin to have a positive impact on reducing energy use.

Efficiency versus affordability is an ongoing debate and ultimately such investments and outcomes are a political decision but KKP’s experience, gained over many years working on a great many facility projects, suggests that taking the best possible option as the starting point is the best approach. The balance between cost and outcome – often referred to as ‘value engineering’ – almost inevitably brings compromises as the project progresses towards completion. However, beginning with and maintaining a clear understanding of the key principles of the scheme provides a better chance of retaining the best elements of the project intact for when it is time to cut the ribbon and open the doors.

It is probably fair to say that Passivhaus principles are currently the clearest guide on how to get the best in terms of energy-efficient facilities and while clients may not be able to afford to commit to delivery of the full Passivhaus specification, they can benefit from consideration of the available options and the energy efficiencies available within the overall Passivhaus concept.

KKP was recently taken to task during a presentation to elected members as to ‘why we had presented a ‘Rolls Royce’ version” of the project under discussion as the first option. Our answer was – and always is – that it is better for the commissioning client to fully understand the optimum solution and then to work back from it so that the impacts of any compromises are clear from the outset. This enables all involved to make informed decisions and ultimately to achieve the best possible outcome for the available investment.

As technology evolves and the skills and experience available within local authorities advance, the issue of what is possible and what constitutes the best possible outcome will evolve too. If growing climate consciousness and differing political perspectives are added to the debate, the definition of ‘best possible outcome’ will almost certainly change. If climate emergency and energy efficiency are at the top of the list of desirables, the direction of value engineering will also look a lot different, as will the buildings that result.


Ensuring that strategic housing development sites bring the right level of leisure provision. (Why an up-to-date evidence base is so important).

All needs assessments/strategies, as standard, provide detailed scenarios setting out the level of future demand generated from population increases derived from housing growth. In the case of indoor and built facilities strategies (IBF) and playing pitch strategies (PPS) they also, as appropriate and applicable, detail the associated costs of supplying increased sports provision using Sport England’s calculators.

In our experience, developments of 600+ dwellings tend to generate demand for the creation of new outdoor sports provision.  The presumption is that larger housing expansion schemes will generate demand for sports such as football. Consideration is normally given to the potential for provision of multi-pitch sites with suitable ancillary provision i.e., clubhouse/changing facilities and car parking. Providing single, even double, grass pitch sites is no longer considered to offer long-term sustainability for pitch sports.

An early KKP foray into major new settlement planning was the Elms Park development in Northwest Cheltenham on the boundary of Cheltenham and Tewkesbury authorities. This incorporated plans for 4,000+ homes and the best practice and design considerations provided followed our production of the joint authority Social, Sport & Open Spaces Study (including PPS).

Primarily though, our needs assessments/strategies are key to informing the need for sports provision to be secured as part of strategic housing developments. Initial proposals on the 5,500 dwelling Hanwood Park development in Kettering – particularly in relation to provision of artificial pitches for hockey, were challenged, updated and improved following our production of the 2020 Kettering PPS, IBF and Open Space Study.  The overall process was testament to the fact that constructive and open dialogue with NGBs is critical to successful development of new provision. Crucially, it is not just about providing the facilities, but assessing who is going to use them, at what level and based upon what degree of predicted community and sport value and sustainability.

Master planning for the 4,000+ home New Lubbesthorpe development in the Blaby District Council area was also informed by the Authority’s PPS. In addition to the inclusion of a range of woodland walks, cycle paths and green open space, the recommendations set out in its FA/Football Foundation generated local football facilities plan were also pivotal to the Authority securing funding for new leisure facilities and all-weather sports pitches plus full-sized 3G pitches linked to a new secondary school development.

The 2021 South Worcestershire IBF and PPS informed cross-boundary community swimming pool, sports hall, fitness and pitch provision requirements linked to housing development at a range of strategic development sites the largest of which, at 5,000 homes, was at Worcestershire Parkway.

In Carlisle, we have been assessing the provision required to service demand generated by the new resident base in the St Cuthberts Garden Village which will have a planned 10,000 homes. Plans for recreation and leisure provision are being informed by the City’s Playing Pitch & Outdoor Sports Strategy 2022. It is likely to include at least one sports hub plus community use provision at the new secondary school. Of all the sites included in the Government’s Garden Village programme, St Cuthbert’s is one of the largest in terms of potential capacity and is among the most ambitious development projects being actively progressed in the north of England.

Bringing things right up to the present, the Colchester & Tendring Borders Garden Community (8,000 homes) is being informed via the joint-authority commissioned Colchester & Tendring Open Space, Sport & Recreation suite of studies (including IBF, PPS and open spaces strategy) 2023 and the Lancaster South, Bailrigg Garden Village will be informed via the Open Space Study and new PPS which will be completed by mid-2023.

The Government believes that the development of locally-led garden towns and villages has the potential to deliver the homes that communities need and that, in addition to providing new homes, they also bring new jobs and boost local economies. Whether one agrees with this form of development as a way forward, the quality and scale of open space, sport and leisure provision is pivotal to the subsequent quality of life in these new, and the adjacent existing, communities. Key to this is having a full understanding and evidence base – and ensuring that it is fully addressed.

Claire Fallon is principal consultant and director at KKP

Picture courtesy of the Leicester Mercury



February 2023

Keen competitive footballer Carmel Daniel considers the implications of the FA’s plans for girl’s football

The FA Inspiring Positive Change Strategy and its Let Girls Play campaign support its strategic ambition to give all girls what it describes as ‘equal access to play football’ in school. At present, according to the FA, 63% per cent of schools currently offer girl’s football in PE lessons and its target is to raise this figure to 75% of schools providing this by 2024.

The #LetGirlsPlay campaign supports this ambition by encouraging people to stop, listen and see how they can make a difference to this current challenge. Its website provides resources to help influence the start of change and allow more girls to feel the mental and physical benefits of exercise through playing football.

The Lionesses’ have called for a nationwide shake-up to the way sports are taught, telling the Government that “this is an opportunity to make a difference” and asking it to make it a priority to invest in girls’ football in schools, so that ‘every girl has a choice’.

Baroness Sue Campbell noted that ‘currently, only a third of girls aged 5-18 participate in football every week and suggested that ‘now is the time to drive a far-reaching ambition to open up the game in every way to girls’ indicating that the Let Girls Play campaign ‘allows parents and teachers to play a huge role in joining us in this commitment’.

While this is an understandable ambition for football it does raise a few issues.

The phrase ‘equal access’ is somewhat loaded and, arguably, inappropriately emotive. Does the equality reference relate to boys or is football being equated with other notionally girls’ sports. If it does relate to boys is the implicit assumption (or proven situation) that all boys have ‘access to football’?

If it is to gain this greater foothold on the PE curriculum, what must give way – netball, hockey, badminton, athletics, gymnastics, dance? Would provision of equal access to football be damaging to these other sports/activities or is this an FA desire to create an Orwellian scenario where all sports are equal but some are more equal than others!

The influential Women’s Sports & Fitness Foundation Changing the Game for Girls report notes that the National Curriculum is already broad enough to allow teachers, in consultation with girls, to choose activities that will be engaging and motivating to female students.

Leaving this to one side, is there evidence to suggest that there is a clamour among girls to gain equal access to football. It is possible that ‘equal access to football’ may simply amount to the extension of imposition of a curriculum on an unwilling and un-consulted audience?

In her article: Girls should get the chance to play football at school – but PE needs a major rehaul for all students (published 4 August 2022 in The Conversation, Shrehan Lynch; Senior Lecturer in Initial Teacher Education at the University of East London notes that ‘a narrow curriculum is often informed by teachers’ own sporting love affairs.

Her view is that this can be seen in the continued recycling of traditional sports, like football, rugby, cricket and athletics for boys and dance, netball, rounders and athletics for girls’. She suggests that ‘a negotiated curriculum would be far more beneficial, giving young people choices in what they want to participate in and how’.

She also makes the point that ‘there are many other ways to make PE more modern and equitable…’ and that ‘schools often don’t realise they are engaging in highly inequitable practices and offering little choice to students, because many teachers simply mimic their own experiences of PE’.

She goes on to proffer the theory that ‘instead of seeing that their role is to ensure all young people can find ways of enjoying movement that can be carried throughout life, they (PE teachers – male and female) just continue the cycle of outdated and uninspiring PE’.

The Childwise Monitor Report 2022; based on a survey of more than 2,700 children aged 5-16 across the UK between September and November 2021 found that the sports gender gap per se had widened last year, with boys playing an extra hour on average more than girls. It suggests that girls play around half the amount of football, rugby and cricket as boys in secondary schools and that girls aged between 11-16 were offered around half the amount of coaching in traditionally ‘male’ sports last year compared to boys of the same age.

It also found that 33% of girls aged 11-16 reported playing football at secondary school, compared with 63% of boys and noted the considerable drop compared with primary-age children where 54% of girls aged 7-10 said they played football last year, compared to 80% of boys.

According to Childwise, (un)equal access is comparably prevalent in rugby in which girls (14%) in secondary school played less than half the amount as boys (29%) and cricket (12% – girls / 21% – boys). The cricket figure is, arguably, of greater concern given that cricket coaching at primary school is relatively equal; 21% of girls aged 7-10 reporting having received training in the sport last year compared to 24% of boys.

The Childwise Report showed that girls still tend to take part in more traditionally ‘feminine’ sports such as netball and gymnastics, which typically get less airtime than football, cricket and rugby. At secondary level, girls played almost five times the amount of netball last year than boys (61% of girls aged 11-16 had received coaching compared to 13% of boys). Girls also did more than three times more gymnastics than boys; 8% of boys aged 11-16 were offered training in the sport during PE compared to 30% of girls.

Perhaps it is simply team games opportunity for girls about which people should be concerned given that while girls are offered broad access to such sport in primary school, opportunities tend to drop off once they reach secondary education.

Arguably, it is more important to consider this issue in respect of the influence that football could have in respect of girl’s PE and sport in schools per se. The entire England Lionesses squad urged the Government to commit to giving girls at least two hours of PE lessons each week.

Labour has also called on the Government to introduce an “Equal Access Guarantee” for schools, which would ensure that girls and boys are offered equal access to sports during PE lessons. Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson urged the Government to update current guidance which recommends that while boys can be taught traditionally ‘male’ sports on boys-only teams, girls should be offered “comparable” sports.

The DfE insists that it is up to individual schools to decide what sports to teach, noting that swimming is the only one which is compulsory on the national curriculum.

Clearly there is no right or wrong ambition or answer, but perhaps the focus of the FA (and other sports) should start by reflecting the Lionesses’ demand that the Government commits to girls getting two hours of (preferably high quality) PE before we start dividing the spoils?

Carmel Daniel is a consultant at KKP


January 2023


Optimising the value of your strategic planning

In its Strategic Outcomes Planning Guidance, Sport England states that ’a strategic approach to sport and physical activity services and provision, which identifies and delivers local priorities, can make such a difference’. It notes that ‘a clear, strategic and sustainable approach can play an important role in making sure that investments into services and facilities are effective’.

Professor Cliff Hague, Emeritus Professor of Planning and Spatial Development at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh quoted on the RTPI website states that “today there are 180,000 more people living in urban areas than there were yesterday. There will be another 180,000 there when you wake up tomorrow and another 180,000 the day after that”. While this might be over-stating the case it does focus attention upon the way in which urban areas are expanding.

The RTPI notes that ‘planning is about people, places and sustainability’ and ‘improving public health and living conditions’. There is no doubt that the demand created by population changes, housing growth and the stresses of everyday life necessitate leisure provision of a scale and quality to cater for the sporting, active recreation, health, wellbeing and relaxation needs of the community.

With this in mind, and in looking to ensure that they obtain maximum value for money, local authorities are increasingly commissioning indoor and built sports facilities (IBF), playing pitch and outdoor sports facilities (PPOSS) and open/green spaces (OSS) needs assessments and strategies via a single overarching commission – a full suite. Many are also now teaming up with neighbouring authorities to do this.

The key benefits of full suite leisure needs assessments include:

  • Simultaneous, consistent assessment of the quality and value of related, linked and adjacent leisure and open space resources.
  • Ensuring that the way in which local authorities plan for their indoor, outdoor, formal and informal recreational facilities reflects commitments made with regard to the health and wellbeing of their communities.
  • The opportunity to work with officers and members to improve their collective focus on, and generate detailed appreciation of, local needs and priorities and the importance of provision at authority level.
  • More efficient council officer (and member) focus and use of time and resource.
  • Adoption of ‘joined up’ cohesive approaches to securing and making most effective use of S.106 and Community Infrastructure Levy funds.
  • Improved cross-disciplinary consideration of smaller (and more dispersed) outdoor, countryside and water sports plus active lifestyles and active travel related issues. (This is also attractive to key stakeholders such as Sport England).
  • In addition to actively demonstrating the duty to co-operate, joint authority commissions tend to engender and enhance cross-boundary planning in respect of optimising investment in leisure infrastructure and meeting sub-regional spatial planning demand for housing.
  • Reduced procurement time, effort, and cost

Because of the breadth of our skills and knowledge base and company capacity, KKP has been delivering these cross-disciplinary studies for 15+ years. Early examples of joint authority work include assignments delivered for Worthing and Adur councils in West Sussex, for Cheltenham and Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire (linked to a major cross-border urban extension) and for the three central Lancashire authorities of Preston, Chorley and South Ribble.

Our portfolio of full suite assignments includes local authorities as diverse as Wirral, East Suffolk, Wyre Forest, Kettering, South Hertfordshire (a combination of Three Rivers, Dacorum and Hertsmere), Staffordshire Moorlands & High Peak (joint commission) and Manchester. We are following this with an innovative assessment specifically related to BMX, skateboarding and action sport provision in the City.

Current full suite clients include Warrington, Wyre. St Helens, the new West Northamptonshire unitary authority, Colchester and Tendring. The latter comprise a joint authority needs assessment and strategy linked to a planned cross-boundary major garden village development.

Full suite and joint commissioning also delivers substantial economies of scale, particularly with regard to site audit and evaluation. Client savings for a full suite of studies for a single authority commission can amount to 10-15% of combined costs with this increasing further when authorities commission jointly.

If you would like to discuss this further with one of our experts – get in touch.


John Eady is the CEO of KKP.




Edge Hill University commissions KKP to lead strategic review


ISSUE DATE: 1 February 2022


Edge Hill University commissions KKP to lead strategic review

Edge Hill University has commissioned KKP to undertake a strategic review of its highly regarded sport and physical activity services.

Building upon the positive reputation already enjoyed by Edge Hill, the process will consider how to further enhance the role of sport and physical activity as an important aspect of university life and the student experience. In so doing it will review and consider where and how the University can build upon the social, cultural and educational role that the University already plays and further enhance its impact on the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the wider community. It will also consider the relationship between Edge Hill Sport and the courses run, and opportunities provided by, the University’s three academic faculties.

Rachel Burke, principal consultant at KKP as well as a graduate of Edge Hill University, will be leading KKP’s project team.

Rachel commented: “Sport and physical activity have long been recognised as a fundamental aspect of university life and has always been at the heart of Edge Hill. The University has been at the forefront of making sport and physical activity an intrinsic part of the student experience. This review will assist it to build on its many achievements in this field. As a former EHU student, it is of course a great thrill and an honour to be coming back to work with Edge Hill having built my own career in and around sport and physical activity. I can’t wait to get started.”

Paul Greenwood, Head of Sport and Commercial Services at Edge Hill commented: “We have always recognised and promoted sport and physical activity as an important part of university life. This review will enable us to build on our strengths and successes in this area and explore how we can better integrate sport and physical activity with other areas of university operation and the quality of the Edge Hill student experience. We are of course delighted to welcome Rachel back in her role as a respected and highly experienced sport and physical activity professional. She will notice many changes since she was here as a student and will be able to help us make sure that Edge Hill University remains at the forefront of creating positive opportunities and experiences for students, staff and the local community.”

Based on a 160-acre campus in Lancashire, Edge Hill University was recognised in two categories – Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community and Support for Students – in the 2021 Times Higher Education (THE) awards. It was also named Modern University of the Year in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022. The institution has been providing higher education since 1885, with a mission to “create opportunity from knowledge”.

This commission builds on KKP’s extensive recent work in the sector which includes strategic planning and review assignments with and on behalf of: Salford, Aston. Warwick and Birmingham universities in England, Robert Gordon and Glasgow Caledonian in Scotland, Aberystwyth and Cardiff in Wales and Ulster and UC Cork in Ireland.


Rachel Burke is available for interview. Please contact KKP via 0161 764 7040 or email rachel.burke@kkp.co.uk

KKP is online at www.kkp.co.uk


Notes for editors

  • KKP is a leading UK-based multi-disciplinary national and international practice operating from offices in Manchester. It offers specialist advice and impartial, objective and creative consultancy support to a wide portfolio of clients. Full details of KKP’s work, clients and projects are available at www.kkp.co.uk.
  • Edgehill University is online at www.edgehill.ac.uk. Edge Hill University’s Department of Sport and Physical Activity offers a variety of degrees including coaching, management, physical education, sport and exercise psychology, and sports therapy, which prepare students for a diverse range of careers.
  • Edge Hill University Press Office can be contacted on 01695 654 372 and by email at press@edgehill.ac.uk



Inclusivity: it’s all about the numbers

The new Activity Alliance strategy is an important document but real change for disability inclusion sport requires a counter-intuitive approach to what is not only a sector of society that consistently misses out but also a significant market sector. John Eady makes the social and business case for inclusivity.


The Covid crisis has spawned a whole range of challenges and reassessments, not least access to, and the importance of, being physically active. Across the UK the pandemic has had a real impact on activity levels and for every heart-warming story of people discovering the joys of the great outdoors there are many more (largely untold) tales of those for whom lockdown has reinforced the absence of, or further limited, their opportunities to be active.

This is highlighted by data presented by the Activity Alliance, the national charity for disability inclusion sport. Its new three-year strategy, titled Achieving Fairness, takes access to opportunity for activity as its starting point and cites a poll in which 72% of disabled people agree that lockdown has made this less fair for disabled people.

Addressing declining levels of activity for disabled people is a main strand of the strategy but the Activity Alliance rightly reminds us that the problem existed before the Covid-19 crisis; before the pandemic disabled people were twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled people.

Achieving Fairness sets out the ambition to close this activity gap “within a generation” and explains how the Activity Alliance intends to do this. There are two clear goals: changing attitudes towards disabled people and embedding inclusive practice in sport and activity. These inform four key objectives: championing the voices of disabled people; using expertise and insight to educate, inform and influence; addressing inequalities via collaboration, engagement and delivery; and maximising the effective use of investment.

This is all very well but there is an argument that this strategy is a little too measured (or perhaps unmeasured) in its challenge to sport and leisure providers. The sport and leisure sector needs to be challenged and the key to genuine inclusivity for disabled people lies in the numbers. For example, 18% of the working-age population in Britain is disabled, as defined as by the Equality Act 2010 [Source: Employers’ Forum on Disability]. So, even leaving out older people (among whom this the proportion rises substantially) and the under 18s, there is a market of seven million people with spending power, a market that is, to a substantial degree, unserved.

Where I would take issue with the Activity Alliance is its headline aim related to changing attitudes to disability and disabled people. The fact that its polling shows that 85% of adults agree that attitudes to disability need to improve is, I would argue, indicative of a general positivity. The real problem is a Rumsfeld-ian one: in the most part those who matter don’t know what they don’t know.

This lack of knowledge, context and comprehension has a direct effect. Providers and those who are (or should be) charged with responsibility to make a relevant offer to attract and accommodate disabled people have no concept of the overall scale of the market in their locality; nor do many have a clear idea, in performance terms, of what attracting an appropriate proportion of the ‘disability market’ should look like.

It is simply insufficient to have facilities accessible to, and staff trained to work with, disabled people if no one with a disability is turning up. Why shouldn’t facility operators and other deliverers of services commissioned by local authorities be charged with responsibility to attract and entertain a predetermined proportion of this market?

That said, it is also incumbent upon local authorities in particular, but also others, to start to develop and facilitate communications mechanisms that enable people with disabilities and other defined needs to be ‘in the system’, offering the option to know about, attend or at the very least turn down options to take part.

Sam Orde, the chair of Activity Alliance, is quite right when he says, “It is not right or fair that disabled people continue to miss out on the huge benefits of being active.” But it not just a case of the sport and leisure sector failing to serve the needs of a significant part of the community. Disabled people as a ‘market’ are simply not on the radar so it is hardly surprising that not enough is being done to cater for them. In addition, ignoring or excluding a major market sector is bad business and a failure of fiscal responsibility.

The key to inclusivity is for the sport and leisure sector to place the right to be informed alongside the practical commercial value of the one fifth of the population that has a disability. Embedding inclusive practices within sport and physical activity requires what some may see as a counter-intuitive approach. Instead of treating disabled people as a sector of the community that needs help, the sport and leisure sector should, perhaps, treat disabled people as a market sector estimated to spend £80 billion per year [Source: DWP], a sector to be targeted using all the modern marketing technology and techniques at our disposal.

Being inclusive is about the numbers. If 20% of the catchment area for your facilities has a disability, how many disabled users and members should you have? And how many have you got? In the gap lies the key to greater inclusivity, better business, improved social return on investment and achieving fairness.


John Eady is chief executive at KKP

Find the Activity Alliance online at http://www.activityalliance.org.uk/

Find the Achieving Fairness strategy document via the Activity Alliance website at http://www.activityalliance.org.uk/about-us/our-work/strategy



June 2021

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

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

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



The FA National Football Facilities Strategy: delivering a nationwide set of local football facility plans

KKP’s work on behalf of the FA to deliver a local football facility plan (LFFP) for every local authority is nearing completion. Andrew Fawkes explains how it has been done and what it means for local football.

Grassroots football facilities, their poor condition and impact on the pathway to performance of our national team are perennially emotive issues faced by the FA and frequently raised in the national media. However, the FA is now implementing a 10-year strategy to change the landscape of football facilities in England. This is underpinned by an action plan for investment in every local authority, referred to as a Local Football Facility Plan (LFFP).

KKP is leading delivery of the LFFP programme, working hand in hand with county FAs. This process has run over an intensive two-year period and is scheduled to be completed by mid-2020.

Working in partnership with the UK Government, the Premier League, Sport England and the Football Foundation, the FA is setting out its response to, and estimating the costs of addressing, the needs of grassroots football in light of KKP’s work. Feedback on existing facilities received as part of the LFFP process consistently mirrors that of the national strategy. It is a picture of poor-quality grass pitches, changing pavilions in need of improvement, and insufficient access to floodlit, artificial grass (3G) football turf pitches (FTPs). The cumulative ask in terms of capital investment required is huge but the FA is also playing catch-up in terms of facility numbers; England has only half the number of 3G pitches of its European footballing neighbours.

Having now spoken directly to over 2,000 grassroots football clubs, nearly 300 local authorities plus a range of other stakeholders (not to mention covering thousands of motorway miles), our team has identified an excellent portfolio of pipeline projects. Surrey is one of the areas with high potential; it is also one of the largest and most diverse of the FA’s counties. The Surrey County FA serves an area with a population of over two million people, 4,000 teams and more than 40,000 registered players. It encompasses the 11 boroughs and districts in the Surrey County Council domain plus five London boroughs. It is also an area where the county FA takes a strong lead on facilities development.

Quite a few community clubs in Surrey are, in terms of levels of demand and their management capacity, capable of taking on full-sized FTPs in their own right. As an example, following KKP’s work on Waverley Borough Council’s playing pitch strategy (PPS) and now its LFFP, several projects are either in the pipeline or are now on the point of delivery. Some of these are supported by significant Section 106 funding and all are benefitting from strategic engagement with the Football Foundation.

Of the 330 LFFPs commissioned, 70% are now signed off and being activated by county FAs working with the Football Foundation Engagement Team.  From KKP’s perspective, it is highly encouraging to note that stakeholder feedback on the LFFP development process is very positive; across all plan elements, more than 93% of those who expressed a specific view confirmed the usefulness and accuracy of their plan’s content.

This overwhelmingly positive feedback is a strong endorsement of the methodology KKP has developed over many years of experience in this field. It is also a testament to the hard work the KKP team puts in on the ground, visiting sites and engaging with clubs and communities in situ to develop real insight into facilities and the opportunities they can deliver.

Andrew Fawkes is a Principal Consultant with KKP. Contact him at andrew.fawkes@kkp.co.uk

Details of the LFFP programme are available via the Football Foundation website at https://localplans.footballfoundation.org.uk

(Figures based upon receipt of 318 responses from local authorities, county FAs and other stakeholders). 


14 February 2020