NEWS RELEASE: SPFL Trust research demonstrates reach and impact of SPFL associated clubs and trusts


ISSUE DATE: 22 June 2022

Measuring Community Impact: SPFL Trust research demonstrates reach and impact of SPFL associated clubs and trusts

New research compiled by KKP and published by the SPFL Trust has demonstrated the huge contribution of SPFL associated trusts and clubs (ATCs) to their local communities.

The evaluation report, entitled Measuring Community Impact: SPFL Associated Trusts and Clubs, shows that in a single year the ATCs linked to Scotland’s professional football clubs delivered more than 2,402,000 person hours of participation. This involved more than 110,000 people taking part in a wide range of activities, including more than 91,000 hours of group activity across 250 facilities.

Over the course of the evaluation year more than £5,000,000 was spent directly on community projects by associated trusts and clubs to “support and change people’s lives for the better”.

As KKP’s data analysis and geographic information systems show, 4.52 million people, 82.6% of the Scottish population, live within 10 miles of an SPFL ground, which means SPFL clubs’ ATCs are well placed to reach 93% of the most deprived population groups in the country.

Nicky Reid, chief executive officer of the SPFL Trust, said the report illustrates the importance of the work done within communities by ATCs across Scotland: “ATCs are a powerful network, well placed to support communities across Scotland. They deliver a wide range of cost-effective programmes which, even more importantly, support and change people’s lives for the better. This helpful data provided by KKP has informed our 2022-25 strategy, Football Powered, which focuses on the important role football can play in helping people to live happier, healthier, longer lives in Scotland.”

KKP chief executive John Eady commented: “KKP’s extensive experience in the field of impact evaluation and specialist performance measurement has enabled us to devise a research methodology that provides the data and analysis to demonstrate the huge community impact of SPFL clubs’ ATCs. This requires the handling of high volumes of data, and the support and commitment of a huge number of people.

“We were pleased to have been able to generate a 93% response rate from the 42 SPFL clubs This makes for comprehensive, robust data and is testament not only to the hard work and commitment of the KKP evaluation team but also to the strong working relationship we enjoyed with the team at the SPFL Trust.”

The research period ran from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. This included the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid crisis saw extensive disruption of the activities and priorities within communities across Scotland but it was notable that the SPFL ATCs were at the forefront of community engagement in their locations. Despite all the challenges of Covid-19, not least to staffing and funding, between 1 March and 30 June 2020 ATCs delivered a total of 193,908 individual/family support initiatives.

The report Measuring Community Impact: SPFL Associated Trusts and Clubs, including details of all data and methodologies, is available via the SPFL Trust website at www.spfltrust.org.uk


 Notes for editors

  • This evaluation of the social and community impact of ATCs was commissioned by the SPFL Trust and delivered by Knight, Kavanagh and Page. For further details of KKP’s work visit www.kkp.co.uk
  • John Eady is available for interview. Please contact KKP via (0)161 764 7040 or email mail@kkp.co.uk
  • KKP’s report for the EFL, Measuring the Impact of EFL Clubs in the Community, a report into the community role of club community organisations associated with professional football clubs in England is available via the EFL Trust website:

RWC 2025: preparing to have a real impact on the game

Tim Holdsworth, senior consultant at KKP considers the impact of Rugby World Cup 2025 and what the legacy programme will mean for the women’s game.


The recent announcement that the Rugby World Cup 2025 will be hosted by England is good news for England rugby and great news for domestic women’s rugby. This is the biggest event in the women’s game and KKP was pleased to contribute to the work undertaken by the bid team that brought home the prize.

The RFU was keen to host the RWC competition to reflect the success of women’s rugby in England and to build on the growth of the game across the UK.

When the success of the bid was revealed the RFU noted that “since England last hosted the RWC in 2010, and won it in 2014, women’s rugby has grown exponentially”. The growth in female participation, which has led to there being some 40,000 registered women and girls playing in clubs across the country, is testament to the work undertaken by clubs and coaches at local level, and to the RFU’s investment in developing the women’s game.

RWC 2025 clearly represents another opportunity, both for the RFU to further grow the game in England and the UK, and for World Rugby (the organisation that oversees the staging of the RWC) to present the women’s game to a global audience.

As one might expect, legacy was at the centre of the RFU’s vision as RWC hosts, creating both an opportunity and a challenge.

The opportunity is clear. Within the bid document, the RFU envisaged RWC 2025 as a multi-city, multi-region event, bringing the world’s best players to venues across the country to create interest and engagement among new and existing audiences.

Equally clear is the challenge. Legacy is a much-promised element of every major event but bid document aspiration is not always matched by a long-term benefit to the sporting environment. However, we can be confident that the proposed RWC 2025 legacy will be delivered and make good on the promise of significant impact.

There are three strands to the legacy programme, which will be rolled out from 2022 through to 2025:

  • a multi-generational legacy, creating players among younger women and girls, and fans among those women who did not have a chance to play;
  • support for rugby development within the home unions and creation of capacity, via the recruitment of coaches and referees; and
  • facility development and improvement to service the women’s game.

It is this third element of the legacy programme – the development of facilities – in which KKP has been able to play its part. Utilising our long experience of sport and leisure facility development, background working in and with rugby at all levels, and our extensive data analysis and mapping skills, KKP has been able to help the RFU focus on how investments in physical provision can help to transform the experience of girls and women playing the game.

There will be more detail in subsequent articles but this part of the legacy programme revolves around the development of new, and the upgrading of existing, changing and social spaces to ensure that they better reflect modern player expectations (and in particular female player expectations) of what sports facilities – and specifically rugby clubs – should offer. The legacy programme will encompass a range of investment approaches, from brand new exemplar changing and clubhouse facilities right through to minor improvements in showers and toilet accommodation.

This facilities programme is arguably a reflection of the fact that, notwithstanding good levels of investment across the board by the RFU and clubs themselves in respect of clubhouse provision for women, facility provision has not been able to keep pace. The thinking is that new generations of female players should not – and will not – have to endure such ‘traditional’ understandings of what constitutes appropriate environments for sport.

The RWC 2025 facility legacy programme is designed to reflect and recognise the work undertaken by many clubs, and the success they have had, in promoting and developing the women’s game. KKP’s research showed that clubs that have demonstrated their commitment to the women’s game are spread fairly evenly across the country, making the RFU’s task of equitable legacy investment allocation and programme delivery a little easier.

In delivering a proposed legacy investment process, KKP is delighted to have had the opportunity to work so closely with the RFU Facilities team and S&P Architects, all of whom went out of their way to collaborate and share their own knowledge, experience and expertise. It certainly made our job more straightforward and enjoyable.

As sport and leisure professionals, we are confident that the RWC 2025 legacy is achievable and deliverable, and that it will have a real impact on the game. As rugby fans, we can’t wait for kick-off.


Tim Holdsworth is a senior consultant at KKP.

Today’s specials: strategic thinking and a cross-boundary approach

Claire Fallon explains why housing development is driving a partnership approach to strategic thinking for sport and leisure.


KKP’s current portfolio includes numerous projects that incorporate cross-over between several aspects of strategic review. While the production of playing pitch strategies and indoor and built sport facility strategies are quite distinct in terms of tools, techniques and approaches, it is not surprising that strategic thinking with regard to one impacts upon the other. Start evaluating where your pitches are and where they might need to be, and it is not too many steps before the links with other facilities, other sports and other communities appear on the whiteboard.

This combination of strategies has become an increasingly common feature of KKP’s caseload over recent years. So too has joint commissioning by local authorities. An increasing number of projects now involve client groups comprising separate councils that come together to look strategically at the sport and leisure services that serve users and communities on both sides of council boundaries.

Most local authorities have long acknowledged that many users of their sport and leisure facilities have little understanding of, or interest in, which authority might provide and manage the specific facility they play in. It is also increasingly recognised that duplication of facilities in close geographic proximity on either side of an authority boundary is a luxury that is difficult to afford, justify or defend. At KKP we are increasingly finding that acceptance and recognition of reality is translating into practical partnerships and the co-commissioning of strategic planning.

A recently completed project on behalf of three authorities in South Worcestershire (Malvern Hills, Worcester City and Wychavon Districts) is a case in point. Working closely together via a project steering group, they commissioned KKP to produce a playing pitch strategy and an indoor and built sports facility strategy for each council area. The result was a coherent, comprehensive picture of the future of the wider area’s provision, one in which the local authority boundaries are only lightly drawn.

It has proved enlightening for the councils involved and, like much of our planning work, had housing growth as a key driver. This will create expanded or, in some cases, new communities, with new demands and increased pressures on facilities, services and transport. Developer contributions are key sources of funding that can be optimised via such cross-boundary collaboration.

In South Worcestershire the authorities were brought together by residential expansion and cross-boundary housing developments but all three were keen to ‘lean in’ to find the best options and opportunities for various facilities, including the right balance of 3G and artificial grass pitches for football and hockey.

The emerging South Worcestershire Development Plan Review (SWDPR) is also driving discussion of options for indoor facilities. While all key population centres within the area of the plan currently have adequate provision, projected population increases point to a requirement for a new leisure centre at the Worcestershire Parkway development in Wychavon District. However, the proposed strategic growth areas will require analysis and consideration of a range of facilities, including Pershore Leisure Centre, Perdiswell Leisure Centre in Worcester and Worcester Citizens Swimming Bath. The new strategic growth areas will create new demand and the northern edge of Worcestershire Parkway covered by the SWDPR is close to the city of Worcester, creating potential demand from adjacent catchment areas that lie within a 20-minute journey time.

Across the UK demand for housing is creating persuasive reasons for local authorities to work together to better shape development and to make the best of wider opportunities to improve and extend sport, leisure and cultural facilities for the whole community. However, with the need for openness and trust, genuinely collaborative partnerships can take time to create and develop. The South Worcestershire partnership was up and running quickly but some authorities accustomed to working solely within their own boundaries can be slow to arrive at the partnership table. Our experience is that such difficulties can usually be overcome once the scale and value created by shared opportunities become apparent.

Cross-boundary partnerships reflect the growing recognition that individual authorities cannot – and need not – meet every expectation of each resident, particularly in the realm of non-statutory services. Having a state-of-the-art 3G pitch is an asset but there is little point having one either side of a road that marks a council boundary.

In the Black Country KKP is working with a partnership of four local authorities with housing development again a key driver of collaboration. This area includes major population centres – Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell – raising the prospect of new or improved facilities bringing significant benefit to a large number of people. Larger-scale projects also makes engaging the local and regional structures of national governing bodies of sport in potential projects that much easier.

This project is well under way and has involved the KKP team in several hundred site visits to ensure the accuracy and validity of the data required. Our approach to facility strategies means that no stone is left unturned and no site left unvisited as we build a comprehensive, detailed picture of existing facilities, including how they are rated and used.

At the ‘just starting’ end of the KKP project timescale spectrum is a commission with Colchester and Tendring councils. Plans for a new garden suburb of some 7,000 homes has fostered a partnership between the two authorities and KKP is working on extensive facility and open space strategies that will reflect the likely impact of such large-scale development.

Our work with Buckinghamshire Council is a single-authority project but its status as a new unitary authority bringing together four former districts means that many of the principles of partnership still apply. Housing development is on the agenda, as is the impact of HS2, but this process is also about this new administration looking to fully understand the area within its new boundaries and consider in full the implications of a unitary approach. The success of the recently completed indoor and built facilities strategy for the County has led to conversations with regard to Bucks taking a comparable strategic approach to its other sports, open spaces and community facilities and services.

Cross-boundary working opens a range of possibilities but increasing the size of an area does increase the scale of the project: more facilities, more people, clubs and organisations to engage, more ground to cover. At KKP we are fortunate to have multi-disciplinary capability in house and we operate at a scale which allows us to take on the largest projects. This means that we are well-positioned to manage and support the most significant and complex assignments and get involved with some really interesting schemes. Along the way it builds experience, develops skills and challenges us all to reach and maintain the highest standards.


Clare Fallon is a director and principal consultant with KKP.


April 2022

How the SOPG is shaping the future of facilities, services and a new approach to physical activity

With Sport England’s Strategic Outcomes Planning Guidance now established as a key tool for the sport and leisure sector, Andrew Fawkes looks at how it is shaping new thinking and driving new projects.


Sport England’s Strategic Outcomes Planning Guidance (SOPG) was published in May 2019 and by the start of 2020 it was beginning to shape strategic thinking in local authorities across the country.

Covid-19 saw local authorities, their staff and departments throwing themselves into the unknown and dealing daily with what had, until the day before, been unimaginable challenges. Amid the firefighting of a public health emergency, sport and leisure professionals were managing the practicalities of shutting down facilities and services while speculating on the potentially devastating financial implications of an immediate loss of revenue.

However, during this time of crisis, many local authorities have found that SOPG principles and approaches provide a sound basis for re-evaluation of their services and assessment of the new opportunities and responsibilities being presented to the sector. For leisure operators and local authorities, lockdown, public health emergencies and the ensuing impact on funding has made SOPG an even more relevant tool to better position sport and physical activity.

in the midst of the Covid-19 response, a new understanding of, and approach to, public health had begun to emerge, underpinned by a primary focus on health and wellbeing. There was enhanced understanding of the importance of physical activity and mental health and added recognition of the link between the two. The strong community response to the pandemic created, reinvigorated or repurposed local support networks, often with sport and cultural clubs and societies at their centre. There was a renewed appreciation of sport and leisure facilities; both the indoor halls, gyms and pitches that were temporarily closed, and the parks and open spaces that were, for a while, the only available venues for activity and recreation.

In 2022, with lockdowns endured and restrictions easing, there are numerous examples of local authorities using SOPG to shape their strategic thinking in the context of new expectations, emerging opportunities and different pressures. Sport England’s funding of consultancy support for this process has helped many of them to move along this strategic pathway, particularly in light of the limited resources available.

At KKP, our Covid-19 support projects allowed us to view first-hand the immense workload and huge pressures that local authorities and leisure operators faced at the height of the pandemic. More recently we have supported delivery of SOPG processes and assisted clients to develop strategies for facilities and services that will best meet future demands.

Rossendale offers an interesting example. Rossendale Connected was the comprehensive community response to Covid – led by the local leisure trust. It encompassed local GPs and primary care networks plus a wide range of other clubs and groups. It now offers a new and engaged series of contacts for the facilities strategy that the Council, in partnership with Rossendale Leisure Trust, has commissioned following application of SOPG. As part of the facilities strategy, KKP is working with Rossendale Connected, GPs, ‘social prescribers’, youth workers and many others to consider how the local sport and leisure facility landscape should look.

Central to the process are the basic questions of such an approach (What have been your experiences? What are your current experiences? What needs to change to get and keep people active? What role should built facilities play?) but within the context of a local area that is arguably defined by its outdoor environment. Rossendale offers extensive walking and cycling, moorland and greenspace, along with a reputation for outdoor adventure, so what do built facilities need to offer and provide; and how should they fit into a precious and protected natural landscape?

Wyre, a near Lancashire neighbour of Rossendale, has also built on its SOPG review, creating a partnership board to develop a physical activity strategy and consider the long-term future of its facilities. In the post-Covid crisis context, the aim is to understand the locally specific role of physical activity within health, bring together partners and understand their collective aims, and consider how this all relates to sport and leisure facilities.

Wyre has recognised that health inequalities and physical activity advocacy must be central to the future of its services. In developing its ‘Wyre Moving More’ strategy and its subsequent facilities plans, KKP has led the community engagement process. This has involved its town partnership boards, schools, public health, Fleetwood Town Community Trust and a wide range of community clubs, groups and organisations. Collectively they are building a picture that will inform the Borough’s leisure facilities masterplan in the longer term.

Sport England’s SOPG has provided a sound framework for strategic thinking; its encouragement of links with health partnerships and the wellness agenda is particularly relevant to the current context. While it has often been difficult for physical activity to cut through the health agenda to demonstrate its impact and efficacy, the combination of the Covid-19 crisis and SOPG principles have helped many authorities and organisations to adopt different attitudes and explore different approaches. A strategic approach to physical activity, and the services and facilities that influence its uptake, is not only timely but also offers the potential for a major impact on public health.

SOPG is serving as the front end of a process that encourages authorities and operators to think about the role, function and potential of their facilities. Facilities strategies and leisure masterplans are allowing local authorities to explore realistic futures for their existing amenities, consider the potential impact on revenue and social engagement of new venues, and look at how best to enable and encourage access to physical activity for all parts of the community.


Andrew Fawkes is principal consultant with KKP.


March 2022

Inspiring Active Places: Jersey’s new approach to sport and wellbeing

Helping the government of Jersey to develop and implement its new approach to community sport and wellbeing is a major project for the KKP team. Having managed this remotely for some considerable time and now able to work with project colleagues face to face, David McHendry looks at some of the aspects of the scheme that make it slightly unusual but particularly interesting.


Over the past couple of years KKP has been working with the government of Jersey to review and renew sport and recreation provision on the island. It is a long-term, large-scale project that includes a comprehensive replacement and upgrading of Jersey’s sport and wellbeing facilities, a management options appraisal plus related work on its playing fields, open spaces and community activity.

As a consequence, the scheme draws on a great many of KKP’s areas of experience and expertise, making it an ideal commission for a multi-disciplinary consultancy practice. While the varied professional demands of the project are familiar territory for the KKP team, some key elements of the project make it particularly interesting.

Perhaps the first aspect to note is that this is a genuinely comprehensive assignment. Jersey’s Inspiring Active Places Strategy covers all aspects of its sport and physical activity offer – at a scale to match its ambition. It envisages a ten-year implementation with the potential for significant initial investment over the next three years.

The Inspiring Active Places Strategy sets out specific plans for the Island’s sport and recreation offer based on wellbeing and physical activity rather than a simple facility-focused approach. The strategy implementation includes investment in Springfield and Oakfield leisure centres to accommodate the relocation of all sports functions from the ageing Fort Regent Leisure Centre (which is scheduled for redevelopment). Thereafter there will be major investment in Le Roquier to create a sport and wellbeing hub on the current school site; this will be informed by a review of swimming pool provision, with the aim of rebalancing provision across the island.

Consultation in respect of the first of the sites within the overall project has begun and will feed into the brief for the integrated design team, of which KKP is a core member. Supported and informed by the consultation process, this team will consider options with regard to the type, mix and location of facilities. The full extent of KKP’s broad experience in all aspects of sport, leisure and regeneration will therefore be called into play and fully exercised as part of this.

A second notable aspect of the project is our involvement for the full extent of the project timeline. While we are accustomed to being involved with large facilities (examples include the Sunderland Aquatics Centre, Glasgow’s Emirates Arena and the University of Warwick Sport and Wellness Hub), in many cases the role of the leisure consultant is solely focused at the front end: exploring feasibility and making the business case for investment. In Jersey, KKP is involved at all stages of the process and, as part of the integrated design team, will be on board through to handover.

Our commission for this work represents a long-term commitment between KKP and the Jersey government. Our role be to work alongside project management, cost consultants and architects providing support for the government team.

Another interesting element of the Jersey project has been the working protocols required over the past couple of years. KKP’s involvement commenced during the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant that everyone involved in the early development stages of Springfield and Oakfield had to embrace the use of online communication.

It was remarkable how quickly the concept of remote working became firmly embedded in working practice, but this new approach did throw up some interesting challenges. The abrupt termination of site visits and face-to-face meetings has led to Teams and Zoom quickly becoming second nature, allowing meetings to continue and projects to progress, albeit reflecting the many ongoing uncertainties of an unprecedented situation.

In 2022, with restrictions easing and in-person meetings finding their way back into diaries, it is interesting to reflect on the impact that this new approach has had. While what we used to call ‘tele-conferencing’ had been a sparsely used mechanism for years, under pandemic conditions it was quickly and widely adopted. Now it is the default option.

Managing projects via Teams and Zoom has meant that meetings tend to be more frequent but also more focused – and usually shorter. This, combined with no requirement (or indeed permission) to travel, has meant that finding space in the diary is easier. Increased availability and fewer diary clashes meant it was more straightforward to assemble the right people round the virtual table, making meetings more effective and speeding progress.

Having recently visited Jersey again after a lengthy absence, I was struck by how far we had come, not only in terms of miles travelled to get there but also the development of the project. When prevented from making the trip across the Channel, all the individuals and organisations involved with the scheme were able to continue working and make sure very little time was wasted. While in-person contact and conversations remain an important part of building effective working relationships, it is clear that remote working tools and techniques have already and will continue to have a huge impact on how projects are managed, progressed and delivered.


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


March 2022

The Chilterns Lifestyle Centre: co-location, community and extensive consultation

The Chilterns Lifestyle Centre is now officially open and everyone at KKP is pleased to be able to offer their congratulations to Buckinghamshire Council and everyone involved with the development and delivery of the project.

This is a venue of the highest quality that offers an extensive range of facilities, options and opportunities to the local community. The variety of facilities and co-location of community activities is a reflection of the involvement of local residents, clubs and groups at the earliest stages of the scheme, itself a reflection of the extensive consultation undertaken by KKP on behalf of Buckinghamshire Council.

Having previously delivered the authority’s sports facilities strategy, KKP was appointed to assess the options in respect of a new community leisure centre hub project to replace the Chiltern Pools facility, which had been built in 1965. After undertaking a detailed feasibility evaluation, including outline costs and plans for a high-quality venue that would enhance usage and programme breadth, KKP then led a full public consultation process, which brought in nearly 2,500 responses.

For David McHendry, KKP’s managing director, this consultation was a crucial element of the success of the project. “The consultation demonstrated to local residents and users that it was possible to sensitively fit the range of co-located facilities included on the preferred site, while ensuring that the integrity of adjacent open space and the needs of the many interested stakeholders were met,” he said. “The result was strong support from elected members and the community for the proposed specification.

“The Chilterns Lifestyle Centre project demonstrates the benefits of co-location and the synergy achieved by a complementary range of community-focused activities brought together under one roof. One key operational challenge was to ensure that key user groups would be able to benefit from a centralised catering offer and extensive ancillary facilities without losing their identity. This has been achieved within the new design.”

This is a remarkable new venue and a great achievement. Congratulations to everyone involved.

You can find all the details of the site via Everyone Active at:

Chilterns Lifestyle Centre

England Hockey commissions KKP to review and update the national facilities strategy


ISSUE DATE: 30 November 2021

England Hockey commissions KKP to review and update the national facilities strategy

England Hockey, the national governing body (NGB) for the sport of hockey in England, has commissioned KKP to review and update a comprehensive national facilities strategy that will help to secure and enhance the future of the game.

The strategy and related action plan will be based on the key principles of: being club-focused; providing detailed analysis of current hockey facilities; and optimising participation by further developing the mechanisms England Hockey uses to assess demand for facilities to service match play and training provision for the various formats and levels of the game.

Announcing the partnership between England Hockey and KKP, Rich Beer, Development Director at England Hockey, commented:

“The England Hockey national facilities strategy is a hugely important tool for us in directing our work to shape the future of the game. The review with KKP will refresh and update a more detailed and comprehensive strategic approach based on the most accurate data and informed analysis, providing a clear action plan for facilities across the country. It will incorporate identified priorities for investment in new facility development, existing site renewal and upgrading, in addition to how we manage club support for facilities and potential strategic partnerships.

“Strategy delivery will help England Hockey to help clubs to get more people playing more often at all levels. The hockey community needs to work collectively to justify provision of facilities and operate effectively making sure pitches are well used. This refreshed strategy will help us meet the challenges and make the most of the upcoming opportunities to the benefit of the future of the game.”

Paul Ashton, who is heading up this assignment for KKP, welcomed the opportunity to work with England Hockey on such an important national project:

“The updated facilities strategy will provide a detailed assessment of hockey facilities across England, providing data relating to demand, critical pitch supply, capacity and the mechanisms via which England Hockey maintains its already very strong intelligence platform about venues to play the game. It will include analysis and assessment of current stock status and development potential. Our extensive experience of playing pitch strategies and facilities planning, aligned to KKP’s industry-leading database and geographic information systems (GIS), will assist us to further develop the sophistication with which current England Hockey facility provision data is analysed and updated by area, club type, playing surface and condition.

“This, along with user consultation and stakeholder interviews, will create a detailed, reliable picture of the current state of the game and, going forward, enable England Hockey to continue to take informed decisions about future provision.”

“KKP’s facilities strategy work for all clients is founded on processes that rely on a thoroughly researched, detailed evidence base. We have worked extensively with England Hockey over the last 10 years and are looking forward to delivering a high-quality updated strategy that leaves it optimally placed to work with its own membership, local authorities, schools and a range of other partners. The key is to ensure that the strategy helps the sport to develop a modern, fit for purpose, appropriately located network of hockey facilities to service the game’s current and future needs.”

For further information and comment please contact:

Paul Ashton is a principal consultant at KKP. Paul can be contacted via email at paul.ashton@kkp.co.uk or by phone at 0161 764 7040

KKP is online at www.kkp.co.uk

England Hockey is online at www.englandhockey.co.uk


Notes for editors

  • England Hockey is responsible for the management and development of the sport from grassroots to elite activities. It has a membership comprising clubs (800-plus), counties (45) and the areas (8) which are members of it. Around 150,000 individuals play regularly in the club system with a further 15,000 playing in the university and college sector. Over 15,000 coaches, umpires and officials are supported and developed by England Hockey.
  • England Hockey is also the nominated country for Great Britain Hockey and is responsible for assessing and preparing Great Britain (GB) squads to qualify for and participate in the Olympics.
  • 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

Pools in crisis: rethinking the future

Swim England’s recent report, A Decade of Decline, paints a bleak picture of the future of swimming provision, challenging national and local government to recognise the need to replace ageing pools. Rachel Burke considers whether the thinking process might be just as important as the numbers.


Swim England’s recent report, titled A Decade of Decline: the Future of Swimming Pools in England, has highlighted the increasing pressure on sport and leisure facility finances. Coming at the stage of the Covid crisis that it did, the report has secured extensive coverage and raised the issue of the need for investment in facilities and opportunities to swim and be physically active.

It noted that more than 200 pools have closed, either temporarily or permanently, since the pandemic began and predicts that continuation of the current trend could see a 40% reduction in the number of pools in England by the end of the decade. Some 1,800 could be lost and, Swim England argues, too few new pools are being built to replace the facilities built and opened in the 1960s and 70s.

With the pandemic adding further pressure to stretched local authority finances and with physical activity a demonstrably important factor in mitigating the impact of Covid, Swim England’s predictions and warnings are timely and well founded. However, this is not a new issue. The debate about replacement of pools, in particular those opened at the point of local government reorganisation in the early 1970s, was in full flow well before the end of the 20th century. For the ‘more experienced’ members of the sector, it is sobering to note that even facilities built in 1990 are now more than 30 years old. Given that refurbishment and replacement is part of the natural process of facility management and provision, this problem is not going to go away.

One element of the report that did not gain many column inches (or the digital equivalent) was the emphasis on the importance of needs assessments and feasibility studies. “We encourage local authorities to conduct an analysis of their pool stock to understand whether they have the right pools in the right places to the meet the needs of the community, both now and in the future,” the report states. It also notes the value of Sport England’s Strategic Outcomes Planning Guidance (SOPG) and suggests that this should be made available to all local authorities.

This is perhaps the key point of the report. Data gathering and diligent analysis do not often make for attention-grabbing headlines but, as a consultancy practice with a reputation built on delivery of accurate needs assessments, feasibility strategies and supporting clients to implement their findings, KKP is pleased to endorse Swim England’s message. Having worked with numerous local authorities on SOPG, we concur with the value of Sport England’s approach. We also know, from work on projects that vary from the smallest community pools to the largest international multi-pool competition facilities, that getting “the right pools in the right places” is never quite as easy as this phrase makes it sound.

A substantial volume of work goes into the process. While facility development may never be an exact science, the application of extensive dataset/GIS-based demand evaluation, along with club, community and stakeholder consultation and decades of experience, makes for a better chance of delivering attractive, appropriately located, efficient and sustainable facilities that meet community needs and contribute to the wellbeing and liveability of the areas served.

The Decade of Decline report offers a clear challenge to government and local authorities in the face of the harsh realities of sport and leisure provision but it also suggests, albeit indirectly, the need for a new approach. If the closure of old pools is accelerating, new pools are needed and finances are tight, what should we be doing differently?

The obvious starting point is that, in general terms, stand-alone pools have had their day. It may also be that teaching pools (of larger size and with moveable floors) will be the key component of new developments, delivering lessons, a variety of warmer-pool, water-based exercise classes and options to cater imaginatively for the growing number of older people. This may mean some main pools having fewer lanes and becoming more significant adjuncts of the fitness offer as well as catering for club sessions, lane swimming and recreational use.

Swimming pool programming is a significant challenge. Balancing the demands of learn to swim, aquatic club use and casual swimmers is not easy without access to substantial water space. Where water space is limited, there is, in almost every case, an impassioned debate: clubs typically want more pool time for training, while operators are also looking to cater for the needs of casual and recreational swimmers.

The more financially ‘sustainable’ the pool needs to be, the more challenging the programming, especially at peak times. The need for income generation favours (full fee-based) swimming lessons and, to a lesser extent, club use. This can, however, be to the detriment of access for casual swimmers and those who need additional support to gain access to water-based activity.

Next might be a reassessment of the role of school sites. Community use of school facilities has a long history but the recent trend has been away from dual-use offers, in part because of the variety of facility management arrangements now ‘complicating’ this option. Access to existing dry-side school sports facilities, particularly sports halls, is adversely affected by the fact that they are commonly reserved by schools to host exams, school productions and cater for other large-space events.

One question worth asking: with so much housing development pressure on brownfield and green spaces, why not consider taking new pools to schools? In many areas, with the advent of high-capacity artificial grass, they may well have space to site a replacement pool. With good management and intelligent programming, it may be possible to use such a process to bring all their sports provision into more legally binding, accessible, year-round community use.

Larger primary schools may also offer co-location benefits. Where plans are still being drawn up for 1,000-pupil primary schools, why not explore the potential to include a teaching pool, fitness, a sports hall and perhaps a half-size artificial grass pitch and operate this on a joint-use basis with a partner for which extra-curricular time pressures will be far less onerous? The key and significant side benefit would be that learning to swim should receive the priority it surely merits.

Moving onto this issue, if school swimming lesson provision is a primary concern it is surely essential to consider its effectiveness per se. A substantial proportion of programmes take all children whether they can already swim or not, give them limited water time and must accommodate large numbers of pupils. The swimming value of the measured outcome of school swimming reflects its shortcomings. This is a key point because if this does not change, irrespective of the number, quality and modernity of pools, it will be the same children and young people who miss out.

If we are going to invest in pools, some of the programming focus surely needs to be on the people of all ages who cannot currently swim. The investment process and associated scheduling, marketing, pricing, leisure card and contractual management arrangements must balance commercial imperatives with the need to recognise that the majority of people who cannot swim, and therefore cannot enjoy the direct associated benefits that emanate from safety and water confidence, are, and always have been, from low-income families and/or disadvantaged communities.

Seen within the context of the Covid crisis and local government finances, it is undoubtedly true that a great many swimming pools in England and the rest of the UK face an uncertain future. Many need to replaced; even more need refurbishment. A century of investment in public swimming facilities has demonstrated the value of swimming to public health and wellbeing. However, if that investment is to continue it is essential that fundamental questions are asked before more money is ‘poured into the ground’: why do we need pools; who are they for; what should they achieve; how must they be managed and programmed; and what should they look like?

The answers are as varied as the communities and interests that each swimming pool serves but, with a few decades of experience, we know which questions to ask.


Rachel Burke is a principal consultant with KKP.


A Decade of Decline: the Future of Swimming Pools in England is published by Swim England and available via the Swim England website:


Active travel: a low-key revolution

During the Covid-19 crisis active travel has emerged as one of the leading influences on urban policy and design. Andy Fawkes and Chris MacFarlane consider the background to a renewed focus on public transport, walking and cycling, and why it strikes a chord with so much of KKP’s strategy work.


Active travel has always been a fundamental part of KKP’s approach to facility strategies of all kinds and, while some of the terminology may have evolved over the 30-plus years KKP has been working with clients to improve their facilities and environments, the fundamental principles of how and why people move are largely unchanged.

Policy drivers, such as climate emergency, air quality and health inequalities, have been moving active travel up the agenda for many organisations and authorities for some time. The impact and experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic then added a new perspective. Now a different balance between public and private transport has become part of a national debate, with walking and cycling increasingly recognised as more than just a convenient way of getting from A to B for a minority of people.

Travel and transport have always been key components of the processes that underpin KKP’s approach to strategies for indoor and outdoor facilities of all kinds. The four pillars of our strategic approach are quantity, quality, availability and accessibility, making walk and drive times, along with public transport, part of the mix for any project. There is always a balance between car use and active travel but in more densely populated environments walking, riding and taking the bus or tram are important factors.

In recent years central government policy has reflected growing interest in renegotiating the balance between motor traffic and active travel. In 2017 the Department for Transport issued technical guidance for local authorities on local cycling and walking infrastructure plans (LCWIP) with the aim of doubling cycling rates and significantly increasing walking rates by 2025. The guidance encourages councils to deliver better safety, better mobility and better streets “to make walking and cycling the natural choices for shorter journeys or as part of a longer journey”.

In July 2020, in the midst of a pandemic that had challenged attitudes to so many aspects of our lives, the Department for Transport published Gear Change, “a bold vision for cycling and walking” that it hopes will bring a “travel revolution in our streets, towns and communities.” It was accompanied by Local Transport Note 1/20 Cycle Infrastructure Design, providing national guidance for the design and implementation of cycle schemes. For the first time national standards for cycle infrastructure are laid out: “There are five core design principles which represent the essential requirements to achieve more people travelling by cycle or on foot, based on best practice both internationally and across the UK. Networks and routes should be Coherent; Direct; Safe; Comfortable and Attractive.” [LTN 1/20 1.5.1]

The UK’s big cities have been leading the way in accepting the challenge presented by national government policy. Birmingham recently announced proposals to remove through traffic from the city centre, reversing half a century of transport planning decisions that had given primacy to private motor travel. Manchester is well advanced in its plans to promote cycling as part of an extensive reimagining of travel in and around the city. Backed by the mayor, Chris Boardman has used his position as the city’s first transport commissioner to develop and promote the Bee Network, planned to become the UK’s largest walking and cycling network.

Manchester is a good example of the recognition of, and a new emphasis on, the link between active travel and physical activity. The city has a network of sport and leisure facilities that are well used. Facilities with national and international recognition are part of Manchester’s plan to attract visitors and investment but they are also central to an ongoing campaign to encourage and enable local residents to make these centres their own. Greater Manchester’s Moving More strategy is building on the city and region’s achievements in terms of its facilities and transport networks to help address significant health equalities. With car ownership comparatively low, public transport, walking and cycling are important aspects not only of accessibility but also the city’s health.

Beyond the big cities, a shift in recognition of the potential of walking and cycling is also having an impact. The LCWIP guidance is fairly recent in policy terms but it is increasingly part of local authority thinking about travel, accessibility, planning and design. While an LCWIP imposes new requirements on councils, it also has begun to have a positive influence on design and implementation of schemes as well as providing a route to funding.

If architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was right and God is in the details, then the new walking and cycling policy documents offer plenty of opportunities to observe the divine. LTN 1/20 has enough detail to entrance even the most dedicated infrastructure aficionado. Setting standards against which every cycle infrastructure project will be judged, LTN 1/20 could, if properly embraced, transform the UK’s cycling landscape. The LCWIP guidance provides a route through the synergies and integrations, including the stakeholders and data, to create a public realm that people can use safely, confidently and enjoyably. The Propensity to Cycle tool within the LCWIP guidance provides access to the skills and abilities required for new approaches to accessible and equitable spaces, offering mapping and impact modelling to assess the impact that policy and design decisions could have. This tool also includes guidance on making the business case for walking and cycling, an essential part of the armoury of change.

Facility planning is always a balance: of buildings and behaviours; of mapping and mindsets. These new policies, both national and local, driven by issues of transport, health and environment have begun to shape the planning process and have the potential to change the way our towns and cities look and feel. The reasons people move around may still be the same and our four strategy pillars of quantity, quality, availability and accessibility remain intact but there are now huge opportunities to change the way we understand our urban spaces and the way movement shapes them and us.

Policy statements are traditionally long on lofty visions and bold statements but a new understanding of what makes walking and cycling easier and more appealing as part of active travel could have a profound impact on the culture of our cities. Giving more thought and more space to two feet and two wheels could be the catalyst for a low-key revolution.


Andy Fawkes and Chris MacFarlane are principal consultants with KKP


November 2021


Notes and references:

Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans: Technical Guidance for Local Authorities

Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking

Cycle Infrastructure Design: Local Traffic Note 1/20

The Bee Network

The Propensity to Cycle Tool

Speedway: a long history looking for a future

Tim Holdsworth considers the challenges facing a sport in transition and what it might mean for facility provision, management and planning.


How do you solve a problem like speedway? It is a sport with a long history and a small but dedicated fan base. It offers the speed and excitement of motor sport in the raw. Small, local venues put the spectators close to the action, immersed in the noise, smells and thrills of motorcycle racing stripped to the bare essentials.

However, for all the enthusiasm of its aficionados, speedway is undeniably a sport in decline. Participation and audience numbers have been dropping consistently for a decade or more. Its clubs – even British Speedway Premiership clubs – are struggling to survive. Many of the venues that host speedway events are in crisis and TV coverage has tailed off, taking with it a vital source of the sport’s revenue.

We are a long way from speedway’s heyday, when top riders were household names. If you were to find anyone able to name a top rider now, it is more likely that they would be able to recall a champion of the past, probably from the last century, rather than name the current world champion.

Small sports with limited participation numbers and niche audiences can, and do, survive in a modern sporting context but no one would deny that it is a huge challenge to make it work.

The precarious nature of speedway’s finances makes it vulnerable to competing interests, not least from developers with an eye on venues that seem ripe for alternative use. In recent decades significant numbers of speedway tracks have been lost, along with the teams that used to draw the crowds; 15 speedway teams have folded since 2005.

It is a similar story with other sports that use or share such track venues. Stock car racing and greyhound racing have also experienced decline, making the viability of the stadia that host them (individually or collectively) increasingly precarious. In recent years even the most ardent speedway fan could understand why increasing numbers of people might see speedway venues as something of an anachronism in the context of the modern sporting experience.

All this might suggest that when reviewing the viability of a speedway venue in the face of proposals for redevelopment, the planning authorities would be faced with the proverbial open-and-shut case. However, for any developers eyeing a speedway stadium as a prime target, the nature of the sport creates something of a conundrum.

Sport England’s national planning policy framework makes it clear that open space, sports and recreation buildings, facilities and land should not be built on unless it can be shown that: the existing facility is surplus to requirements; are to be replaced or improved; or that alternative sports provision is to be created.

The argument that a speedway track is surplus to requirements is made problematic by virtue of its rarity. If so many speedway tracks have been lost, its supporters can argue that those left are all the more important; with only a few remaining, how can any existing track be said to be surplus to requirements?

Replacing or improving facilities to make them more attractive to spectators and better suited to other uses is an option but one that comes with a hefty price tag. Who would be willing to invest the millions likely to be needed to create a modern sporting venue if the sports that it will host are struggling to find an audience and a business model to make them viable?

Alternative sports provision might seem to be a more attractive approach, particularly in the promotion of and engagement in sport and physical activity across the wider community, but again the investment required to create new sports venues is significant and not often found at the top of a developer’s priority list.

If developers were kept at bay and there were sufficient funds and support to create a modern speedway venue, could such a stadium be viable? The experience of the National Speedway Stadium in Manchester suggests not. In 2016 Manchester City Council invested £7m in the stadium, which includes a 3G pitch as part of the offer. However, the speedway club has reportedly struggled to meet its obligations as the venue’s key tenant. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, it seems speedway was not in a position to make the most of an updated facility.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a sport with a long and vibrant history is facing a very difficult future. As clubs continue to struggle to survive, audiences go on falling while the other sports that used to make speedway venues viable – most commonly stock car racing and greyhound racing – face similar hardships. On this evidence, speedway would seem to be a sport from the past.

But perhaps all is not lost; at least not quite, not yet. Other sports have shown that it is possible to create a future for a sport with a long history. Most evolve to meet different circumstances and expectations. Bigger sports than speedway are constantly addressing the need to find new markets and new audiences; squash, cricket and triathlon, to name just a few. Some manage to reverse their own decline by transforming their marketing and spectator experience; snooker and darts might be examples.

Small sports with limited participation numbers and niche audiences can, and do, survive in a modern sporting context but no one would deny that it is a huge challenge to make it work. Even before the pandemic, a great many sports and venues were considering their options in the face of an uncertain future. As a sport, speedway would seem to have more problems than most. It will need radical reinvention if it is to find some new household names to sit alongside those slipping out of the collective sporting memory.



Tim Holdsworth is a senior consultant with KKP. Contact him at tim.holdsworth@kkp.co.uk